Brett family

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Bound volume containing laid down and loose letters, papers and memoranda of the Brett family of Spring Grove, Wye, Ashford, Kent, mostly relating to work on historical, liturgical and biblical subjects in France and England, mainly from a non-jurist viewpoint, [1743-1776], including the following items: a note signed by Nicholas Brett, 13 Jan 1759; a letter written from Spring Grove on 25 Jul 1743, but not in the previous hand, addressed to 'Thomas Williamson, chez...George Waters, l'aisnè, Rue de Savoye, a Paris'; extracts of two letters in another hand to Bishop Robert Gordon, Nov 1757 and Aug 1758; fragment of a letter dated 16 Mar 1758 concerning 'the learned dissertation in your last concerning the antiquity of written liturgies'; autographed letter of 26 May 1773 from William Jones of Nayland [Suffolk] to Nicholas Brett; a list of printed books, on paper watermarked 1800, endorsed 'Books at Crewe not put up, and a list of those sent down'.

Administrative / Biographical History

'Non-jurors' was the name given to the Anglican Churchmen who in 1689 refused to take the oath of allegiance to William and Mary, and their successors under the Protestant Succession Act of that year. Years of sporadic persecution followed, during which they were deprived of their benefices and held secret services of their own which they believed maintained the true Anglican succession. Their difficulties terminated in 1788, when on the death of Charles Edward they saw no further reason for withholding the oath to George III.

Thomas Brett was born in Betteshanger, Kent, in 1667. He was educated at Queens' College and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University, from 1684-1690. Brett was ordained as a deacon in 1690 and worked as curate at Folkestone until the following year, when he was ordained as a priest. He was a Lecturer at the church in Islington until his father's death forced a return to Kent in 1696, where he was curate to the parish of Great Chart. He was awarded the livings of Betteshanger in 1702 and Rucking in 1705. Brett was already publishing works on church government and edging towards the views of the non-jurors, and matters came to a head with the death of Queen Anne, when he refused to take the oath of allegiance to George I and resigned both his livings. From this point on he was a prominent member of the non-jurors, writing extensively on liturgical matters and being consecrated as bishop. Brett died in 1743/1744.

Thomas Brett's son, Nicholas, was also a non-juror priest, who acted as chaplain to Sir Robert Cotton for a time, but who later lived at the family estate in Spring Grove, Kent. He died in 1775.

Conditions Governing Access

Access to the items in the collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the controlled environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room. Access to archive collections may be restricted under the Freedom of Information Act. Please contact the University Archivist for details.

Acquisition Information

Bought from F. Norman in 1963.

Other Finding Aids

Collection level description.

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Sarah Aitchison as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project.

Separated Material

Further papers relating to the Brett family may be found in the Bodleian Library, Oxford University (Ref: Brett Mss); the British Library, London (Ref: Add Mss 5514-15); the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh; and at Lambeth Palace Library (Mss 2179-83, 2219-21).

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be made, subject to the condition of the original. Copying must be undertaken by the Palaeography Room staff, who will need a minimum of 24 hours to process requests.

Custodial History

Formerly in the collection of Frederick William Cook (d 1943), who lent them to Henry Broxap in 1925, together with letters written by Thomas Wagstaffe at the Pretender's Court in Rome, not now with this manuscript. The note of provenance supplied by Cook on the front flyleaf of the volume adds that `the great collection of letters to the Bretts re the non-jurors is now in the Bodleian Library largely owing to the first Lord Northbourne'.

Geographical Names