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Letters from and relating to Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton and his family

 Single Item
MS. 22805
Held in our offsite storage facility

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Nine letters and one undated note, mainly discussing family news and the Buxtons' travels in Italy in 1839-1840, comprising:

  1. Abel Smith in Brighton to Alex, 9 Oct 1822.
  2. Elizabeth Smith in Ramsgate to her daughter Charlotte, 31 Oct 1825.
  3. Elizabeth Smith at Woodhall to her daughter Charlotte, 12 Oct 1827.
  4. S. Smith at Woodhall to his daughter Charlotte, 4 Jun 1831. Mentions that the Reform Bill will occupy the new Parliament and give him little reprieve from the House of Commons.
  5. Aunt Cunningham in Lowestoft to Betsy Buxton, 12 Dec 1839.
  6. Aunt [Catherine] to Hannah Buxton in Rome, 8 Jan 1840.
  7. Thomas Fowell Buxton in Rome to his son Edward, 9 Mar 1840, with postscripts by [?] and Charles Buxton. Mentions Lord John's letter about the slave trade, which supports the case made in Thomas Fowell Buxton's book, and describes an audience with the Pope and Buxton's investigation into prisons in Rome.
  8. Hannah Buxton in Moli de Gaite to Catherine Buxton, 10 Apr 1840.
  9. Thomas Fowell Buxton in Naples to his daughter Priscilla Johnston, 21 Apr 1840.
  10. Note to the Hon. Emma Stapleton requesting that good wishes be passed to Mrs Bingham, 16 May [no year].


  • Creation: 1822-1840


1 box

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 22805, folio 1].

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MS. 22805

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 22805


Letters from and relating to Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton and his family.

Biographical / Historical

Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton (1786-1845), politician and philanthropist, was educated at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1807, he married Hannah Gurney, by whom he had three sons and two daughters, though his eldest son and two other children died in 1820.

In 1808 he joined the firm of Truman, Hanbury and Co., brewers, of Spitalfields, London, where he interested himself in various local charitable undertakings, especially those connected with education, the Bible Society, and the sufferings of the weavers. He also organised a system of relief for the population of the area in 1816. At this time, he published An Inquiry, whether Crime and Misery are produced or prevented, by our present system of prison discipline (London, J. and A. Arch, 1818), a book which led to the formation of the Society for the Reformation of Prison Discipline (whose committee he later joined) and also, indirectly, to an investigation into the management of the gaols in Madras, India.

From 1818 to 1837 he represented Weymouth as M.P.; at the same time he devoted himself to the preparation of a work on prison discipline, the foundation of a savings bank and salt fish market in Spitalfields, an inquiry into the management of the London Hospital, and the formation of a new Bible Association. Taking a close interest in the operation of the criminal laws, he supported Mackintosh's motion in 1820 for abolishing the death penalty for forgery.

In 1824, Wilberforce, leader of the anti-slavery party in the House of Commons, asked Buxton to become his successor. Buxton, who had been a member of the African Institution and an active supporter of the movement for some years, accepted, and pursued the cause vigorously until the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1834. He also campaigned against the apprenticeship system in the West Indies after emancipation. After losing his seat in 1837, he sought the abolition of the slave trade in Africa itself, and published The African Slave Trade (London, John Murray, 1839). He recommended various measures, including the formation of treaties with local chiefs, the purchase of Fernando Po as a headquarters and market of commerce, the formation of a company to introduce agriculture and commerce into Africa, and an expedition up the River Niger to set forward preliminary arrangements. The Society for the Extinction of the Slave Trade and the Civilisation of Africa was established, but the Niger expedition ended disastrously, with the deaths of many members of the party from fever.

Eventually, the expedition produced positive results for the British, including the opening up of Central Africa and the formation of an important trade in cotton and other articles. However, its failure affected Buxton badly, and his health deteriorated. For the few years until the end of his life, he devoted himself to his estates near Cromer, Norfolk, where he established model farms.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated to the Bodleian by Jasper Pleydell Bouverie in 2023.

Catalogue of Letters from and relating to Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton and his Family
Lucy McCann
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
First edition.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom