Scope and Content



The collection of papers listed here as E6 is all related to the Annesley family of Bletchingdon. At times this family has held the Viscountcy of Valentia, the Earldom of Anglesey, and other titles. Their genealogy is a complex one, and a few words about the family and their property may make the following catalogue easier to understand.

The first member of the Annesley family who is of any significance for the collection is Robert Annesley (fl. 1596-1612), who went out to Ireland to make his fortune. His son Francis Annesley (I) (1585-1660) enjoyed particular success out there, enjoying many posts and honours, until finally in 1642 became Viscount Valentia. Further biographical information on Francis Annesley (I), and indeed on all other members of the family mentioned in the Introduction, may be found in the respective introductions to personal papers concerning them in E6/1 below. Francis Annesley (I) married twice. Of his many children, three are of immediate importance here, namely Arthur (I) and John (I), sons by his first wife, and Francis (V), his eldest son by his second wife. Arthur (I), as the eldest, inherited Francis' titles upon his death in 1660. He did not, however, inherit all his land: John (I) inherited estates in Co. Kildare, and Francis (V) estates in Ireland (in Co. Down) and Yorkshire.

Arthur Annesley (I) was probably the most important member of the family. He enjoyed an even more successful career than his father, rising to become Lord Privy Seal in 1673, and being created Earl of Anglesey in the English peerage by Charles II in 1661. The title of Earl of Anglesey was created, probably, more because of its closeness to the family name of Annesley than due to the family's holdings, as it never held any land on the island itself. Arthur (I) began the family's long connection with Bletchingdon by buying the Manor House there in the 1660s (see E6/3/3D).

Arthur (I), like his father, had many children. The eldest son, James (II), duly succeeded him as Earl in 1686; the second son, Altham, was himself created Baron Altham in the Irish peerage in 1681; and the third son Richard joined the church, rising to become Dean of Exeter.

James (II) only survived his father by four years, dying in 1690. Between 1690 and 1737, his three sons James (III), John (II) and Arthur (III) each inherited his titles in turn and each died without male heirs. It was Arthur (III) who purchased the Manor proper of Bletchingdon in 1716 (see E6/3/1D/115). The brothers were not always on amicable terms with themselves or others: James (III) and his wife separated on acrimonious terms (see E6/1/7L), and John (II) had to be taken to court before he agreed to pay out his brother's legacies (see E6/1/7L-8L).

On the death of Arthur (III) in 1737, his titles passed to his cousin Richard, son of Dean Richard. On his death in 1699, Altham Annesley had left an infant son was barely outlived him, so that the title of Baron Altham then went to his brother Dean Richard, who himself died in 1701. His eldest son Arthur (IV) inherited the title, and on his death in 1727, this went to the Dean's younger son Richard.

Richard Annesley the 5th Baron Altham and 6th Earl Anglesey was a figure who attracted much controversey in his life. His own private life was itself a matter of confusion. In 175, he married one Ann Prust, but almost at once left her for another woman, Anne Simpson. He went through a marriage ceremony of sorts with Anne Simpson, but then extracted from her a written declaration that she would never prosecute for bigamy. This relationship soon broke up, and Richard had adulterous liasons with Ann Saukeld and Mary Glover. He had children by all of these women except Ann Prust, and in his will of 1759 ( a copy of which may be found at SL13/4/2L/2) declard all of the surviving ones to be illegitimate. On the death of his real wife Ann in 1741, he promptly married Juliana Donovan, more of which later.

In the meantime, Richard had been obliged to fight for his title and property. Arthur Annesley (III) had, it seems, decided to leave his cousin only the bare minimum which decency allowed. Most of his property, including the estates in Bletchingdon and much of Ireland was left to the eldest son of his great-uncle Francis (V), Francis Annesley (VI), and other lands were left to another cousin Charles Annesley. It seems that Richard was unwilling to hand this property over, and only did so after being taken to court by Charles and Francis (VI) and receiving some money from them (Francis [VI] it should be noted, was already a landowner in his own right, having inherited and added to his father's lands in Co. Down and Yorkshire, and also brought a house in Lincoln's Inn Fields).

