Catalogue description The Mitford Archives

This record is held by West Sussex Record Office

Details of MITFORD
Reference: MITFORD
Title: The Mitford Archives

The Mitfords were indefatigable travellers and the journals of the long tours made by William Townley Mitford (1817-1889) provide detailed descriptions of Europe in the middle of the 19th century; there is also a useful group of letters written between 1798 and 1857 which supplements the journals. William Townley Mitford played a prominent part in Sussex affairs as a landowner, High Sheriff (1847), and Member of Parliament for Midhurst from 1859 to 1874; he was educated at Eton and Oriel College, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. in 1839. The bills he incurred as a pupil have survived and are of considerable interest. Such developments as turnpike roads, canals and railways were concerns of the local gentry in the 18th and 19th centuries, and evidence of the Mitfords having invested in these undertakings is preserved. But county affairs and county administration did not engage all the attention of these "ruling" families; the welfare of their tenants was yet another interest and at Pitshill some relaxation was afforded by cricket. The score books of the Pitshill Cricket Club have been preserved for the period 1895 to 1923, and these, as indeed many other miscellaneous items in this accumulation of records reflect life which was more leisurely and gracious in a time before our own when almost every family has a motor car and what passes for entertainment is available by pressing a switch.


The title deeds of the estate presented some difficulty in sorting and listing because what sometimes appeared to be an original bundle was found to refer to more than one property, a complication which, added to changes in the names of properties, amalgamations of small parcels and divisions of larger ones, may have led to deeds being grouped for a reason which is not readily apparent. To aid the student working on these deeds a short index of property and field-names mentioned in this catalogue has been compiled and printed. There are 679 documents of title, or associated with title, and very few have been calendared because the majority are either late in date, are late copies of earlier deeds, or are referred to in abstracts of title; (Abstracts of title of Mitford property in Sussex found among the Townley Papers have been presented to the West Sussex Record Office by the County Archivist of Cambridgeshire.) the reading and interpretation of these records should not offer any problems.


The Pitshill estate was developed by the buying up of farms and lands within a short distance of the mansion at the end of the 18th and during the first half of the 19th centuries, and the total acreage (as stated above) was modest by comparison with some of the adjoining estates. The only manor owned by the Mitfords was that of Bedham. As a result of sales of parts of the estate and the requirements of current administration of the remainder, the deeds listed are not a complete series.


The general estate accounts range from 1818 to 1929 and although useful for labour costs and other prices are not in any way outstanding, a comment also applying to the estate correspondence, agreements and leases. The more particular accounts, listed under the general heading of Pitshill House and Estate extend from 1808 to 1915, and include papers concerning alterations to the mansion at the beginning of the present century; unhappily, no records survive for the alterations to, and extensions of, the house in the 18th century.


A small group of documents (nos. MITFORD/960-993) relate to the London estate owned by the family and sold in 1927.


The estate maps and other plans include two notable examples of 17th century work (nos. MITFORD/998, MITFORD/1000) and although many of the others relate to small acreages their importance to the local historian is in no way decreased; maps of other lands, now or formerly owned or occupied by the Mitford family are among the archives at Petworth House. One map, in particular, at Petworth, showing Mr. Slade Mitford's present residence, The Manor of Dean, is interesting for the inset picture of this delightful house as it appeared in 1764. The resemblance of the architecture of The Manor of Dean (dated 1613) and the old Pitshill is noticeable and typical of the Petworth area of West Sussex.


Papers relating to Parliamentary elections at Midhurst between 1859 and 1874 have been preserved in considerable quantity and include correspondence, newspaper cuttings, election posters and 'squibs', six of the latter being dated between 1807 and 1820. There is also a substantial amount of papers relating to mid-19th century railway development in Sussex and to Shoreham Harbour.


Of the Mitford archives, those concerning taxation during the Treasurer-ships of William Mitford I and II and of Charles Mitford are by far the most unusual and important. They were used extensively by Dr. W. R. Ward in The English Land Tax in the Eighteenth Century (1953) where there is a detailed assessment of the Mitfords' work and its far-reaching results Dr. Ward expressed the view that this group of records was probably the most complete of its sort to have survived; the documents bridge the gap between the activities of the local collectors and the accounting system in the Treasury.


In a further deposit, the more important new items are the papers of John and Robert Mitford and the diaries and journals; of these latter, those compiled so painstakingly by the late Mr. W. Slade Mitford will be of special interest in the future but they will not be accessible to readers until 60 years after the date of the last entry in any particular volume. The other unusual feature about this second group of archives is the collection of prints and drawings. An inventory of the Pitshill prints and drawings is included and the catalogue of John Keyse Sherwin's work. These volumes were compiled by Mr. W. S. Mitford after a great deal of research and they will be invaluable to art historians.

