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The Barham Papers, 17th-19th cent.


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  • Creation: 17th-19th cent.

Language of Materials

  • English

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Clar. dep. b. 33-8; c. 357-91, c. 428-32

Biographical / Historical

The bulk of these papers are those of Joseph Foster Barham (1759-1832) who lived at Stratford Place, Middlesex, and Stockbridge, Hampshire, was MP for Stockbridge, the owner of considerable estates in the West Indies and the United Kingdom, and the husband of Caroline, daughter of Sackville Tufton, 8th Earl of Thanet.

A proportion of the papers are those of John Foster Barham (1799-1838), eldest son of Joseph Foster and Caroline Barham, MP for Kendal, and first husband of Lady Katharine Grimston, daughter of the first Earl of Verulam. She subsequently married the fourth Earl of Clarendon. Hence the presence of these papers among the Clarendon MSS.

A few of the papers belong to an earlier date. There are, for example, packets of letters written from Jamaica to Henry Barham between 1730 and 1745 and from Florentius (?) Vassal to his brother-in-law, Joseph Foster Barham (the father of the MP for Stockbridge), between 1748 and 1770. (MS. Clar. dep. c. 376)

Joseph Foster Barham was a business man and landowner of considerable substance. For example, between 30 June 1813, and 28 May 1821, the sum of £74,253.13s.9d. was paid into his bank account. (MS. Clar. dep. 389, encl. 14. Bank Book: Messrs. Coutts, 1813-25.) A great part of his wealth flowed from the West Indies, but he also owned sizable estates in England and Wales. His Welsh property came to him through his mother, Dorothy, who was a Vaughan of Trecoon, Pembrokeshire. His West Indies inheritance appears to have derived from family conquest, for his great-grandfather, Colonel Thomas Foster, was reputed to have served as an officer under Penn and Venables in the 1655 expedition. Certainly he established himself at Elim in the parish of St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. His grandfather, Colonel John Foster, also of Elim and the son of Colonel Thomas Foster, married Elizabeth Smith, by whom he had a large family. Joseph Foster of Hardwick Hall, Shropshire (father of the MP for Stockbridge), was a son of this marriage. Elizabeth Smith subsequently married secondly Henry Barham, M.D. (not to be confused with his father, Henry Barham, F.R.S. - see Dictionary of National Biography) and under the will of this Henry Barham, Joseph Foster, his stepson, took the surname of Barham by Act of Parliament (Anno.22 Geo. II).

The Barham papers have been arranged in four general groups. The first group (MSS. Clar. dep. b. 33-38 and c. 357-366) consists of those papers dealing primarily with the administration of the two Barham estates, the Island Estate and Mesopotamia, in the West Indies, and includes many papers relating to the ownership of slaves. The second group (MSS. Clar. dep. c. 367-374) deals mainly with estate matters in the United Kingdom, that is, with the Barham property at Stockbridge, Trecoon and Westmorland. The third group (MSS. Clar. dep. c. 375-382) consists of political papers which concern the activities of Joseph Barham and his son John as MPs for Stockbridge and Kendal, and includes material relating to their ownership of slaves and the sugar trade in England. The fourth group (MSS. Clar. dep. c. 383-387) comprises family and other private papers. There is also a short section of miscellaneous papers at the end (MSS. Clar. dep. c. 388-391).

These divisions should not be regarded as hard and fast, for three reasons. Firstly, there is a close connection between property and politics, between family and business affairs and so on. Secondly, it has been a policy in the arrangement of these papers to disturb as little as possible any of the bundles which were done up and labelled by the originator. Many such bundles are labelled by Joseph Barham. Thirdly, though many of these papers have been read in the course of their arrangement, the examination has not been sufficiently exhaustive to warrant the adoption of hard and fast divisions. The list which follows is intended to give a preliminary indication of the contents of this collection of papers and to assist in the location of particular documents.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom