North Country Life in the Eighteenth Century - Vol. 1

North Country Life in the Eighteenth Century - Vol. 1

North Country Life in the Eighteenth Century - Vol. 1

North Country Life in the Eighteenth Century - Vol. 1

Excerpt

When I came to Durham in 1939 I chose as the subject of my inaugural lecture 'North Country Life in the Eighteenth Century'. Little did I realize what was in store for me. In the following autumn I learnt that some five or six old chests stuffed with manuscripts had been deposited by Colonel Spain at the Blackgate, in the keep of the old castle overlooking the Tyne; and I was asked, as a local consultant of the British Records' Association, to examine them before they were consigned to the pulp-mill. It was evident at a glance--once the dust of two centuries was removed--that they were the letters, account books, and papers of the lords of the manors of Gateshead and Whickham, once the richest coal-bearing manors in this country. Many months of 'blitz' research ensued for I feared that, placed as they were, all might go up in smoke at any time. When things quietened down somewhat I arranged with the President and Secretary of the Newcastle Society of Antiquaries, in whose custody the documents were, for them to be deposited in the strong room in the Public Library at Gateshead. This was not only their natural home but, as I discovered, part of the same collection--the cleaner part-- had already been presented to that library. This portion had been arranged in bundles and a hand-list prepared by the late Mr. J. Oxberry. It is known as the Ellison MSS. The contents of the chests, as yet unlisted, are to be called the Cotesworth MSS.

Work on this mass of unsorted material proceeded steadily until the slag heap of transcripts began to assume forbidding proportions and it became clear that the heap could not be disposed of without a special effort. The Council of the Durham Colleges most generously granted me leave of absence for the session 1949-50 to enable me to complete my researches. The present book is the result. I cannot sufficiently express my sense of appreciation to the Warden . . .

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