Manuscripts and Special Collections

Mellish and Buchanan of Blyth and Hodsock

Photograph of Hodsock Priory, from the 1900s

The Mellish Collection (Me) came to the University of Nottingham Library as a number of separate accessions.

The Mellish Trustees transferred the family manuscripts to the University of Nottingham Library in 1947. A further accrual consisting of similar material was acquired in 1967. Other accruals have since been received from the Buchanan family.

The collection is divided into separate groups, with their own catalogues, although many contents overlap:

  • (Me) Papers of the Mellish Family of Hodsock, Nottinghamshire, c.1160-1911. The collection includes title deeds, manorial records, accounts, correspondence, journals and travel diaries. Surveys, legal, printed and antiquarian papers are also present in the Collection, as is the 15th Century 'Rushall Psalter'
  • (Me 2) Papers of the Mellish Family of Hodsock, Nottinghamshire, 1220-19th Century. Further deeds, estate papers, legal, literary, antiquarian and political papers complement related material in the core collection listed at Me. There are a significant number of letters to Charles Mellish (d 1797) concerning political matters, including further letters relating to the American War of Independence. There are also several items relating to the education of Joseph Charles Mellish at Eton
  • (Me 3) Medieval Deeds in the Mellish Collection, c.1160-1361, with a Letter from Napoleon Buonaparte, 1790. The deeds relate to grants by the de Vere family, Earls of Oxford, and their tenants, to the Priories of Earls Colne and Hatfield, Essex. A letter from Napoleon Buonaparte was discovered at Hodsock in the same box and transferred to the University Library at the same time.
  • (Me 4) Letters of Lt Col. Francis Henry Mellish (1782-1817) to his sister Anne from the Peninsular War, 1808-1816. Accruals have added correspondence principally belonging to Ann Chambers (née Mellish), Elizabeth Jane Mellish, William Leigh Mellish and Margaret Mellish, estate papers dating from Ann Chamber's ownership of Hodsock (1817-1855), manuscript volumes such as diaries, and printed material mainly belonging to Colonel Henry Mellish.

The Buchanan Collection (Bu), principally consisting of the correspondence of Sir Andrew Buchanan (1807-1882), diplomat, was transferred to the University Library in 1986.

Item level catalogues to both collections are available on the Manuscripts Online Catalogue. The detailed cataloguing and indexing of the papers of Sir Andrew Buchanan was made possible thanks to a JISC (Non Formula Funding) award for cataloguing and conservation in 1995. 

The typescript catalogue to the Mellish Collection was also made available during the Access to Archives (A2A) project and can now be seen on The National Archives' Discovery catalogue.


Principal Subject areas within the collections

Mellish Collection

The Mellish papers comprise a substantial family and estate archive, being for the most part records about their North Nottinghamshire estates during the period of the family's ownership. In addition there are some survivals from their merchant origins in London and a number of significant medieval records inherited through property acquisition.

The collection includes a large number of property deeds, wills and abstracts of title (early 12th century-1803) relating mostly to North Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, but other counties are also represented. These are supported by a substantial body of estate papers and related correspondence, 1523-1863, providing further details about the exchange and ownership of lands and also about the administration of the estates. There is a considerable amount of material from the Mellish Yorkshire estates (papers from the Manor of Tickhill c.1600-1639 are a notable example) as well as those in Nottinghamshire. The latter includes material from the Manor of Blyth. Unfortunately, no run of estate maps or surveys has survived, although some maps and surveys are to be found scattered throughout the bundles of estate papers, including a survey of the land purchased from Sir Gervase Clifton in 1765.

An extensive body of accounting material from 1648 to 1863 includes a range of different forms of estate, household, business and personal accounts, none of them in a long series. Estate rentals have patchy coverage, but are supplemented by farm cash books. There are two household account books (1784-1816). Some business accounts have been separately listed, 1613-1839. Business correspondence includes several letter books from the seventeenth century, and evidence of the continued connection of the family with mercantile and professional legal interests in London. In connection with the family's own business interests, a considerable number of letters relate to the navigation of the River Dun.

