Wharton Papers

Scope and Content

Papers (correspondence, diaries, account books, culinary and medical recipes, etc.), 1702-1858, of the Rev. Robert Wharton (1751-1808), his children and other relatives, including extensive correspondence with his friend, Rev. Thomas Brand (1750-1814), much of it describing their continental travels.

The papers of the Rev. Robert Wharton form the bulk of the collection. Son of a Durham woollen-draper and mayor, he belonged to a cadet branch of the Wharton family of Old Park near Whitworth, Co. Durham. The earliest of his letters in the collection are written from Eton to his mother, 1762-1768. He went on to Pembroke College, Cambridge, and then travelled abroad for 18 months in 1775-1776, visiting France and Italy and returning via Venice, Innsbruck and the German cities, before entering the church. He became successively rector of Thornton Steward in Bedale, rector of Sigglesthorne in Holderness, prebendary of Lincoln Cathedral, archdeacon of Stowe, and chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral.

From the time he left university until his death he corresponded regularly with his Cambridge friend, Rev. Thomas Brand, and much of both sides of their correspondence (ca. 570 letters) is preserved in the collection. From 1778-1795 Brand travelled extensively on the continent as tutor and companion to a number of young gentlemen. Among his pupils were Sir James Hall, later President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Sir James Graham of Netherby, Lord Bruce, and, earlier, the future novelist, Cornelia Knight. While in Italy in 1793-1794 he also acted as proof-reader to the Parma printer, Gianbattista Bodoni. In 1795, he returned to England, a career in the church, and marriage to Wharton's cousin.

Brand had scientific interests in astronomy, botany and chemistry, and he shared with Wharton a love of music which is reflected in numerous references in the correspondence to operas, concerts and contemporary music-making in England and abroad. The letters of both Wharton and Brand provide a vivid account of their experiences abroad, and a rich source of information on the cultural and intellectual life of the times, with comments on Cambridge acquaintances, ecclesiastical politics, public affairs, the French Revolution and the wars which followed, as well as more domestic news.

Among the other material in the collection are letters, 1706-1712, of Robert Wharton's great-uncle George (1688-1735), written while he was studying medicine at Cambridge and London, which contain detailed accounts from his tutor and costs of taking his degree as well as information about his studies; a letter of Richard Bentley (1708-1782), Robert Wharton's great-grandfather, concerning his edition of Horace; material concerning the Middleton family of Offerton, Co. Durham; and correspondence and papers of Robert Wharton's children, mainly letters to his son William Lloyd Wharton of Dryburn Lodge, Durham. These include family and local news, comment on contemporary events, a description of election preparations at Morpeth 1828, material concerning the adoption of Lord Adolphus Vane as Conservative candidate for Durham 1852-1853, reactions to the Crimean War, and a journal kept by Mrs. Mary Wharton 1841-1858.

Administrative / Biographical History

See Scope and content.


Arranged in 11 sections ( chronological within each section)

  • Nos 1-54, the Whartons of Old Park: family papers 1702-1759, 1802-1820.
  • Nos 55-87, the Middletons of Offerton and Miss Raine: family papers 1719-1789.
  • Nos 88-97, Mrs Ann Wharton, Rev. and Mrs Robert Wharton: notebooks, diaries, account books.
  • Nos 98-107, Rev. Robert Wharton, letters from Eton to his mother 1762-1768
  • Nos 108-169, Rev. Robert Wharton, letters from France, Italy and Germany 1775-1776.
  • Nos 170-516, Rev. Robert Wharton, letters from Britain to Rev. Thomas Brand 1773-1808.
  • Nos 517-742, Rev. Robert Wharton, letters from Rev. Thomas Brand, Sir James Hall, and J.H. Jacob 1776-1807.
  • Nos 743-753, Rev. and Mrs Robert Wharton, misc. correspondence with family and friends 1793-1808.
  • Nos 754-858, William Lloyd Wharton and his wife Fanny, of Dryburn, Durham: letters from family and friends 1824-1855.
  • Appendix: photocopies of letters from Rev. Thomas Brand to Gianbattista Bodoni of Parma 1793-1794.

Access Information

Open for consultation.

Acquisition Information

Presented by Mrs. M. Darwin, great-granddaughter of Robert Wharton, before 1952.

Other Finding Aids

Online catalogue at online catalogue

Separated Material

Thomas Brand's letters to his sister Susan Carr, also describing his travels, in Cambridge University Library, Add. 8670 and National Library of Scotland Acc. 10061; letters from Philip Yorke, describing Thomas Brand's lectures and demonstrations, British Library Add. MS 35377, passim; Gloucestershire Record Office, Lloyd Baker Archive D 3549

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail PG.Library@durham.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Rodmell, G.E., An Englishman's impressions of France in 1775 , Durham University journal , 61 (1968/69), 75-93, discusses and quotes from Robert Wharton's letters from France

Additional Information

The originals of the photocopies in the appendix of letters from Rev. Thomas Brand to Gianbattista Bodoni of Parma 1793-1794 are in the Biblioteca di Parma.

Geographical Names