Thomas Helsby Papers Relating to Cheshire

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MSS 422-424
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      3 volumes (93 folios, 98 folios, 91 folios);

Scope and Content

Three volumes containing numerous letters and notes to Thomas Helsby relating to Cheshire and his editing of the second edition of George Ormerod's History of the county palatine and city of Chester.

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Helsby (1832-1903) was an antiquarian and local historian of Cheshire who practised as a barrister in Manchester. He was admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1855 and was called to the bar in 1858. His legal work was often eclipsed by his historical interests, especially during the years 1874 to 1882 when he edited the second edition of George Ormerod's History of the county palatine and city of Chester (originally published in 1819). Apart from local history he was also a keen geneaologist and student of heraldry and researched extensively his own family history. He died in 1903 in Bath, Somerset.

George Ormerod (1785-1873), county historian, was born in Manchester on 20 October 1785. In 1798 he was sent to King's School, Chester; he was admitted to Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1803, graduated BA in 1806, received the degree of MA in 1807 and that of DCL in 1818. His most famous work The history of the county palatine and city of Chester... incorporated with a republication of King's Vale Royal and Leycester's Cheshire antiquities, appeared in ten parts, forming three volumes, between 1816 and 1819. Ormerod was a founder member of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire (1848) and of the Chester Archaeological Society (1849). He was a council member of the Chetham Society from its foundation in 1843 until 1846. He died on 9 October 1873 at Sedbury Park, Beachley, Gloucestershire.

Source: Alan G. Crosby, "Ormerod, George (1785-1873)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Access Information

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library from the bookseller J.E. Cornish in September 1927.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan and Jo Humpleby, project archivists, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on George Ormerod.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928 (English MSS 422-424).

Related Material

The JRUL also holds English MS 1150, which comprises extracts from the churchwardens' accounts for Frodsham, Cheshire, also by Thomas Helsby (ref.: GB 133 Eng MS 1150).

London University, University College London (UCL) Manuscripts Room, holds a scrapbook of letters, legal documents and genealogical notes of the Lancashire and Cheshire Helsby families (ref.: GB 103 MS ADD 132).

Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library: the James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn Collection includes a collection of Elizabethan and Jacobean tracts, signed on inside front cover, "Thomas Helsby Lincoln's Inn London 1855" (ref.: Osborn Shelves fb 23).


See George Ormerod, The history of the county palatine and city of Chester, 2nd edition revised by Thomas Helsby, 3 vols (London: George Routledge, 1882).

Geographical Names