Date: 1586 - 1966
Related material:

In 1949, Mr. Mitford presented various printed books and pamphlets which are now in the library of the West Sussex Record Office and a group of miscellaneous papers relating to Harting and catalogued as W.S.R.O. Add. MS. 878. These include a plan of the church and of the altar and rails by T. Rickman, 1845-6, and a copy of the conveyance, 1927, of a piece of land called The Orchard for the enlargement of the burial ground.


The following abstracts of title, all drawn by Ellis & Hale, solicitors, Petworth, c.1812, were presented to the West Sussex Record Office by the County Archivist of Cambridgeshire in March, 1961. They originally formed part of the Townley family papers which had been deposited in the Cambridgeshire Record Office at various times from 1952 onwards; other Townley documents have been deposited in the Lancashire Record Office.


The abstracts relate to the following properties:-


(a) Howick in Lodsworth, Lurgashall, Fernhurst, Ambersham and Steep. Reciting 1755-1787.


(b) 20a. called Long Readen at Lickfold in Selham. Reciting 1624-1789.


(c) Cotchetts, Selham, Furzey Reeden and Reeve in Lurgashall, Selham and Ambersham. Reciting 1714-1787.


(d) Sheetland, Chilcott and Ridge in Fernhurst. Reciting 1754-1805.


(e) Manor and farm called Bignor and Hartsmead and the tithes thereof; barn, farm and lands called Cowdrys; three closes called Hog-hurst and Wakestone Field in Kirdford and Fittleworth; an annual rent charge of £2 3s. 4d. issuing out of lands in Petworth and Kirdford payable by the Earl of Egremont. Reciting 1722-1806.


(f) Barn and lands called Shutwool in Burton. Reciting 1753-1806.


(g) Farm and lands called Oldfields and Newtimbers in Tillington. Reciting 1776-1802.


(h) Hurlands Farm in Lodsworth. Reciting 1717-1807.


They are catalogued as West Sussex Record Office Add. MSS. 2548-2555.

Held by: West Sussex Record Office, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Mitford family of Pitshill, Sussex

Physical description: 47 series
Immediate source of acquisition:

Records of the Mitford family and its properties have been deposited in the West Sussex Record Office at intervals between 1948 and 1960 by Mr. W. Slade Mitford, D.L.

  • Sherwin, John Keyse, c1751-1790, engraverPitshill, Tillington, Sussex
  • Pitshill, Tillington, West Sussex
Administrative / biographical background:

The family of Mitford of Pitshill in Tillington is descended from the Mitfords of Mitford in Northumberland whose lineage, as given in Burke's Landed Gentry, begins with Sir John Mitford who died on 16 July, 1409. Robert Mitford (1662-1707) had five sons of whom the youngest, William (1699-1777), came to Sussex and started the Pitshill branch, whose pedigree is also given in Burke and in D. G. C. Elwes and C. J. Robinson, A History of the Castles, Mansions and Manors of Western Sussex (1876), opp. p. 239. These pedigrees are amplified in Some Mitford Records compiled by Bertram R. Mitford between 1919 and 1931 of which a copy is now Mitford MS. 3. (Another pedigree of five generations deriving from Robert Mitford of Mitford (d. 1674) through the families of Powell, Willie, Reveley, Edwards and Neale, c. 1760, with an achievement of arms and 14 other shields was kindly presented to the West Sussex Record Office in 1955 (W.S.R.O. Add. MS. 888))


William Mitford, who was in the Treasury service and became Receiver General for Sussex, was tenant first of Daintrey House and later (probably early in the 1750's) of New Grove, two houses of considerable architectural merit in Petworth. He purchased Pitshill in 1760 and although all the deeds have not been deposited there are a few (Nos. 197-200.) which relate to the property and tell us something of its history.


The extent of the original Pitshill estate is unknown for certain because of the absence of early deeds or maps, but from notes by Mr. Mitford and the few surviving records mentioned we know that in about 1663, Thomas Barnard bought the manor of River from Anthony Rigbey for £770 (see no. MITFORD/199) which included a tenement and pightle called Wholmes; on 12 May, 1666, he sold the manor of River alias Treve, but excluding a property called Newhouse, to Francis, 3rd Viscount Montague. By a codicil to his will, 10 December, 1667, Barnard empowered his brothers, Henry and John, to sell Newhouse. A sale was effected by conveyance 6 September, 1678, from Henry Barnard to John Apsley for £150 of the tenement with appurtenances called Newhouse, formerly Holmes. Thus Holmes, Wholmes and Newhouse are synonymous. In 1696, Apsley sold Newhouse to John Taylor by whose will, 7 February 1705/6, he devised to John Alcock, gent., in trust for his faithful servant Charity Palmer, the property by then known as Pitshill. In 1716, Charity Palmer agreed to sell the property for £450 and a guinea of gold to Edward Madgwick, the style of the estate being Pitshill lately Newhouse and formerly Holmes and the close called Yaldens or Yaldeis (See nos. MITFORD/197-200; also nos. MITFORD/650, MITFORD/651.) which John Barnard had sold to John Apsley (as trustee for Dorothy Taylor) for £31.


