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Archive of the Horsley family


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The archive consists of diaries, correspondence, drawings and other papers of four generations of the Horsley family, each of which produced talented men and women, especially in the fields of art, music and the theatre. The papers provide a wide variety of material for the study of 19th- and early 20th-century society and family life. For accounts of the collection see Bodleian Library Record, XIII (1988-91), 69-71, 330-3.

The first series contains the papers of the musician William Horsley (1774-1858), famous for his glees, of which five volumes were published in the early years of the 19th century. It was through his position as organist to the Asylum for Female Orphans at Dulwich that he became a close friend of the composer John Wall Callcott, whose eldest daughter he married in 1813. A long run of William's diaries (MSS. Eng. e. 2134-80) cover the greater part of his adult life. Three volumes of copies of his out-letters (MSS. Eng. c. 2196-7, d. 2058) reflect his wide circle of friends and associates from 1822. A collection of printed music by or belonging to him, given with the family papers, is separately catlogued as [pr. bk.] Horsley in the Music Section of the Bodleian.

William Horsley's compositions were much admired by the young Mendelssohn, who became a family friend and frequent visitor at the Horsley's home, 1 High Row, Kensington. Mendelssohn's friendship is chronicled in the letters Fanny and Sophy Horsley, William's daughters, wrote to their aunt Lucy Callcott (MSS. Eng. c. 2243-5). The letters formed the basis of Rosmund Brunel Gotch, Mendelssohn and his friends in Kensington (London, etc., 1934). Twenty letters from Mendelssohn to members of the family and several pieces of autograph music (including an arrangement for piano duet of the 'Overture to the Isles of Fingal'), part of this collection, are described (as MSS. Horsley b. 1, c. 1) in Peter Ward Jones, Catalogue of the Mendelssohn papers in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, III (Tutzing, 1989), 308-11. The activities of this generation of the Horsley family are also illustrated in a family magazine which Fanny and Sophy compiled in 1828-9 (MS. Eng. e. 2181), in Fanny's sketch-books and autograph album (MSS. Eng. e. 2182-4, d. 2061) and in programmes of concerts and texts of plays performed by the children (MS. Eng. c. 2203). Sophy was an energetic correspondent, whose interesting letters to her eldest sister Mary, wife of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, survive in MSS. Eng. c. 2199-2202.

The second series contains the papers of William's eldest son, John Callcott Horsley (1817-1903), who achieved fame as a painter. A Fellow of the Royal Academy from 1856, he was best known for his domestic and genre paintings. The correspondence of J.C. Horsley and his second wife Rose, their letters to each other and to and from their five children and members of their wider families (MSS. Eng. c. 2204-2220, c. 2237-2239) provide a wealth of material for studies of Victorian childhood and family life, which can be supplemented by the long series of diaries kept by Rose over a period of sixty years (MSS. Eng. e. 2194-2220). J.C. Horsley's general correspondence (MSS. Eng. c. 2221-2226) includes many letters from contemporary artists - among them Millais, Holman Hunt and Frith. Three volumes of letters and papers concern Horsley's work on the frescoes for the Upper Waiting Hall in the new Houses of Parliament (MSS. Eng. c. 2227-2229).

The third series contains papers of J.C. Horsley's youngest daughter Rosamund (1864-1949). A talented artist in her own right, she designed costumes for the Royal College of Music and for many amateur productions in Oxford. She published two works relating to her family: in 1934 Mendelssohn and his friends in Kensington, based on the letters of her father's sisters, Fanny and Sophy, for the years 1833-6 (MSS. Eng. c. 2243-2245), and in 1937 a biography of Maria, Lady Callcott, the creator of 'Little Arthur'. Correspondence and papers concerning her publications are in MSS. Eng. c. 2241-2246, d. 2068-2273. A fascinating series of her sketch-books survives as MSS. Eng. d. 2074-2090, e. 2261-2268. A detailed list of their contents is available on request. She married Professor Francis Gotch. Photographs of the Gotch family and of their Oxford home, 'The Lawn', 89 Banbury Road are MSS. Eng. c. 2266-2268, b. 2009.

The fourth series contains a small group of Callcott family papers, including later letters of Fanny and Sophy Horsley to their aunt Lucy Callcott (MS. Eng. c. 2256), an autograph album begun by Lucy Callcott and continued by Rosamund Gotch and her daughter (MS. Eng. e. 2296) and a volume of newspaper cuttings relating to the Royal Academy and academicians, 1858-1873 (MS. Eng. d. 2094). A collection of Callcott family papers was given to the Library by the descendants of that family, through the Ashmolean Museum in 1987. A group of papers of Emma Haden (1794-1881), mother of J.C. Horsley's wife Rose, makes up the fifth series of the archive (MSS. Eng. c. 2256, d. 2094, e. 2296). It includes diaries, correspondence and account books, mainly from the first half of the 19th century. A fine collection of family photographs from the mid-19th century to the 1950s is preserved as MSS. Eng. b. 2008-2009, c. 2263-2269.


  • Creation: 19th-20th cent.


291 shelfmarks (32.01)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Eng. a. 2001, fols. 1-2].

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Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 15194


Papers of the Horsley family, 18th to 20th cent., including papers of the musician William Horsley (1774-1858), and papers of the artists John Callcott Horsley (1817-1903), and Rosamund Horsley (1864-1949), son and daughter of William Horsley.

Biographical / Historical

The Horsley family included the musician William Horsley (1774-1858) and the artists John Callcott Horsley (1817-1903), and Rosamund Horsley (1864-1949).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was given to the Library by the descendants of Rosamund Brunel Gotch (née Horsley) in 1987.

Catalogue of the archive of the Horsley family, 18th-20th cent.
Anne Bunney
1990, EAD version 2000
Language of description
Script of description
Cataloguing was made possible by a grant from the Arthur Andersen & Co. Foundation in 1989. Conversion to EAD supported by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom