Papers and correspondence of Herbert Hunter, 1882-1959

Scope and Content

The papers are mainly of a biographical and personal nature. There are Hunter's reminiscences of colleagues and friends, and his collected press-cuttings which document the dramatic changes in plant breeding, crop production and the brewing industry during the first half of the twentieth century. There are a few notebooks and working files, and a little scientific correspondence, chiefly relating to the barley work. There is a notebook of the undergraduate lecture notes on soil which Hunter took at Leeds University. There is also the unpublished manuscript of Hunter's last book, 'Oats, Barley, Cultivation, Utilisation'.

Administrative / Biographical History

Hunter graduated in 1903 from Leeds University where he was one of the first two students to take the B.Sc. in Agriculture. He was then appointed officer in charge of the barley investigations being conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction in Ireland. It was during his work in Ireland that Hunter developed the Spratt-Archer variety of barley, which was for many years the most widely grown malting barley in Britain. In 1919 he was appointed Head of the Plant Breeding Division of the Ministry of Agriculture for Northern Ireland, and in 1923 moved to Cambridge to join R.H. Biffen, T.B. Wood and F.L. Engledow in the Plant Breeding Institute of the University School of Agriculture. Hunter became Director of the Plant Breeding Institute in 1936, and during the Second World War, also served as the Director of the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge. After his retirement from the Plant Breeding Institute in 1946, Hunter served as President of the Council of the National Institute of Agricultural Botany for three years, 1951-1953.


  • A Biographical and personal 1-11
  • B Reminiscences 12-16
  • C Notebooks and working papers 17-24
  • D Correspondence 25-29
  • E Publications 30-43

Access Information

Open access

Acquisition Information

The papers were received from Hunter's daughter, Miss Margaret Hunter, who attempted to assemble as complete a collection as possible from the various institutions with which her father was associated during his career. She provided a biographical account of his life and information about the arrangement of the papers.

Other Finding Aids

A detailed catalogue is available at the Museum of English Rural Life

Custodial History

Received for cataloguing by the National Cataloguing Unit for the Archives of Contemporary Scientists in 1975 and 1977 from Miss Margaret Hunter, daughter. Placed in Rural History Centre in 1977.

Related Material

The Museum holds copies of published works by Hunter.