Catalogue of the Library at Toft Hall, Cheshire

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This manuscript catalogue records book and maps housed in the library at Toft Hall near Knutsford, Cheshire. The catalogue is undated, but the paper is watermarked 1823, implying a date around 1823-1830, when the hall was owned by Ralph Leycester (1764-1835), MP for Shaftesbury. There are some later additions and amendments. The catalogue is divided into two sections: a main alphabetical author/title sequence, including size, number of volumes and shelf location; and, beginning at the back of the volume, a listing in shelf order. There were twenty-two presses, labelled A-I, K-W, with either five (in the case of presses A-F, S and T) or six shelves per press; W is described as 'the stand-up', with only three shelves. Books were shelved by size, duodecimos on the topmost shelves, folios at the bottom. The books recorded are representative of a mixed eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century country house library, comprising works on theology, gardening, politics, travel, Classical and English literature, and history.

The catalogue also records 'Maps & Plans in the large Map Case, made of the American Cherry Tree' and 'Maps & Plans in the Small Map Case, made of the American Cherry Tree'. The maps and plans cover Africa, India, North America, Europe and Great Britain, and range in date from 1743 to 1813.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Leycester family of Toft Hall near Knutsford, Cheshire, was one of the oldest gentry families in north Cheshire. The family were linked by marriage to a number of other gentry families in the area including the Leycester family of Tabley, the Booth family of Dunham Massey, the Mosleys of Ancoats, the Egerton Leigh family of High Legh, the Gerards of Crewood and the Roxby family.

The Leycester family acquired the estates of the Gerards of Crewood when Ralph Leycester (1699-1777) married Katherine Norris, the daughter and co-heir of Edmund Norris of Speke, Lancashire. Katherine's mother, Anne, was the daughter and heir of Peter Gerard of Crewood Hall, Cheshire. They had acquired Crewood and the neighbouring lands of Cattenhall through the marriage of Walter Fitz Gerard to Emma, daughter of Richard de Kingsley, Chief Forester of Delamere. The family were minor gentry until the early seventeenth century when marriage into the Ireland family of Bewsey, Lancashire brought them new estates. In 1618, the Crewood estate comprised some 320 acres. Gilbert Gerard (1604-1673) undertook the rebuilding of Crewood Hall; he was also regarded as one of the most extreme puritans among the Cheshire gentry during the Civil War.

Ralph Leycester's sons, George and Ralph succeeded to the estate in turn. The younger Ralph Leycester (1764-1835), MP for Shaftesbury married Susanna, daughter of Rev. Egerton Leigh and a member of another prominent local gentry family. Between 1810 and 1813 the London architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell (1753-1827) remodelled Toft Hall, adding a library, dining-room and twin towers. Ralph and Susanna had four children. Their only son, Ralph Gerard Leycester (1817-1851) succeeded his father and married Emily Elizabeth, daughter of Charles Tyrwhitt Jones in 1840. His son, Rafe Oswald Leycester (1844-1929), was childless and devised the estate to his nephew, Cyril Leycester Maude Roxby (1877-1942). Cyril's mother, Georgina, was Rafe Leycester's sister. Cyril's nephew, Edmund Roxby (b. 1913), who deposited the family muniments in the John Rylands Library, received the Toft estate from his father, Rev. Osmund Roxby in 1949.

Conditions Governing Access

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The manuscript was purchased from Samuel Gedge Rare Books of Norwich for £450 in November 2011.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the manuscript can be supplied for private research and study purposes only, depending on the condition of the manuscript.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the manuscript. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The previous history of the manuscript is not known.

Related Material

The John Rylands University Library also holds the Leycester of Toft Muniments, deposited in 1948 and 1954 (GB 133 LEY).