Throughout most of its history the Buxton family seemed to have a strong propensity to collect every document relating to its estates, personal and official affairs, preserving not only important documents such as deeds and estate records, but even quite trivial items such as invitations, memoranda or scraps of writings which had come to it or passed through its hands.
1. Deeds and charters
There are some 1200 deeds and charters, half of which date from c. 1160-1500. Many of the earlier deeds relate to lands in Tibenham, Bunwell, Thetford Priory and Earsham, but the vast majority concern lands in Rushford and Shadwell, and are relevant to the foundation of Rushford College in 1342 and its subsequent history. This collection of deeds is complemented by numerous abstracts of title compiled mainly during the sixteenth century.
2. Estate records
The records for Buxton properties in Tibenham and Rushford/Shadwell are the most extensive. There are remarkably complete runs of court rolls and court books between 1327 and 1692 for the manors in Bunwell, Carleton Rode and Tibenham, including Channons. However, there is only one court roll from Rushford (1453-1462). The great mass of copies of court rolls, court extracts, bailiffs' accounts, rentals, extents, terriers, abbuttals, surveys, farm books and related material extends from the fourteenth to the middle of the nineteenth century. A score of other manors such as Aslacton, Banham, Earsham, Forncett, Moulton and Wilby are also represented, if less comprehensively.
3. Personal and domestic papers
Most generations of the Buxton family left account books of personal and domestic expenses. These include the accounts of two of the John Buxtons (for 1627-1631/1653-1654 and 1737-1765 respectively), and a fairly complete run of housekeeping accounts for Shadwell, 1725-1823. Other significant material includes accounts of school and college expenses (seventeenth and eighteenth centuries); journals and diaries recording travels by Buxtons in England or on the Continent; and school exercises and notes compiled in the pursuit of university studies (seventeenth and eighteenth centuries).
4. Papers relating to county administration and politics
There are numerous documents relating to the office of high sheriff, the collection of ship money, tax assessments for the raising of arms and troops, musters for the Navy or the Norfolk militia, prison accounts, initiatives against poaching and election campaigns. There also collections of papers dealing with criminal cases (magistrates' business) from times when members of the family acted as justices of the peace (mainly the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries).
There are over 3000 letters (1519-1926), most of a private nature, conveying personal messages or dealing with everyday concerns, family affairs, estate matters, illnesses, life at school or university, books, the planting of trees and communicating or commenting on local, national or international affairs. Letters of particular note are Robert Buxton's correspondence with the Howards, in particular with the Earl of Arundel (1577-1583); letters of Thomas Knyvett to his friend John Buxton, from the mid-seventeenth century; letters from George Brisac (1767, 1770), lieutenant in the Royal Navy, describing his experience of life in the Navy and his court martial; and mid-eighteenth century letters of Leonard Buxton, containing polemical outbursts against the monarchy and expressing sympathy with the independence movement in North America. The very extensive political correspondence of Robert John Buxton in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries sheds much light on the political events and opinions in the county. There is also a collection of love letters (1854-1863) exchanged between Lady Elizabeth Buxton, then in her fifties, and the octogenarian bishop of Ely, Thomas Turton, and letters from Lord Wolseley and Walter Spencer Stanhope of the 15th Hussars, a Buxton relative, writing from the Nile expedition of 1884-1885.
6. Architectural drawings and sketches
The drawings, executed by John Buxton (1685-1731), are mainly of Shadwell Lodge and the stables at Channons.
7. Wills and probates
There are around 100 wills and probates of the Buxtons and related families.
8. Papers of related families
The collection contains many papers originating from families into which the Buxtons married. From the Pert and Conyers families in Essex there are numerous papers relating to their estates in Broadholme, Nottinghamshire, and Saxilby and Hardwick, Lincolnshire (1536-1649). The Gooch family and their estates at Earsham are likewise well documented during the seventeenth century. Another family related to the Buxtons were the Hernes of Tibenham and Earsham. A substantial quantity of letters and personal papers, including sermons, notes from university studies, college bills and associated material are found in the Buxton papers. Finally, there is a substantial collection of manorial and estate papers, originally belonging to the Hare family of Hargham, who owned substantial estates in the Shropham hundred, as well as in and around Fordham and Soham, Cambridgeshire.