Grey (Stamford) of Dunham Massey Papers: Sections 4-13

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 EGR4-13
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      The majority of items are written in English , with a substantial number of documents, especially medieval title deeds and manorial court records, written in Latin .
  • Physical Description
      114.5 linear metres; 14 subfonds. Condition: the majority of items are in good physical condition. Individual items and pieces in poor condition are individually identified below. A number of bundles of estate papers were waterlogged during flooding in the cellars at the Stamford Estate Office in Altrincham in December 1993. This resulted in mould-growth, weakening paper structures, bleeding of inks and surface soiling. Pending conservation work, some material is unsuitable for issue because of its condition.

Scope and Content

The archives from Dunham Massey Hall and the Stamford Estate Office in Altrincham span almost seven hundred years, from 1291, the date of the earliest document, until the death of the 10th Earl of Stamford in 1976. In fact the vast majority of items post-date the inheritance of Dunham Massey by the Grey family in the mid-eighteenth century.

The archive encompasses the full range of material typically found in large family and estate archives: title deeds and settlements; manorial court records; household accounts, inventories and other records; financial and legal papers; the papers of the owners of Dunham Massey and other individuals, both private and official; papers relating to local charities, schools and organizations; and estate papers including rentals and surveys, leases, draft conveyances, account books, correspondence and plans. A list of the fourteen subfonds into which the archive has been arranged is given below.

The archive includes an excellent collection of late-medieval and modern manorial records for the several courts held by the lords of Dunham Massey. While there are few early deeds, there are numerous evidences of title, settlements and marriage agreements from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries.

Among the personal papers of the Booth family are an account roll of Sir Robert Booth as sheriff of Cheshire, c.1445-50; a detailed compendium of family and estate accounts of Sir George Booth, 1648-51/2; personal correspondence and accounts of George Booth, 2nd Earl of Warrington, 1693/4-1758; and papers of his daughter Mary, Countess of Stamford, relating to the construction of the Bridgewater Canal, 1758-67.

The personal papers of the 5th and 6th Earls of Stamford contain material relating to the lord lieutenancy of Cheshire, the magistracy and local militia, and the response of the county authorities and elite to the twin threats of a French invasion and social unrest during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. There is a quantity of printed matter relating to the Peterloo Massacre of 1819. Among the papers of the 6th Earl of Stamford are colourful letters written by his son while on the Grand Tour in the 1820s. There are also manuscripts of, and papers pertaining to, the naturalist Gilbert White of Selborne (1720-1793) and other members of the White family; papers of the Lumsden family concerning service in the East India Company and colonial life and administration before and during the Indian Mutiny; and papers of the Reverend William Grey, a missionary in Newfoundland, Canada, 1849-53.

The household economy and the relationship between Dunham Massey Hall and its supporting estate during the eighteenth century are revealed in comprehensive household account books. Arguably the most notable feature of the archive, however, is the vast quantity of nineteenth and twentieth century estate papers that were housed at the Altrincham Estate Office. These are remarkable in their completeness for very few, if any, records appear to have been lost or destroyed in the last hundred years. They provide detailed evidence of management policy and processes, and of the physical, financial and legal development of the estate at a time of great economic and social change. They constitute one of the most comprehensive estate collections in Cheshire during this period.

There are, however, notable gaps in the archive. There is little medieval material, other than title deeds and a handful of manorial accounts, surveys and court rolls. No doubt the chequered history of the barony in the hundred years prior to its inheritance by Robert Booth can account for such losses. More surprising perhaps is the paucity of material relating to the Booth family, a mere sixteen boxes, with almost no records relating to their political activities either locally or nationally. Particular reasons for the poor survival rate may be surmised, over and above the customary hazards to archives from fire, water, vermin, poor storage conditions and accidental loss. The almost total absence of material bearing on the Booth family's activities during the civil war period may be the result of the expedient destruction at that time of all potentially incriminating documentary evidence. Other material may have been discarded when the Booth line came to an end and Dunham Massey passed to the Grey family with the death of Mary Countess of Stamford in 1772. While the preponderance of papers from the period after 1700 suggests that major losses had occurred before the eighteenth century, very little of what may be termed private and family correspondence has survived even for the 2nd Earl of Warrington and his daughter; unless such material was lost during the lifetimes of George Booth and Mary Booth (by no means inconceivable, but perhaps unlikely given their characters), the papers must have disappeared during the Grey era. One may conjecture that the Grey family did not feel any great attachment to their predecessors' papers, and that routine papers and Booth family papers of a purely personal nature with no obvious historical importance or continuing relevance to the administration of the Hall and estates perished through neglect or deliberate destruction.

