Dorothy Richardson Papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The papers comprise holograph notebooks of Richardson's journeys and tours around Britain. There are notes of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, London, Bath and Oxford. Richardson's antiquarian notes on historical, ecclesiastical, architectural and heraldic subjects can be found in two volumes, and include a number of pen-and-ink drawings. There is also a manuscript copy of the Memoirs of Henry Slingsby, made by Dorothy Richardson in 1790. Slingsby (1602-1658) was a royalist politician, whose memoirs were a useful source of information on the Civil War in the North of England.

The Richardson papers provide extensive scope for cultural, social, gender, art historical, antiquarian and topographical studies.

Administrative / Biographical History

Dorothy Richardson was born in 1748, the daughter of Reverend Henry Richardson, Rector of Thornton in Craven, Yorkshire. Between 1761 and 1801 she undertook a series of tours of England in the company of members of her family, visiting Yorkshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxford, Bath and London. An unmarried, highly-educated and leisured woman, Richardson undertook her journeys with a high degree of seriousness and in a quest for knowledge. She described her travels in a series of accounts, recording details of antiquarian sites, country houses, museums, manufactures, geological features and landscapes - traditionally viewed as masculine preoccupations. The accounts are illustrated with numerous pen-and-ink drawings.

In a recent study they have been described as a series of writings which are neither confession nor fable, but which lie somewhere between autobiography and chronicle, history and inventory, constituting a paradigmatic case of disciplined recording that challenges received notions of travel, pleasure, gender, and knowledge in England in the second half of the eighteenth century (Marcia Pointon, Strategies for showing: women, possession, and representation in English visual culture 1665-1800, pp. 102, 124).

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated to the John Rylands Library by Charles H. Barber, new and secondhand bookseller, Cross St, Manchester, in April 1948.


Description compiled by Jo Klett, project archivist, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Sir Henry Slingsby.

Other Finding Aids

Custodial History

Signatures within the volumes indicate that they passed to the family of Dorothy Richardson's sister Mary, who married the Reverend William Roundell of Thornton in Craven, Yorkshire.

Related Material

Gainsborough's House, Sudbury, Suffolk, holds another manuscript journal of Dorothy Richardson, 1770, in which she describes visits to the artists' studios of Thomas Gainsborough and William Hoare. See Hugh Belsey, 'A visit to the studios of Gainsborough and Hoare', Burlington Magazine, vol. 129, no. 1007 (1987), pp. 107-9.


The journals are discussed in detail in: