Galton Papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Correspondence, personal and official papers, business records and deeds of the Galton family of Birmingham and of other families related to them by marriage, including the Strutt family of Belper, Derbyshire. The bulk of the papers in this collection date from the mid eighteenth century to the mid nineteenth century, although many of the deeds date from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and there are also a few medieval manorial records.

The deeds and associated papers primarily relate to inherited holdings of the Galton family in Somerset, some of which were acquired through intermarriage in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and to estates subsequently purchased by members of the family in Worcestershire, principally Hadzor and Warley, and in Somerset. The collection also includes some deeds relating to properties in Birmingham; Staffordshire; Devon and Cornwall. Personal papers include official documents such as certificates, passports, wills, settlements, bonds, indentures, financial accounts, diaries and journals and other narrative accounts created by or relating to members of the family.

The substantial family and business correspondence forms probably the most significant material in this collection, comprising letters written to and from members of the Galton family, and other families related to them by marriage, including the Farmer family, the Abrahams family, the Douglas family and the Strutt family. Business correspondence of Samuel Galton and James Farmer, in particular, together with the largely financial business papers of Farmer & Galton, are a rich source for the study of the eighteenth century gun trade in the context of the fluctuating fortunes of this Birmingham based firm, and contain detailed information about the organistaion and management of the business, and its clients, who for the most part were merchants involved in the triangular trade. Also significant in this area is the correspondence of William Archibald Douglas, an officer in the company of merchants trading to Africa in the 1790s, who provides details of his trading activities at Cape Coast castle and schemes to improve his financial status.

Other correspondence is rich in detail about family and social life, and is a source for the study of childhood and family life, women's history, social networks in Birmingham and Derby, connections with other Quaker families, the involvement of various family members in public and charitable works, the interest of Samuel Galton jnr and his wife in popular education, and of Joseph Strutt in political reform, travel in the United Kingdom, particularly to seaside resorts such as Scarborough, Blackpool, Brighton and Sidmouth, but also to Bath, Yorkshire, Scotland and the Lake District, and in Europe, particularly in Italy, but also in France, Germany and Spain.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Galton family were Quakers and lived in Birmingham from the mid-eighteenth century. Their gun manufacturing business, Farmer & Galton, prospered during the 18th century, supplying guns to merchants in Bristol and Liverpool. The guns were then sold on the west coast of Africa in return for slaves.


The papers have been arranged into five series reflecting the form of the record and are divided as follows: MS3101/ A: deeds and associated papers relating to property and estates; MS3101/B: personal and official papers; MS3101/C: correspondence; MS3101/D: business papers; MS3101/E: miscellaneous papers.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on access to or use of the Galton papers. However, fragile items or those in a poor state of repair may not be served at the discretion of the Duty Archivist. Coloured items such as drawings, items that are tightly bound, or fragile items may not be photocopied; consult the Duty Archivist for details.

Acquisition Information

Deposited as a gift by Ewan Cameron Galton via the British Records Association to Birmingham Reference Library in April 1938. Supplementary papers were deposited at a later, unspecified, date by M. G. Copeland on behalf of Messrs Blount & Petre, London.


Material in the collection was previously catalogued using a consecutive numbering system.These reference numbers have been replaced with a new hierarchical system of numbering, but cross references are provided to the old reference numbers throughout this catalogue.

Other Finding Aids

Brief biographical guides for persons associated with this collection, genealogies of the Galton and Strutt families, and a table of new and previous reference numbers are available at Birmingham City Archives

An item-level description is available through the Access to Archives (A2A) website

Archivist's Note

Originally published by Access to Archives (A2A) The contents of this catalogue are in the copyright of Birmingham City Archives.

Custodial History

These papers are likely to have been collected by John Howard Galton. He is the recipient of by far the largest amount of correspondence, and the collection also includes a significant number of his personal papers, correspondence to his wife, Isabella Galton (nee Strutt) and to their children, as well as substantial papers of the Strutt and Douglas families, which are likely to have come into Isabella Galton's possession following the death of her father, Joseph Strutt. Earlier material is likely to have been passed to John Howard Galton from his father, Samuel Galton jnr and grandfather, Samuel Galton. This collection eventually came into the hands of John Howard Galton's grandson, Ewan Cameron Galton. There are few indications of how this material was stored by the family; dockets of some correspondence, particularly that of Joseph Strutt, are labelled in his handwriting, and other sequences of letters have been numbered, but there does not appear to have been any systematic arrangement of the collection as a whole. A basic catalogue of the collection was compiled shortly after it was received by Birmingham City Archives, probably sometime in the 1940s, but the material was not described in any detail.


No further accruals are expected


Publications based on analysis of material in the collection include: B. D. Smith The Galtons of Birmingham: Quaker gun merchants and bankers, 1702-1831Business History IX no 2, 1967: 132-150; W. A. Richards, The Birmingham Gun Manufactory of Farmer & Galton and the Slave Trade in the Eighteenth Century. Birmingham University MA thesis 1972