The losses are not confined to the papers of the Booth family, however. Among the papers of the Greys there is very little personal correspondence between members of the immediate family or with those who belonged to their wider social circle, though we know from other sources that they corresponded frequently: the Portland Collection at the University of Nottingham contains over 200 letters from the 5th Earl of Stamford and his wife to her brother, the 3rd Duke of Portland. In this case it is possible that such material was always located at Enville Hall, the Grey family's principal residence, or that it was removed to Enville when Dunham Massey Hall was vacated by the 7th Earl of Stamford during the 1850s.

Administrative / Biographical History

The history of Dunham Massey may conveniently be divided into three periods demarcated by changes in the ownership of the barony. It was held by the Massey family from the time of Domesday until the line died out in c.1342. After a period of one hundred years in which the barony passed through several hands, it was acquired by the Booth family in the early fifteenth century. It remained in their possession until the mid-eighteenth century when it was inherited through marriage by the Grey family, Earls of Stamford. The Greys continued to own Dunham Massey until the death of the 10th and last Earl of Stamford in 1976, when the Hall and remaining estates were bequeathed to the National Trust.

A much fuller administrative and biographical history is given in the collection-level description above.


Throughout the process of arranging and listing the archive the twin principles of provenance and original order have been respected wherever possible. The form of arrangement was determined by painstaking examination of the archives themselves, and was not based on any external classification scheme. For discussions on the arrangement of estate archives, see Philippa White and others, 'The arrangement of estate archives', Journal of the Society of Archivists, vol. 13 no. 1 (1992), pp. 1-8; and Michael Cook, 'The arrangement of estate archives: a commentary in the light of the MAD2 description standard', Journal of the Society of Archivists, vol. 14 no. 2 (1993), pp. 117-24.

Reconstruction of an original order proved to be somewhat problematical, because the archive has suffered considerable disturbance, especially during the twentieth century; this has largely effaced evidence of any earlier arrangements. The material from Dunham Massey Hall was particularly disrupted, with numerous drawers, shelves and trunks containing a jumble of apparently unrelated items. The original locations of material from the Hall have been noted wherever possible, though they were unfortunately not recorded in the 1978 deposit. A scheme of arrangement was adopted for the title deeds from Dunham Massey Hall in 1714, if not earlier, and the deed-bundles from the Altrincham Estate Office were also numbered. Otherwise there is no evidence of any original order above the series-level. The numbering scheme imposed by Dr Guppy appears to have been more-or-less arbitrary, not founded on any organic arrangement of the archives. It was therefore rejected as the basis for any arrangement, though the Guppy numbers have been recorded as former references.

Generally, records from the Altrincham Estate Office have been kept separate from the Hall records, in accordance with the principle of provenance. Thus there are separate subfonds (the main subdivisions of the archive) for estate papers from Dunham Massey Hall (EGR11) and estate papers from the Altrincham Estate Office (EGR14). The one exception is that the very few manorial records from the Hall have been incorporated with the vast majority from the Estate Office. Similarly the papers of the Booth family and the personal papers of the Greys form two distinct subfonds, and other subfonds comprise the records of two further families with separate provenances.

Whenever possible series and items have been attributed to individual members of the Booth and Grey families, if there is evidence that they originally created the records or kept them in their personal possession. The criteria for attribution are discussed further in the descriptions of subfonds EGR3 and EGR4 below. This form of arrangement was considered to be more sympathetic to the principle of original order than the common practice of bringing together like materials, such as legal papers, financial records and official papers into artificial subfonds. However, such an arrangement was obviously inappropriate for title deeds, manorial records and the records produced by the household and estate staff, for which separate subfonds have been created. Furthermore, some series and bundles contained material that could be attributed to more than one individual. It therefore seemed more appropriate to assign them to activity-based subfonds, such as EGR8 and EGR9, which comprise charity records, rather than subfonds EGR3 and EGR4.