Edward Madgwick by will, 27 August, 1746, devised all his estate 'unto a young man aged 32 years or thereabouts whom he tenderly and affectionately loved' then living with him and known as William Madgwick. In 1760, the said William died a bachelor and his estate passed to his cousin Edward Madgwick of Blandford, co. Dorset, who, in December, 1760, sold the mansion house called Newhouse, formerly Holmes, buildings and 3 acres of land and two closes also containing 3 acres and called Yaldens (formerly part of Palmers) all in Tillington for £315 to William Mitford of New Grove, near Petworth.


The old house was refashioned by William Mitford who, while asking Sir John Soane to prepare plans, clearly employed his own builder.


Early in March, 1794, Soane left elevations and plans for the new Pitshill with William Mitford at the Treasury, but later in the same month Soane wrote to his client-


I am favored with your letter and am exceedingly sorry that it is not in my power to send you the Drawings for after the conversation with your Builder, finding they did not accord with his Ideas I destroyed them supposing they never could be of any use to you.


As to my charge it was never my intention to be considered professionally for this business. You will therefore have the goodness to accept of my trouble and believe me


Dear Sir,


Most truly yours,


Only two plans, a roughly drawn elevation and sketches for alternative doorways in Soane's hand have survived, and of this Miss Dorothy Stroud, F.S.A., points out that Mr. Mitford and his builder evidently followed Soane's suggestions for the garden front of Pitshill 'with its seven-window, two-storey façade and horizontal rustications in the masonry'. (D. Stroud, Catalogue raisonné of the works of Sir John Soane (unpublished).) The balustraded parapet and the central pediment apparently represent the ideas of the builder to whom Soane refers. Internally, the vestibule with dining and drawing room on either side were, in fact, constructed; the vestibule led to an inner hall linking the new work with the earlier house, but remodelling in c.1840 altered this part of the house when a new entrance was made. (A doorcase hitherto in the Soane façade, and corresponding closely to one of his sketches, was moved to this new entrance.)


Pitshill, standing on high ground in the centre of Tillington with splendid scenery all round it, was completed by William Mitford II in the 1790's; the family acquired land in the immediate neighbourhood and owned the mansion until 1959; parts of the estate have been sold off. (The estate amounted to about 2071 acres in 1876 and produced an annual rental of £2524 (see Mitford MS. 195).


The 18th century was a great age of patronage, and it was William Mitford (1699-1777) who "discovered" John Keyse Sherwin, the engraver, and made himself responsible for arranging for the young artist to be taught at the Royal Society of Arts where he won, at the age of eighteen in 1769, the silver pallet. Sherwin was placed under Paul Sandby, R.A., then chief drawing master at Woolwich Military Academy, but was persuaded by John Astley to give up his indentures; he became a pupil at the Royal Academy and of Bartolozzi. William Mitford II and his wife, Frances Dippery Rowe (Daughter of Milward Rowe, Chief Clerk of the Treasury; see Sussex Notes & Queries, vol. 12, p. 84.) continued to befriend young Sherwin who, coming from the obscure village of East Dean, a few miles from Tillington, eventually became engraver to the King. Sherwin enjoyed a period of great prosperity but he indulged in reckless spending and died in dire poverty at the age of 39. Details of his career will be found in the Dictionary of National Biography, Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, and M. A. Lower, The Worthies of Sussex to mention three readily accessible sources, but Mr. Slade Mitford has collected an impressive amount of information about Sherwin and his work which is bound in two large volumes and is in the library at The Manor of Dean. Mr. Mitford has also made a catalogue of Sherwin's Academy studies in crayon, his Academy paintings, and of his numerous engravings of which there is a very important collection at The Manor of Dean. A group of documents, some dated after Sherwin's death, have been deposited in the West Sussex Record Office and are listed on pp. 66-8; the bookplate engraved for the Pitshill library is reproduced on the title-page of this book. Sherwin's younger brothers and sister, George, Henry, William and Mary, also had artistic leanings, but they were not trained; examples of their work, however, are in drawing books in Mr. Mitford's possession. Charles Sherwin (1757-1794), also an engraver, was apprenticed to his brother John. (For entries from parish registers relating to the Sherwin family, see Appendix II.)


The records show the place which the family of Mitford has occupied in the life of Sussex. Mention may also be made of the family's distinguished record in the Army. The career of Colonel William Kenyon Mitford, C.M.G., C.V.O., K.G.St.J., D.L., J.P., was specially notable. He served in the Afghan War, 1879-1880, was a Captain in the 8th Hussars, 1884-1891, commanded a brigade of Imperial Yeomanry in the South African War, 1900, was Colonel and A.D.C. for Yeomanry to King Edward VII, 1904-1910 and to King George V from 1910-1924. Colonel Mitford was also one of His Majesty's Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms from 1900 to 1940.

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