Eyton and Slaney Family Papers

Scope and Content

This collection consists of letters to Thomas Campbell Eyton relating to his work as a natural scientist and ornithologist, most notably from Charles Robert Darwin, Albert Carl Ludwig Gotthilf Guenther, head of the Zoology Department at the British Museum and family friend, William Jardine, John Gould, T. H. Huxley, Sir William Henry Flower and the Reverend William Houghton.

The collection also includes correspondence, 1825-1864, of Robert Aglionby Slaney MP for Shrewsbury, and Eyton's father in law, mostly concerned with social and political issues, correspondents including Lord John Russell, Sir Robert Peel, Sir George Grey, Lord Palmerston, Joseph Toynbee, Henry Hobhouse, Lady Janet Kaye Shuttleworth and Lord Egerton of Ellesmere. Slaney devoted a large part of his life to improving the conditions of the working classes. Lord John Russell writes about a Commission being set up for this purpose, and in another letter advocates local Boards of Health being instituted everywhere with power of at least moving and advising the town councils, particularly in the matter of overcrowding in dwelling houses. Sir Robert Peel writes to Slaney in 1840 about the miseries of the poor and the possibilities and difficulties of legislation to ameliorate them. Joseph Toynbee discusses the Committee of the Working Class Association for Improving the Public Health and in one letter describes in some detail his suggestion for the better ventilation of houses. Lady Kaye Shuttleworth in a letter of 19 March, 1861, expresses her great interest in Slaney's account of public gardens and Town Libraries in Germany, while Lord Egerton is concerned with "recreative shelters for the people in parks"

There is also other family correspondence including letters to Eyton's daughters, Elizabeth Charlotte and to Rose Mary, from Albert Guenther and his son Robert T. Guenther, to Elizabeth Frances Eyton, née Slaney from her sister Frances Catherine Kenyon-Slaney, in India 1835-1849 containing interesting remarks on conditions among the English community there and from her father Robert Aglionby Slaney, 1861-1862.

There are also a number of miscellaneous letters, 1725-1892 mostly unrelated to the Eyton correspondence. Their authors include Herbert Spencer, Charlotte Mary Yonge, Charles Lee Lewes, David O'Connell, Augustus J.C.Hare and W.E. Norris. Other miscellaneous papers include printed and manuscript items also apparently unrelated to the Eyton or Slaney family correspondence.

For further information, see article in the University Gazette, 1955/56

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Campbell Eyton (1809-1880) was born at Eyton, Shropshire, 10 September 1809, the son of Thomas Eyton and Mary Eyton nee Campbell. He was educated at St John's College, Cambridge where he was a contemporary and friend of Charles Darwin. A distinguished naturalist his research and publications made significant contributions to the field of natural sciences during the nineteenth century. He maintained contacts with many of the most important figures in natural history research including Charles Darwin, Sir William Flower, John Gould, Professor Albert Gunther of the British Museum. In 1835 Thomas Eyton married Elizabeth Francis, daughter of Robert Aglionby Slaney, who was a member of Parliament for Shrewsbury, 1826-1862. Of the couple's six daughters and three sons, it was their daughters, Rose and Elizabeth Charlotte who most shared their father's interest in natural sciences into adulthood and maintained contact with many of their father's fellow naturalists.

Robert Aglionby Slaney (1791-1862) was a lawyer, Whig politician and Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury for most of the period between 1826 and when he died in 1862. In Shropshire the family residence was Walford Manor. He was an active and vocal M.P. for the Shrewsbury area representing agricultural interests and economic reform. He also held the post of High Sheriff of Shropshire in 1854. Slaney was particularly interested in social reform and worked with other like-minded society figures to raise awareness, at government level, of the issue of living conditions among the poor particularly in the growing urban centres. As an M.P. he served on Select Committees reporting on education and health of the working class. He married twice firstly, in 1812 his cousin, Elizabeth Muckleston who died 1847 and then in 1854 Catherine Anne Archer.


K.W. Humphreys, University of Birmingham Gazette ( Volume 8, 1955 )

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1820-1832/member/slaney-robert-1791-1862 (accessed October 2012)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Campbell_Eyton (accessed October 2012)

http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/25713 (accessed October 2012)


The papers have been kept in the existing arrangement in eight fascicules. The letters are arranged as one series of family letters and numbered consecutively by recipient: 1-36 Letters to Elizabeth Frances Eyton; 37--89 Letters to Thomas Campbell Eyton; 90-142 Letters to Rose Mary and Elizabeth Charlotte Eyton; 143-151 Letters to Thomas Slaney Eyton; 152-174 Letters to Robert Aglionby Slaney; 175-176 Letters to Catherine Ann Slaney; 177-187 Letters to Joseph Muckleston; 188-189 Letters to Mary Slaney; 190-192 Letters to Elizabeth Holmes. The miscellaneous letters and papers are arranged as a second series numbered consecutively as letters /1-33 and papers /34-62.

Access Information

Access to all registered researchers

Acquisition Information

This collection was purchased in 1956



Other Finding Aids

Please see the full catalogue for further details

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the Director of Special Collections (email: special-collections@contacts.bham.ac.uk). Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Further deposits are not expected.

Related Material

Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections holds two related collections: the Slaney Family Manuscripts (Reference: SL); and the journals and notebooks of Robert Aglionby Slaney (Reference: RAS)

Additional Information