Portfolio of Fragments relative to the History of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster

Scope and Content

An interleaved subscriber's copy of the printed edition of Matthew Gregson's Portfolio of Fragments Relative to the History and Antiquities of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster (1817), with substantial manuscript additions. These include, at the beginning of the first volume, original documents relating to the printing of the book, 1811-1824, and a rhyming verse by William Roberts addressed to Gregson. This was possibly Matthew Gregson's own copy, used in preparation of the second edition (1824).

Administrative / Biographical History

Matthew Gregson (1748/9-1824), antiquary, was born in Liverpool in 1749. He was in business for many years as an upholsterer and interior decorator in the firm of Urmson and Gregson, later known as Gregson and Bullen. When he retired in 1812 he owned an estate in Wavertree and a dozen warehouses in Liverpool, and also held the lordship of the manor of Overton in Cheshire. Gregson took a deep interest in literature and science. He was also an ardent collector of documentary and pictorial illustrations of the history of Lancashire. These he used in compiling his Portfolio of Fragments Relative to the History and Antiquities of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster, which he brought out in 1817 in three folio parts. It contained 800 engravings, mostly by local artists, whom Gregson employed. The second and enlarged edition is dated 1824 and, although he lost money on the project, the third, edited and indexed by John Harland, came out in 1867. This work led to his election as Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and to his honorary membership of the Newcastle upon Tyne Society of Antiquaries. He was offered a knighthood by the Prince Regent on presenting a copy of the book, but declined the honour. The Portfolio of Fragments remains a standard work of reference for local history and genealogy.

Gregson introduced the art of lithography into Liverpool and encouraged gifted amateurs such as Rosamund White: he included her portraits of her father and grandfather in his Fragments. Gregson was elected in 1801 a member of the Society of Arts, and in 1803 received the gold medal of that society. He died at his home on 25 September 1824.

Source: C.W. Sutton, 'Gregson, Matthew (1748/9-1824)', rev. D. Ben Rees, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press - http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/11477.

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library from Alb[ert] Sutton in November 1899.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan, project archivist, and Elizabeth Gow with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Matthew Gregson.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928 (English MS 203).

Custodial History

Former owner: John Foster (1787-1846), architect, who was born in Liverpool, the second son of John Foster (1759-1827), joiner, contractor, and architect. From 1790 he was surveyor to the city corporation of Liverpool, where he spent nearly all of his working life.

Geographical Names