Family and Estate

Family and Estate collections cover a variety of periods and types of record. Prominent local families had an influence in many fields. These include:

  • economic
  • judicial
  • religious and
  • political

This results in a diverse collections of records. No two family or estate archives are identical in scope. Some contain a wealth of material while others are mainly 19th or 20th century in content. Personal items such as letters or diaries may be abundant in one family's records but absent from another's. Many such collections have been deposited at Cornwall Record Office (CRO) by their owners. This is both for safekeeping and in order that they be available to researchers.

CRO holds materials for over 40 Cornish gentry families. Major collections, with the catalogue references listed in brackets, include:

  • Adams of Laneast and Egloskerry (AM)
  • Anstis and Bewes of Duloe and St. Neot (BW)
  • Archer of Trelaske, Lewannick (A)
  • Arundell of Lanherne, Mawgan in Pydar (AR)
  • Baron and Lethbridge of Tregeare, Egloskerry (L)
  • Basset of Tehidy, Illogan (B)
  • Bolitho of Trewidden, Madron (BL)
  • Buller of Morval (BU)
  • Carlyon of Tregrehan, St Blazey (CN)
  • Clifden of Lanhydrock (CL)
  • Connock Marshall of Treworgey, St Cleer (CM)
  • Coryton of Pentillie, Pillaton (CY)
  • Darrell Stephens of Trewornan, St. Minver (DS)
  • Davies Gilbert of Trelissick, Feock (DG, GB)
  • Enys of Enys, St. Gluvias (EN)
  • Fortescue of Boconnoc (F)
  • Foster of Castle, Lostwithiel (FR)
  • Godolphin of Godolphin, Breage (GO)
  • Graham of Tywardreath (GRA)
  • Gregor of Trewarthenick (G)
  • Grylls of Helston (GR)
  • Hawkins and Johnstone of Trewithen, Creed (J)
  • Hext of Trenarren, St Austell (HX)
  • Howell of Ethy, St. Winnow (HL)
  • Kendall of Pelyn, Lanlivery (KL)
  • Killigrew and Kimberley of Arwennack, Falmouth (K)
  • Lawrence of Launceston (LR)
  • Loam of Moditonham, Botus Fleming (LM)
  • Malone of Rosmorran, Gulval (ML)
  • Marquis of Northampton (N)
  • Pendarves of Pendarves, Camborne (PD)
  • Pendarves Vivian of Bosahan (PV)
  • Peter Hoblyn of Colquite, St Maybn (PH)
  • Pinwill of Trehane, Probus (PL)
  • Polwhele of Polwhele, St. Clement (PW)
  • Rashleigh of Menabilly, Tywardreath (R)
  • Rashleigh of Stoketon, Saltash (RS)
  • Rodd of Trebartha, Northill (RD)
  • Rogers of Penrose, Sithney (RP)
  • Spry of Place, St Anthony in Roseland (S)
  • Stephens of Ashfield, Budock (ST)
  • Treffry of Place, Fowey (TF)
  • Tremayne of Heligan, St Ewe (T)
  • Vyvyan of Trelowarren, Mawgan in Meneage (V)
  • Williams of Werrington (WW)
  • Willyams of Carnanton, Mawgan in Pydar (W)
  • Wynell Mayow of Bray, Morval (WM)

CRO also holds records from firms of solicitors and surveyors. They have deposited the deeds and estate records of their former clients, including:

  • Body, Son and Fleury, Plymouth (BY)
  • Coode and French, St. Austell (CF) 
  • Glanville, Hamilton and Ward, Truro (GHW)
  • Graham and Graham, St. Austell (GRA)
  • Grylls and Paige, Redruth (GP)
  • Parnall Langsford, Launceston (PN)
  • Peter and Peter, Launceston (PP)
  • Sitwell, Harvey and Money, Truro (SHM)
  • Ratcliffe and Henderson, Helston (RH)
  • Rogers and Son, Helston (RO)
  • Thrall, Llewellyn and Pearce, Truro (TLP)
  • Whitfords, St. Columb (WH)

Many smaller collections are deposited by London and other out-of-county solicitors. This is done via the British Records Association (BRA).

Certain family and estate collections are retained by their owners. Family records at Antony House, Torpoint includethose of:

  • Carew
  • Buller
  • Pole

Items from the collection can be brought to CRO for consultation by researchers. Several months notice, and a contribution to travel and staff costs is required. Please contact CRO for more information.

Title deeds are documents that record permanent conveyance of property from one party to another. These were essential in proving legal ownership. The records of landholding families generally include large numbers of title deeds. These may range in date from the thirteenth century to the present. They are an essential source for tracing changes in property ownership. The basic information in a title deed will always be the same. They include:

  • the names of the parties to the transaction
  • a description of the property
  • the amount to be paid

It may also contain:

  • covenants and reservations
  • more detailed information about the property, including:
    • occupiers
    • acreages
    • field names

There are several different types of deed used according to the exact nature of the transaction. These include:

  • the grant, bargain and sale,
  • final concord and release

The language and structure of deeds of title is very formal. Most early deeds were in Latin but by the seventeenth century most are in English. In 1733 English formally replaced Latin in all types of deed.