After this dispute, something more serious occurred. In 1740, a young man returned from America calling himself James Annesley, and claiming to be the son of Richard;s eldest brother Arthur (IV). James (V)'s story was that he was brought up in some obscurity, due to Arthur (IV)'s poverty, and was only a child when his father died in 1727. At once, his uncle Richard found him, and sent him off to America as a slave, seixing the title of Baron Altham himself. It will probably never be known for certain whether James Annesley was telling the truth or not; Richard's unpleasant behaviour in other fields may well make one belive him capable of disposing of a nephew in his way to Seize the titles. Whatever the truth of it, James (V) took his 'uncle' to court to claim the lands and titles of the Earl of Anglesey.

Richard at this point won some unlikely allies in his cousins Charles and Francis (VI), and the descendants of John (I). This was not so surprising. Since Richard at this stage had no legitimate heir, they stood to inherit everything at his death, and would therefore not take kindly to an upstart snatching it off them. Despite all this, James Annesley did win the first round of the case. Richard, however, appealed, and the case became bogged down in a succession of claims and counter-claims until James died in 1760, still deprived of the title which he claimed was his.

The story aroused great interest at the time. Tobias Smollett saw fit to introduce it into his novel Peregrine Pickle, and other writers made use of it in their novels, including Sir Walter Scott.

Meanwhile, in 1741, Richard had married Juliana Donovan. Because of the dispute over his title, and the need to hold on to his cousins as allies, he decided to marry her in secret, only making their marriage public by a reaffirmation of their vows some ten years later, once his position was more secure.

On Richard's death in 1761, his son by Juliana, Arthur (V), who had been born in 1744, and who was declared legitimate in his father's will, laid claim to all his father's titles (James Annesley (V) had left only daughters, so his claimto the title was extinct). However, the eldest surviving descendant of John (I), John Annesley (V), disputed Arthur (V)'s claim, declaring that Arthur (V) was illegitimate and that his parents had not been married until the public ceremony. The case was heard in both the English and Irish courts, but, confusingly, whereas the English Court found against Arthur (V)'s claim, the Irish Court supported him. As a result, he was unable to call himself the 7th Earl of Anglesey, but could call himself Vicount Valentia. In 1793, however, Arthur (V) was created Earl Mountnorris in the English peerage, and could take his seat in the House of Lords.

Arthur (V) was succeeded to these titles in 1816 by his son George. All his other sons predeceased him, as did both of George's, so that in 1844, on George's death, this branch of the family was extict in the male line.

George Annesley, before he died, recognised as his heir the eldest surviving descendant of Francis Annesley (VI), namely his great-great-grandson Arthur Annesley (XI) (see E6/1/11L/3). Since 1737, Francis (VI)'s eldest son, Francis (VII), had predeceased his father, so that on Francis (VI)'s death in 1750, Bletchingdon passed to Francis (VII)'s son Arthur (IX). Arthur (IX) died young in 1773, leacing the estate to his 13-year old son Arthur (X). Francis Annesley (VI) had two other sons who deserve note, namely William and Arthur (VIII). William was created Viscount Glerawley, and his son became Earl Annesley. He and his family do not appear much in E6, but their existence should be remembered/ Arthur (VIII), on the other hand does have more immediate importnace for this collection. He inherited from his father the house at Lincoln's Inn Fields, and enough money to purchase an estate in Huntingdonshire. He died unmarried in 1786, and left his Huntingdonshire estates to his great-mephew Arthur (X), but a large sum of money, and his London house, to his nephew Francis Annesley (VIII) (a younger brother of Arthur [IX]). Francis (VIII) then used much of his inheritance to buy up land in the area of Eydon and Sulgrave in Northamptonshire in the late 19th century. Francis (VIII) died childless in 1811, and bequesthed his lands to his nephew Francis (IX), another clergyman, and a younger brother of Arthur (X).

