Catalogue description Swinburne (Capheaton) Estate Records

This record is held by Northumberland Archives

Details of ZSW
Reference: ZSW
Title: Swinburne (Capheaton) Estate Records

ZSW PART I: The first two volumes are labelled "Miscellaneous" and contain the most interesting and unusual of the documents, especially the first volume. The third volume contains the deeds for the Edlingham estate, the fourth those for Capheaton, the strother family, Fawns and Chollerton, and the fifth volume those for Seaham in Durham, Heugh and Stamfordham, and Hawkwell. The sixth volume contains mostly bonds and receipts, and the seventh volume most of the records relating to the legal and financial difficulties of the family arising from its recusancy in the 17th century, particularly during the Civil War and the Commonwealth; there are, however, some documents about this in part 2 of the collection.


ZSW PART II The records catalogued here as Part II of the Swinburne MSS are the contents of some 15 tin trunks which have been sorted and re-arranged. Part I is a calendar of the early family charters and other documents to the mid 17th century bound in seven volumes. These volumes have been given the Nos. 1-7; the numbering of Part II starts with item No. 8 and runs to No. 654


The records of Part II date mainly from the mid 17th to the mid 19th century, and include estate accounts, rentals and other papers besides the title deeds to their estates in Northumberland and Durham, and also family letters, accounts, etc, including the personal accounts of the Baronets 1730-1845 (being especially detailed 1730-62, 1786-1845). Since the Swinburnes were Roman Catholic until the 6th Baronet Sir John Edward Swinburne (1762-1860) conformed to the Anglican Church, the family played little part in local affairs until the end of the 18th century. Sir John E. Swinburne, however, being a connection by marriage with the Duke of Northumberland and an ardent supporter of Fox and Grey and the reform movement, played some part in local politics (see the small group of papers Nos. 614-617 on local agitation against the Treason and Sedition Acts 1795-97) and local administration and affairs (see Nos. 580-588 for Turnpike records, Nos. 589-607 for militia papers, No. 622 for letters about Henry Greathead's lifeboats 1798-1802, No. 635 for the North Tyne and Reedwater Association for the Prevention of Poaching 1833-40, and Nos. 198 and 637-639 for sketches, agreements and papers for bridge building in North Tyne area, and Nos. 629-630 for agreement, plans and papers for building of Falstone Church)


Items of more national interest are the letters (Nos.536/1-48) of Henry G. Ward (diplomatic attaché at Madrid) describing in great detail the course of the Spanish Revolution 1820-1823, and later letters (unfortunately much less full) from Mexico where he was sent to sign the first Treaties after independence 1823-1827. There are also two very detailed letters (No. 534) from Henry Swinburne describing the condition of Trinidad in 1802 shortly after its seizure from Spain. Among the collection known as the Bull letters (No. 554/1-148) are a number of letters to Humfrey Morice the 18th century politician from members of the government relating to his control of the Parliamentary boroughs of Launceston and Newport, and (of much more macabre interest) some letters from the 1st Lord Malmesbury describing the theft of the body of a lady from the graveyard in 1797, and his own discovery of a finger from it at the house of a doctor (554/79-82). The papers of Henry Swinburne, a railway engineer in the office of Robert Stephenson, include letters, diaries and accounts relating to the building of the Cairo-Alexandria Railway 1851-55, and railways in Switzerland 1850 (No. 539/1-32.)


Other items of interest are the medieval deeds for Bingfield from 1242 (No. 169) Nafferton from 1283 (Nos. 167-168), Ninebanks in Hexhamshire from 1390 (Nos. 165-166) and Williamston 1354 (No. 32) and for places in Essex and Isle of Wight 1281-1450 (Nos. 179-181); the group of 18th century leases for lives of houses in the "planned" village of Stamfordham (Nos. 60-164); an agreement to end a quarrel by granting the marriage of the son of one disputant to the other party in 1515 (No. 168/17); a bond of 1634 limiting Henry Widdrington of Blackheddon to gambling debts of not more than 10s.1d. per day (168/28); a copy of a Particular of 1652 of the Swinburne estates and two 18th century maps of Benwell showing the coalmines (No. 191/1-3); a letter of 1688 referring to a Swinburne offer to raise a troop for King James II against William of Orange (27/4); two deeds (Nos. 168/36 and 173/33) relating to collieries 1692-1698, and a memorandum of 1736 about terms usual in granting wayleaves for waggonways in the Lanchester-Medomsley area of Durham (No. 211); a reference in a letter of 1698 to the presence of a roman catholic bishop at Cliffe near Darlington (No. 508/19); papers relating to the division of Heugh 1721-24 (Nos. 43/1-8); a letter of 1831 quoting a newspaper "squib" against Lord Grey's nepotism in official appointments (No. 573); and letters and papers of 1818-1853 relating to the work of John Hodgson the historian including a letter of 1821 which states that it was Hodgson himself (not Sir John E. