This large collection relates mainly to estates in Spelsbury (including Ditchley), Enstone and Charlbury, all in Oxfordshire, and Quarrendon, Hardwick with Weedon, Fleetmarston and Blagrove, and Burston in Aston Abbots, all in Buckinghamshire. It also includes papers relating to the Irish estates of the Dillon family.
The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Estates were formed by the Lee family. This family held lands at Quarrendon from the 15th century and bought or leased other lands in the neighbourhood. The connection with Ditchley appears to have come in the 1560s, when Sir Henry Lee, a Ranger of Woodstock, bought lands at Spelsbury and Ditchley from Thomas Gibbons. Ditchley was within the bounds of the Royal Forest of Wychwood and Sir Henry Lee and his successor, also Sir Henry Lee, secured grants from the Crown of pieces of forest land in order to build up Ditchley Park. The Lees of Ditchley and Quarrendon were granted a baronetcy in 1611, but three of the baronets died young and their widows played the dominant part during the 17th century. Anne St. John (widow of Sir Francis Henry Lee, 2nd baronet) married the 1st earl of Rochester, and Lady Elizabeth Pope (wife of the 4th baronet, after whose death she inherited the manor of Enstone and lands in Cogges and Coberley) married the 3rd Earl of Lindsay.
Sir Edward Henry Lee, son of the 4th baronet and Lady Elizabeth, married Charlotte Fitzroy, daughter of Charles II, who created him Earl of Litchfield in 1674. Sir Edward and Charlotte were jointly granted the Rangership of Woodstock Park in 1677. As dowry for Charlotte, Charles granted monies from the Customs and Excise and the office of Custos Brevium of the Court of Common Pleas, which was held by subsequent Earls of Litchfield.
The 3rd Earl of Litchfield died without issue and his title passed to his uncle Robert. When he died in 1776 without heirs, the titles became extinct. Under the will of the 3rd Earl, the Lee estates passed to the eldest son of Lady Charlotte Lee, Viscountess Dillon, the eldest sister of the 3rd Earl. The Viscounts Dillon of Costello-Gallen in Ireland were an Anglo-Irish family of Roscommon and Westmeath.. Henry, 11th Viscount Dillon, married Lady Charlotte Lee in 1745 and their eldest son Charles, later 12th Viscount, inherited the Lee estates in 1776 and the Irish lands and title in 1787. Charles Dillon-Lee appears to have been a great spend-thrift and for several years lived in Brussels to escape his creditors. In 1802 the Bucks estates were sold.
Harold, 17th Viscount Dillon, was an antiquarian; many of his notes on his ancestors, on Ditchley House (built in 1722, after the previous house had been pulled down), and other historical matters are included in this collection.
The collection appears to have been greatly broken up and original bundles spilt and connections lost, so some of the classes in this catalogue have been formed artificially. The bulk of the documents was deposited by the Dillon family in April 1935, via the British Records Association, and February 1936 (accessions 4 & 36). Further title deeds were received in May 1969 and July 2001 (accessions 798, 799, 3576 & 5663) and railway plans in April 1976 (accession 863). Many of these were formerly catalogued with the prefix DIL; a conspectus of the former and the new references is located at the end of the hard-copy version of this catalogue.
Catalogued/re-catalogued by Mark Priddey, 2015