Papers of Sir Thomas Farrer (1819-1899), civil servant, relating to the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1878-1888

Scope and Content

This collection of papers, bound as a volume entitled 'Bills of Memoranda, Railway and Canal Traffic Act 1888, THF', relates to the preparation, drafts and discussions that preceded the 1888 Act. Thomas Farrer, as permanent secretary to the Board of Trade, was personally involved in the Act and the manuscript items in the collection are in his hand. His name appears also on a number of the printed items in the collection.

Manuscript miscellany comprising: notes for the preparation of the railway bill, 1885 (MS 345/12); copy correspondence between Farrer and W.P. Price concerning railways topics, such as the inadequacy of services to Gloucester, mileage rates and a court case involving the Broughton and Plas Power Co. Ltd, 1886 (MS 345/18-28); memorandum recalling the history of railway legislation in which he was involved, c.1886 (MS 345/29-30); draft of 'Revision of the railway rates. Clause 24 of the Bill', 1886 (MS 345/31); memorandum entitled 'Necessity for legislation as proposed by the undue preference clause of the bill', 1886 (MS 345/33-34); and copy correspondence between Farrer and H. Oakley of the Great Western Railway discussing, amongst other things, the cost of transporting goods for export, 1886 (MS 345/35-39).

Published miscellany comprising: Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1888 (MS 345/1, 50); draft railways bill and clauses, 1878-1886 (MS 345/2-6, 9-11, 16-17, 40-49); proceedings of the railway committee of the Board of Trade, 1881 (MS 345/7); memoranda on railway legislation, 1883-1885 (MS 345/8, 13); memorandum on the Denaby case, 1886 (MS 345/14); memorandum on equal mileage rates, (MS 345/15); and memorandum entitled 'Undue preference and equality of railway rates', 1886 (MS 345/32).

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Thomas Henry Farrer was born in 1819 and educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford (BA, 1840). He became a barrister at Lincoln's Inn in 1844, Assistant Secretary of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade in 1850, assistant secretary to the Board in 1854, and permanent secretary from 1865-1886. In addition, he was a member (and for several years Vice-Chairman) of the London County Council, 1889-1898, and published writings on economic subjects. He was created baronet in 1883 for his public service, and entered the peerage in 1893. His residence was Abinger Hall, Surrey. He died in 1899.

The Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1888 [51 and 52 Vict. Ch. 25] permanently established the Railway and Canal Commission (that first operated in 1873) and transferred a wide variety of powers to it. The Act forced railway and canal companies to submit accurate details of traffic and rates charged. Revised rates and classification were introduced, and equal rates were applied to railways and canals.


The items in the collection have been numbered in the order in which they appear in the volume.

Access Information

Accessible to all registered readers.

Other Finding Aids

This description is the only finding aid available for the collection. Copyright in the description belongs to The University of Nottingham.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements


Conditions Governing Use

Reprographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on access status and the condition of the documents.

Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections (email

Custodial History

The collection was given to the library of University College Nottingham in April 1948 and was transferred to The University of Nottingham's Department of Manuscripts in September 1983.

Related Material

Other archive collections containing manuscripts relating to Sir Thomas Farrer are recorded on The National Archives' Discovery catalogue.


Great Britain, Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1888 (London: HMSO, 1888)