Thirty-eight bundles of correspondence (1683-1853) cover estate, family and personal, business and social interests. They include letters from prominent members of the family such as Edward Mellish of Blyth Hall (1633-1703), Joseph Mellish (1675-1733), William Mellish (1708-1791) and Charles Mellish (1737-1797). Correspondence includes references to families linked by marriage, particularly the Baker, Gore, Gardner and Chambers families. Other personal letters contain extensive references to the education of the children, including correspondence between Charles Mellish and his son Joseph from 1779. The letters of Charles Mellish provide comment and detail about political events and include letters from Sir Henry Clinton and others concerning the American War of Independence. Letters from Henry Francis Mellish (1782-1817), provide a significant account of events in Spain and Portugal during the Peninsular War. Foreign matters are also found in a number of journals and travel diaries covering Europe and the Near East, 1621-c.1852.

Legal works from 1587 to the late 18th century include both texts apparently used in the practice of law and documents resulting from legal process. A series of literary, antiquarian, religious and philosophical papers, together with some genealogical material and printed papers, are also present. Many of these papers were collected by Charles Mellish in the course of his antiquarian studies. The collection also includes the 15th century 'Rushall Psalter'. Vernacular sections within the volume include items by Lydgate and Chaucer and an account of the Rushall family from the conquest.

An additional deposit of medieval deeds (Me 3) also includes a stray letter of Napoleon Buonaparte to M. L'Abbé Raynal dated 1790.

Buchanan Collection

The largest section of the Buchanan Collection consists of the correspondence of Sir Andrew Buchanan. Much of the correspondence is official and highlights British diplomatic interests in the majority of the countries in which Sir Andrew Buchanan served (although no records survive from his earliest postings). The papers also reflect general foreign policy interests during this period, and contain comments on news about political developments in Britain. The letters contain advice from officials in the foreign office and instructions regarding foreign policy. Correspondents include many leading British political figures, such as the Earl of Aberdeen, Viscount Palmerston, Lord John Russell and the Earl of Derby.

Buchanan was in regular correspondence with the politicians of the countries in which he served, including Bismarck and Gorchakov. A large proportion of his correspondence was with other diplomats posted in various embassies around the world. It contains information about political and social conditions, as well as major events of historical significance such as the Franco/Prussian War. The papers are valuable for the wealth of evidence they contain about the diplomatic service, its problems and privileges.

A smaller section of the collection consists of correspondence of Sir George Buchanan during his diplomatic service in Russia and the letters, diaries, press cuttings and photograph albums of his daughter, Meriel, who accompanied him. A short series of letters from him to his father records his posting in Japan (1880-1882).


Family history

Principal family members

Other notable family members


Collections held elsewhere

Other Repositories holding archives of the Mellish family:

  • Enfield Local History Unit holds Enfield and Edmonton estate ledger, rental and papers, 1800-39 (Reference: PP)
  • Nottinghamshire Archives holds miscellaneous correspondence and papers relating to Blyth Rectory tithe and plantations in Jamaica; family correspondence, including some of the Chambers family; household accounts; deeds and estate papers, 1652-1846 (Reference: DD/2103). The catalogue is available through Access to Archives (A2A)

Details of other smaller collections relating to individual members of the family can be obtained from the National Register of Archives.  


Useful published works on the Mellish family and their papers

  • J. Bramley, 'Hodsock Priory', Transactions of the Thoroton Society, 42 (1938), 25-27, illustrated
  • H. Chadwick, 'The Manor of Dunham-on-Trent' [concerning the Mellish family of Ragnall], Transactions of the Thoroton Society, 25 (1921), 86-92
  • A. Hellyer, 'Overflowing With Promise', Country Life, 184 (1990), 54-58, illustrated, concerning Hodsock Priory garden
  • M.J. Landa, 'Kitty Villareal, the da Costas and Samson Gideon', Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England, 13 (1932-1935), 271-291
  • H. Mellish, 'The Weather of 1925 at Hodsock Priory, Worksop, With Tables for the 50 Years 1876 to 1925' [Hodsock, privately published, 1926?]
  • H. Mellish, 'Rainfall of Nottinghamshire, 1861-90', Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 19 (1893), 46-57, illustrated
  • [G. Oldfield] 'Life at Blyth Hall', Nottinghamshire Countryside (incorporated into Nottingham Topic) (May 1992), [55]-[56], illustrated
  • J.M. Walker, 'Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Mellish, CB, DL, JP, FRGS (Pen Portraits of Presidents)', Weather, 51 (1996), 389-391, illustrated


Next page:  The Mellish and Buchanan Families of Blyth and Hodsock: A Brief History


Manuscripts and Special Collections

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