Meanwhile, during his long tenure of Bletchingdon (he did not die until 1841), Arthur (X) built a new manor house (which still survives today as Bletchingdon Park), and rationalised his estates by selling land in Yorkshire, Huntingdonshire, and Ireland, and buying more pieces of land in Oxfordshire, most notably the Manor of Hampton Poyle. Unfortunately, both his son Arthur (XI) and grandson Arthur (XII) accumulated considerable debts by the time that Arthur (XI) at last inherited Bletchingdon on his father's death. By now, there were apparently no male descendants of John (I) Annesley left, but no felt able to prove this beyond doubt, so that although Arthur (XI) assumed the title of Viscount Valentia in 1844, his claim was not beyond all dispute.

Arthur (XI), now the 10th Viscount, was predeceased by his eldest son Arthur (XII), whose way of life (if anything, even more spendthrift than his father's) raised huge debts, and killed him off at the age of 35. When Arthur (XI) died, then, in 1863, the title went to Arthur (XII)'s son, another Arthur (XIII).

Arthur (XIII) became the 11th Viscount, and was made 1st Baron Annesley in 1917. In addition to inheriting the Oxfordshire estates and what was left of the Irish ones, he also inherited the Northants. estates. This was because Francis (IX) never married, and on his death in 1831 made his nephew Charles (the younger brother of Arthur [XI]) his heir. When Charles died unmarried in 1863, a few months before his brother, Arthur (XIII) found himself the only heir to his great-uncle's estates. One property, however, did not descend to him, namely the house in Lincoln's Inn Fields. This was because his father Arthur (XII) had sold the reversion on this house in 1843 for a mere £500 to its then tenant, and in 1863, Arthur was asked by the tenant's heirs to give them the house. A long court case ensued, at the end of which Arthur (XIII), agreed to give the tenant's heirs the house, but for the payment of £7,500 more.

Arthur (XIII) was probably the most politically active member of his family since Arthur (I), being Member of Parliament for Oxford City for many years, and was the first Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council in 1889. The process of selling off lands continued, as the remainder of the Irish estates were sold off, mainly in two installments in the 1860s, and the early 20th century, and the Eydon estate was sold in 1914.

Arthur (XIII)'s eldest son, Arthur (XIV), was killed at the outbreak of World War I, so that on Arthur (XIII)'s death in 1927, the title passed to his surviving son Caryl, who became the 12th Viscount. Before his death in 1949, ne had sold the rest of the Northants. estates at Sulgrave, in 1940, and in 1947, he sold the Bletchingdon estate. Caryl never married, and with his death the male line of Arthur Annesley (XI) became extinct.

The title in theory now passed to the descendants of Martin Annesley, the third son of Francis VI). In the 18th and 19th centuries, this branch had been quite close to the Bletchingdon Annesley's. In particular, two of Martin's sons Francis (XI) and another Martin, both frequently acted as trustees for Arthur (X), as did his grandson George Booth Tyndale. However, this branch of the family makes no appearance in E6 after this time. In 1949, Martin senior's male descendant was William Monckton Annesley, but for all that he duly called himself the 13th Viscount Valentia, he was never able to prove his claim before his death in 1951. It was not until 1959 that his cousin and heir, Francis Dighton Annesley, was at last able to show that the male line of John (I) Annesley was extinct, and that he, and all Viscounts Valentia since 1844, were rightful holders of the title, which has so far remained with Francis Dighton's descendants.


