The Monson Collection, an ‘indispensable record of British national life’, is to be purchased and put on permanent display at Lincolnshire Archives thanks to grants of £242,500 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and £20,000 from the Friends of National Libraries.
The Monson Collection is an extensive archive containing artworks, letters and travel papers spanning around 700 years. The core collection dates from 1221 to 1947 and comprises the estate archive of the Monson family, the Barons Monson of Burton by Lincoln, together with family and personal records and antiquarian papers.
Among the treasures in the archive, which is considered to be of importance to the nation's heritage, are an invitation to the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838 and a contemporary copy of a report concerning Nelson's victory at the Battle of the Nile (1 August 1798). The collection also includes the papers of Sir Edmund Monson (1834-1909), a diplomat who held positions across Europe, including ambassadorships in Vienna and Paris. Sir Edmund was in Washington at the outbreak of the American Civil War and his letters describe some of the key events of the opening months of the conflict.
The collection also contains important records of domestic life, with everything from receipts for furniture and paintings to family recipes. These records provide a fascinating insight into the everyday lives of people in the 18th and 19th centuries.
When the collection was put up for sale, there was a serious risk that the records would be withdrawn from Lincolnshire Archives (their home since 1951) and dispersed among private collectors. These grants ensure that this important piece of British history will remain accessible to the public. The grant funding will also allow the Monson Collection to be accessed in new and exciting ways, so that this wonderful historical resource can be made available to a much wider audience.
Lincolnshire County Cllr Nick Worth, Executive Member for heritage, said: "This is an extremely valuable collection and of major historical importance to the nation and to Lincolnshire. I'm very grateful to the NHMF and the Friends of the National Libraries for their generous support in helping us buy these papers for the county."
Sir Peter Luff, Chair of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, said: “Spanning 700 years, the Monson Papers is an extensive and varied collection that provides an invaluable insight into British national life. At risk of being broken up, or sold abroad, the National Heritage Memorial Fund felt compelled to step in to enable Lincolnshire Archives to secure this important part of our national heritage complete, and in the UK, for future generous to explore.”
Frances Harris from the Friends of the National Libraries added: "The Friends of the National Libraries is delighted to have been able to help preserve this rich and varied collection and keep it in its natural home."
Other highlights from the Monson papers include:
- Correspondence of the Hon. Charles Monson, deputy-paymaster general, includes letters about affairs in Virginia and Jamaica and correspondence concerning a military expedition to America, 1739-1744.
- Travel journal kept by Captain George Elers during his tours of Europe in 1816 and France in 1825.
- Memoirs of the mathematician John Speidell (fl. 1600-1634), known for his early work on the calculation of logarithms
- An early 14th century fragment of the Constitution of Pope Clement V, which once belonged to Bardney Abbey. This volume, which is comprised of 34 beautifully written leaves, is the finest illuminated manuscript held at Lincolnshire Archives.
For more on Lincolnshire Archives, visit www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/archives.