Leases are documents that record the conveyance of property from one party to another for a set period. A lease will always give:

  • the names and status of the parties
  • a description of the property
  • the number of years for which it was to be held, and
  • the sums of money to be paid from the tenant (the lessee) to the landlord (the lessor)

Like title deeds early examples are written in Latin. English is usually found in post-mediaeval leases. Until the nineteenth century, the most common type of lease in Cornwall was one which lasted for a term of ninety nine years. This often amounted to the lives of three specified persons. An initial large sum (the consideration) was paid for the lease. A small rent was paid annually together with other customary services. For example a day's work at harvest time and a capon at Christmas. From the early nineteenth century leases for shorter terms became more usual. For example seven or fourteen years. These generally had no 'consideration' but a much higher rent.

Leases, particularly from the seventeenth century on, survive in great numbers among the estate records of most Cornish gentry families. They may also be found among records deposited by descendents of the tenants. They are useful for tracing the history of property. They often give more detailed information about field names and boundaries than title deeds. They can also be valuable for agricultural history. This is because details of farming practice are sometimes specified. Leases for lives can be used for family history research, if the lives named are relatives of the tenant. Please note that detailed addresses are a nineteenth-century innovation. Prior to this, houses and small tenements were often known by the name of the tenant. It is also not always possible to identify a modern location.

These documents describe in varying detail the property of a family. For large estates these are generally arranged by manors. They give

  • tenants' names
  • tenements
  • rents and
  • terms of leases

They sometimes include full schedules of the properties and land use. For example, arable, pasture or wood.

Such documents can be found dating from the fifteenth century. The largest numbers of these items at CRO are for the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Administrative records of this type are of most use as a supplement to the leases. They are used in place of leases which do not survive and are best used together with estate maps.

Estate maps depict the property of a landowner. They were often prepared in conjunction with a written survey. Sometimes maps covering the various tenements of an estate were bound together in an estate atlas. They are usually manuscript, and often coloured and decorated. CRO holds a few seventeenth century examples. Most date from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They often provide the earliest large scale mapping of an area. This makes them useful for finding:

  • field-boundaries
  • archaeological remains, and
  • early roads
They also provide information for place-name and agrarian studies. Their purpose was to show the property of an individual owner. This means that adjoining lands are often left unmapped.

Estates were usually managed by a steward or agent. They had to keep a detailed record of the income and expenditure which passed through their hands. Some mediaeval accounts can be found, but most held at CRO date from 1700 onwards. They can vary enormously in content and level of detail and cover areas such as:

  • estate administration
  • farming
  • household expenditure
  • buildings and repairs, and
  • children's education

Some collections contain wages books. These have details of servants and labourers employed. Others contain bills showing individual items purchased.

Most family and estate collections include at least some correspondence. These do vary enormously in:

  • the amount that has survived
  • the period and subjects covered and
  • the amount of detail in which it has been catalogued

Correspondence may deal with:

  • family affairs
  • estate business and
  • national news

This may often be in the same letter. At CRO we hold letters dating mainly from the seventeenth century onwards. These deal with such diverse topics as:

  • the Civil War
  • bribery at elections
  • railway development
  • emigration to Australia
  • mineral collecting, and
  • horticulture

The manor was in the Middle Ages a unit of local administration. It was based on an area of land comprising several properties owned by one landlord. Property was occupied by tenants in return for customary dues. These included:

  • labouring for the lord
  • payments upon death or
  • payments upon marriage.

These gradually became commuted to monetary payments. The manorial court regulated economic and social issues. They had jurisdiction over:

  • tenancies
  • trespass
  • minor affray
  • rights of wreck and
  • the quality of ale and bread

The importance of the manor as a unit of local government was lessened in the Tudor period. At this time, government legislation gave such powers to the officers.

The judicial significance of the manor declined in the Tudor period. Its importance as a unit of property administration however remained largely unaltered. Many nineteenth century leases still refer to the manor of which the tenement forms a part. Some manorial dues were not abolished until the 1926 Law of Property Act. The manor was also the usual basis on which rental, surveys and estate accounts were compiled.

The record of proceedings at the manor court was originally written on a long piece of parchment. This was rolled for storage. Therefore, the records are known as manor court rolls. By the seventeenth century they were usually kept in volume form. Manorial documents of the mediaeval period are very difficult to read. This is because they are in Latin. They also use technical vocabulary and abbreviations. Nevertheless, they are extremely valuable for illustrating:

  • social relationships
  • kinship ties
  • trade regulations and
  • agricultural practices

From the early eighteenth century records are normally in English. Although they are less detailed, they are still useful for family and property history.

Landowning and gentry families were usually called upon to undertake public duties. This may be for the county or parish. They might serve as:

  • Lord Lieutenant or Sheriff
  • Justices of the Peace
  • recorders of boroughs or
  • chairmen of local schools or turnpike boards.

Surviving records include:

  • letters patent of appointment
  • militia rolls
  • correspondence and
  • accounts

Before the 1832 Municipal Corporations Act, Cornwall returned 44 Members of Parliament. Local landowners often either served as Members themselves or had great influence on the result of elections. Unofficial records such as letters and diaries are more likely to be held than official papers. These can often be very revealing.

As well as the correspondence mentioned above, CRO holds many items created not for administrative or estate purposes. These were created simply for personal use and include:

  • pedigrees
  • photographs
  • recipes
  • sketchbooks and scrapbooks, and
  • literary or antiquarian papers

Diaries often contain details of daily life, together with reactions to local and national events. Some are abandoned after a few weeks, but others that we hold cover thirty or forty year periods.