The collection catalogued here as E6 all derives from the family's solicitors, Maude and Tunnicliffe (now Penningtons), and is mostly concerned with the descendants of Francis Annesley (V). When the last male member of Francis (V)'s senior line, the 12th Viscount Valentia, died in 1949, his siters were made his executors, and, on the prompting of the National Register of Archives, they agreed that the family's estate papers be deposited in an Oxford repository. These had been kept in the offices of Maude and Tunnicliffe, and were in 1952 transferred to the Bodleian Library, on the understanding that they stay there until arrangements had been made for a joint city and county record office in Oxford. This plan came to nothing, and the papers stayed in the Bodleian. In the meantime, a few extra papers joined the main collection from Maude and Tunnicliffe in 1958.

In 1968, it was decided that the papers be transferred to Oxfordshire Archives. and they were finally transferred here in 1980, where they were given the Accession Number 2437. In the meantime, S.J. Freer had produced a detailed list of the records, which has proved the basis for this catalogue, and was the only guide to the collection's contents until the present catalogue was drawn up. Not all the documents deposited in 1952, however, arrived at Oxfordshire Archives. Back in 1959, Francis Dighton Annesley , the 14th Viscount, had taken some documents from the collection whilst it was still at the Bodleian to assist him in his successful defence of his title. Some of these were found to be in the House of Lords Library, and photocopies were provided (these may be found at E6/1/G). The current wherabouts of the other documents is not known.

In 1994, some more documents about the family were deposited by Penningtons via the British Records Association, and were assigned the Accession Number 3853. Because these are from the same source as Acc. 2437, they are catalogued together. Appendix I lists which documents belonged to this group.

However, E6 is not the only collection of estate papers concerning the Annesleys. Users should be aware of three other collections, all much smaller, but with important documents. These are SL11, a collection derived from Messrs. Glynn Mills & Co., almost exclusively concerned with the family, and SL13 and SL18, the papers respectively of Vizard & Co. and Aplin and Hunt, both of which include small collections of Annesley papers. SL11 and SL18 almost entirely consist of documents from the late 18th and early 19th centuries relating to the Bletchingdon Annesley, whereas SL13 is notable in only concerning the decendants of Richard nnesley, the 6th Earl. Cross-references to these collections are made throughout this catalogue, so that searchers will be able to refer to them when necessary.


The fact that E6 derives from a solicitor's office, and not from Bletchingdon itself, gives a significant clue to the nature of the collection. The greater part of it consists of title deeds relating to the Annesleys' properties, and legal papers concerning them. There are next to no private papers, and not many records concerning the day-to-day administration of the estates. A few rentals and accounts survive, but these can onle be a fraction of the papers which must have existed.

Another striking aspect of the collection is that not many papers on properties survive during the time that they were under Annesley ownership. For example, there are a great many papers concerning Bletchingdon in the 17th and 20th centuries, but very few from the 18th and 19th. Not many leases for the Annesleys' tenants survive, nor are there many estate accounts and rentals from their properties (although there are some striking exceptions, such as a large collection of leases from their Co. Down properties in the 1720s in E6/7/10D). Searchers hoping to learn something of the administration of the Bletchingdon estates under the Annesleys will, unfortunately, not find very much that will help them.

In the 1970s, a detailed listing of the papers was carried out by S. Freer in the Bodleian Library, just before they were transferred to Oxfordshire Archives. This list, however, did not attempt to put the records in much order, and was not indexed. The present catalogue has tried to order the collection more logically, but is greatly indebtedto Freer's preliminary work.

During the listing of the papers, it became clear that the Annesleys tended to think of their properties as divided up by county. The few rentals for all their properties (which may be found at E6/2/E1) divide them up in this way. The deeds themselves also show that the Annesleys tended to buy and sell properties according to county. It was therefore decided that the bulk of the catalogue should reflect this sytem. In addition, there were some papers which contained information about Annesley estates in several counties (e.g. rentals, or correspondence), which needed to be grouped separetely.

Finally, there was a large collection of papers which were concerned with the Annesleys themselves. These are no so much personal papers, as wills, deeds of settlement, and financial papers (such as concerning a long succession of mortgages taken up by the 11th Viscount Valentia on his settled estates). In many of these cases, there is less interest in the land described than in the information supplied about the family. It was therefore decided to put such personal papers together, arranged under individual members of the family. On occasion, it was not always straightforward to decide whether a document should go under this heading, or under that of the property. Whatever decision was finally taken, a cross-reference has always been made. The current catalogue therefor divided the collection into 14 sections, which are briefly summarised below.