Below the series-level, items (and pieces within bundle-items) have generally been arranged chronologically unless there was clear evidence of some other form of original order.

There follows a list of the fourteen subfonds into which the archive has been arranged. The contents of each are described more fully in the subfonds descriptions.

  • EGR1: Title Deeds and Settlements, 1291-1773
  • EGR2: Manorial Records, 1347-1920
  • EGR3: Papers of the Booth Family, 1442/3-1772
  • EGR4: Personal Papers of the Grey Family, 1758-1893
  • EGR5: Papers of the White Family, 1719-1901
  • EGR6: Papers of the Lumsden Family, 1807-c.1900
  • EGR7: Household Records, 1742/3-1912
  • EGR8: Records relating to Thomas Walton's Bequest, 1740-1891
  • EGR9: Records relating to Lord Warrington's Charity, 1768-1928
  • EGR10: Papers relating to the Rectory of Bowdon and to Bowdon Parish Church, 1714-1919
  • EGR11: Papers from Dunham Massey Hall relating to the Cheshire and Lancashire Estates, ?1370s-1914
  • EGR12: Papers from Dunham Massey Hall relating to Other Grey Estates, 1658/9-1816
  • EGR13: Miscellaneous Papers from Dunham Massey Hall, 1681-1910s
  • EGR14: Estate Papers from the Altrincham Estate Office, 1593/4-1974

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to any accredited reader. The National Trust has placed restrictions on access to the papers of members of the Grey family who were alive during the twentieth century. Prior written permission must be obtained from The National Trust North West Regional Office, Stamford Estates Office, 18 Market Street, Altrincham, Cheshire WA14 1PHF, in order to consult the papers of William Grey (1850-1910), 9th Earl of Stamford, his wife Penelope, Countess of Stamford, and Roger Grey (1896-1976), 10th Earl of Stamford. These papers have been excluded from the present catalogue.

Some items are in a fragile condition, and access to them is at the discretion of the Library staff: see the individual catalogue descriptions below.

Acquisition Information

The Stamford Papers were deposited at the John Rylands Library by the National Trust. The earliest deposit from Dunham Massey Hall was made on 12 September 1978. Eight further deposits were received, on 29 June 1990, 25 July 1990, 24 January 1992, 27 March 1992, 8 May 1992, 25 February 1993, 23 November 1994 and 15 May 1995. Archives from the Stamford Estates Office in Altrincham were separately deposited in April 1981 and subsequently on 14 November 1990, 31 January 1991, 21 February 1991, 24 January 1992, 23 November 1994, 5 May 1995, 23 June 1995 and 4 October 1995.

Other Finding Aids

The first edition of this catalogue was issued in seventeen unpublished volumes, 1995-6. Copies are available for consultation within the Library. There are also unpublished box lists of the papers of William Grey, 9th Earl of Stamford, Penelope, Countess of Stamford, and Roger Grey, 10th Earl of Stamford.

Separated Material

A full list of separated materials is given in the collection-level description above.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

Some items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library and from the National Trust for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, The John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

A full archival history is given in the collection-level description above.


It is anticipated that additions will be made to the archive on an occasional basis. These will be incorporated in the catalogue.

Related Material

Enville Hall, Staffordshire: papers from Enville Hall remain in the custody of the present owner, Mrs Diana Williams. They contain material relating to the Grey family's estates in Cheshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire, as well as personal papers of the 5th and 6th Earls of Stamford.

Cordingleys Chartered Surveyors, Ashton under Lyne, Lancashire: extensive records of the Ashton under Lyne estate of the Earls of Stamford. Over two thousand nineteenth- and twentieth-century estate plans, as well as estate vouchers, agents' diaries and deeds, have been deposited by Cordingleys in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre, Tameside Central Library, Old Street, Ashton under Lyne, OL6 7SG.

Leicestershire Record Office: deeds and papers relating mainly to the Leicestershire (Groby, Bradgate, Breedon) estates but including estate accounts for Cheshire, Lancashire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire, 1883-1905, and for Leicestershire and Lancashire only, 1905-24.

There are further references to particular related materials in the subfonds- and other component-level descriptions below.

Additional Information

A full list of cataloguing conventions is given in the collection-level description above.