Buxton Family: Papers

Scope and Content

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).

5. Correspondence

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.

Administrative / Biographical History

The earliest records of the family begin with John Buxton junior (d. 1522) in 1464. Through careful land management and fortuitous marriages the family grew to be one of the major landowning families in East Anglia. Robert Buxton (d. 1528) acquired the manor of Channons, near Tibenham, Norfolk, by marriage to Christiana Glemham. His son John (1488-1572) built Channons Hall during the 1560s, which became the home of the Buxton family for the next 200 years. It was under Robert Buxton (c. 1533-1607) that the family rose to prominence. Robert entered the service of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, as surveyor and solicitor in 1559, serving him until the duke's death in 1572, before looking after the interests of his son Philip, Earl of Arundel. Following the fall of the Howards, Robert was appointed one of the government's surveyor generals of the Howard lands in Norfolk and Suffolk, and received a licence to purchase their escheated property, Rushford College, in 1599.

Robert Buxton's estate passed to his grandson Robert (1588-1611). Robert's son, John Buxton (1608-1660), followed the family tradition by entering the legal profession, and by 1635 was a justice of the peace. As a lieutenant-colonel in the Norfolk militia, he was obliged to take part in the military exercises of the neighbourhood and to muster troops, although there is no evidence that he was involved in any military campaigns during the Civil War. On the death of Sir Francis Astley in May 1638 he became high sheriff of Norfolk. In 1656 John Buxton was elected M.P. for Norfolk, but, like other royalists, he was barred from taking up his seat in the Commons.

The following two generations of the family were short-lived. Robert Buxton (1633-1662) survived his father John by only two years. Shortly afterwards the family moved to Topcroft Hall, the family estate of Robert's widow, Hannah Wilton. Their eldest son John (1658-1682) died at Orlans, so his brother Robert (1659-1691) continued the family line, having married into the Gooch family of Earsham. It was under his son, John Buxton (1685-1731), that this family began to adopt Shadwell as their principal home. In his lifetime John established a reputation as an amateur architect of some talent. Between 1727 and 1729 he built a new house at Shadwell on his Rushford estate. Initially Shadwell Lodge was intended as a secondary residence, but eventually the move to Shadwell became permanent. John Buxton held few public offices, and does not appear to have had a great deal of interest in the political affairs of his county.

John Buxton was succeeded first by his eldest son Robert (1710-1751), who died unmarried, and then by Robert's brother John (1717-1782). John put much energy into creating a park at Shadwell, planting a huge number of trees and creating an artificial lake in 1754, thus changing completely the landscape surrounding Shadwell Lodge. Politically John took a more active interest in county affairs. In the county elections of 1754 he and his friend William Fellowes contested unsuccessfully the nominations of George Townshend and Sir Armine Wodehouse, and in the 1768 election he campaigned on behalf of Sir Edward Astley and Wenman Coke in opposition to the government.

Having served as deputy lieutenant in 1740 and 1761, and as justice of the peace in 1767, John Buxton was succeeded in 1782 by his son Robert John (1753-1839). In May 1777 Robert John married, without his father's consent, Juliana Mary Beevor. For this and other reasons, which are not entirely clear, John seems to have temporarily disinherited his son, or at least severely cut his income; he certainly expelled him from Shadwell. Although they were reconciled by 1779, Robert John remained with his wife on an estate of his mother's family near Chippenham in Wiltshire until his father's death in 1782. Robert John was a loyal supporter of William Pitt, whose government he represented in several elections and through active attendance in parliament. He sat as M.P. for Thetford, 1790-1796, and Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire, 1797-1806, and received a baronetcy in November 1800.

The last two generations of the Buxtons were much less ambitious politically. They also served as M.P.s, but were content to lead the lives of well-to-do Victorian country gentlemen. Sir John Jacob Buxton (1788-1842) was M.P. for Great Bedwyn, 1818-1832, and became deputy lieutenant and high sheriff for Norfolk in 1841. His main contribution to the history of his family was perhaps the enlargement of Shadwell Lodge. John Jacob's widow Elizabeth (ne Cholmeley) managed Shadwell and its estates during the minority of her son Sir Robert Jacob Buxton (1829-1888), who became captain in the Norfolk Rifle Volunteer Corps in 1860, high sheriff of Norfolk in 1870, and served as M.P. for South Norfolk, 1871-1885. The architect Samuel Sanders Teulon made sensational additions to Shadwell House between 1856 and 1860, turning the Buxtons' home into a monument of Victorian neo-Gothicism. The family history, as far as the Buxton Papers are concerned, ended with Sir Robert Jacob's heir, Maud Isabel Buxton (1866-1949), who sold the estate in 1898.


The collection was roughly sorted into 93 boxes in 1903, further material being added between 1908 and 1926, and in 1966. Although the papers were to some extent grouped either chronologically, thematically or by type of document, more than half the collection was in fact boxed without discernible order or purpose. The size of the collection made it impossible to arrange the material in a more systematic way - this would have required taking the whole collection apart and, in many cases, separating papers from their original context. However, it was decided to group the correspondence and early deeds and charters separately from the rest of the collection.The remaining material, forming the main body of the collection, was grouped in each box according to document type.

Access Information

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Presented by Maud Buxton, 1901, following the sale of Shadwell Court. Additional papers were presented by her and Augustus Jessopp between 1908 and 1926, and one box of material was transferred from the Wiltshire Archaeological Society in 1966.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives.

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue of the Buxton papers is available in the Manuscripts Reading Room and online at www.lib.cam.ac.uk/MSS/Buxton/.

Related Material

1. Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives

MS.Add.3950, fos 128-178: Edward Blore's papers regarding the building work at Shadwell Lodge, 1840-1843.

MS.Add.3951, fos 5v-6, 17v-19, 35v-36, 91-92, 95v-96, 100v-222 and 227v: Edward Blore's papers regarding the building work at, among others, Shadwell Lodge, 1841-1848.

MS.Add.6958/1975: Sir Robert John Buxton to [William Pitt], a copy of letter of 12 June 1796. The original is Buxton Papers 109/48.

MS.Dd 13.8, fos 95-112: Compotus of Robert Buxton and Nicolas Darcye, general receivers of the lands of Thomas, late Duke of Norfolk, 1579.

2. Gonville&Caius College, Cambridge

MS 740/785: Documents relating to Rushford and to Edmund Gonville's foundation there: 15 charters and deeds, 1320-1501, and a long and minute history (154 pp.) of Rushford College from the Conquest to the sixteenth century, compiled by Robert Buxton, c. 1570.

3. Norfolk Record Office, Norwich

The N.R.O. holds a sizeable collection of Buxton papers. Most of these are letters and papers of Robert Buxton relating to the administration of the late Duke of Norfolk's and the Earl of Arundel's affairs (1570-1603). There are also an extent roll of the manor of Rushford (1271), a foundation deed of a chantry in Eyke (1351), Sir Robert John Buxton's household expenses book for 1791-1811, and a map of the manor of Channons Hall by John Harrison, surveyor (1640). For a complete listing seeBuxton Papers, box 133.

4. Norwich Castle Museum

A collection of 41 portrait paintings deposited by the Buxtons in 1949 and 1963. For a complete list see Buxton Papers, box 133.

5. British Library

Add. MS 42027, fos. 86 ff: Edward Blore's designs for Shadwell House.

6. Wiltshire Record Office, Trowbridge

1553/36: Rentals and accounts of the estates of Sir Robert John Buxton in Tockenham, Wootton Bassett, Lea, Hullavington, Clapcott in Grittleton, Norton and Fowleswick, 1797-1829.

Geographical Names