The genealogy of the Annesley family is complex, and not made any simpler by the recurrence of certain names over 300 years, especially Francis and Arthur. To help readers distinguish between members of the family, all Annesleys bearing the Christian names Francis, Arthur, John or James are each distinguished by a Roman numeral. Thus, for example, Francis Annesley (I) is the first Viscount Valentia, whereas Francis Annesley (VIII) is an 18th century descendant of his who bought property in Northamptonshire. Members of the family bear these numerals throughout the catalogue, and it is hoped that this will amke it easier to tell them apart, especially where two or more Annesleys sharing the same Christian name appear on the same document (which happens especially frequently in the late 18th and early 19th centuries).

The spelling of the village of Bletchingdon, which holds so important a position in these papers, also needs some explanation. Today, the village is spelled Bletchingdon, with a 'd'. However, it has been written as Bletchington and with many other variants. The decision was made to spell the village as as Bletchingdon in general discussions, and in the headings to sections, but to record every variant spelling in the documents in their individual descriptions.

As for other place names in the catalogue, the decision was taken also to record them as they are spelt in the relevant deed. In oxfordshire, modern names or given in general discussions where possible, but where it proved difficult to identify place names for other counties, especially those in Ireland, names are left as they were found.



Documents relating to the personal affairs of members of the Annesley family (17th-20th cents.). These include their settlements, wills, and papers concerning their personal finances.


General estate papers (18th-20th cents). These include letters, bills, rentals, surveys, accounts, and the like, all of which discuss Annesley property in more than one county.


Papers concerning property at Bletchingdon before its purchase by the Annesleys, from Arthur (I) in the 1660s to Arthur (XIII) in the early 20th cent. (16th-20th cents.). The history of each property is given up to the moment of purchase, be it in the 17th or 20th cent. Later documents concerning Bletchingdon are listed in E6/6 below.


Papers concerning property at Hampton Poyle and Hampton Gay, as well as Ploughley Hundred, also before their purchase by the Annesleys in the18th-20th cents. (17th-20th cents.).


Papers concerning two properties elsewhere in Oxfordshire before their purchase by the Annesleys (17th and 18th cents.).


Papers concerning all the properties in E6/3-5 above after their purchase by the Annesleys, concerning their administration and their gradual selling until the final sale of what was left of the estate in 1947 (17th-20th cents.).


Papers concerning the Annesleys' property in Ireland (16th-20th cents.). This includes land both in Northern Ireland and the Republic, which was acquired by Francis Annesley (I), and divided among his sons Arthur (I) and Francis (V).


Papers concerning the Annesleys' property in Yorkshire, acquired by F ranics (I), which descended to his son Francis (V),and was sold in the 19thcent. by Arthur (X) (17th-19th cents.).


Papers concerning the Annesleys' property in Northamptonshire, bought in the late 18th cent. by Francis (VIII),

and sold in the 20th by Arthur (XIII) and Caryl Annesley (16th-20th cents.).


Papers concerning the Annesleys' house in London, at Lincolns' Inn Fields, bought by Francis (VI), and sold by Arthur (XIII) (17th-19th cents.).


Papers concerning houses in London leased by Caryl Annesley (20th cent.).


Papers concerning the Annesleys' property in Huntingdonshire, bought by Arthur (VIII) and sold by Arthur (X) (16th-20th cents.).


Papers concerning the Annesleys' property in Somerset, bought at an unknown date, and sold in the 1930s by Caryl Annesley (18th & 20th cents.).


Items found with the above papers, but apparently unrelated to the Annesley family (17th-20th cents.).

Further details may be found in the list of contents at the start of this catalogue.

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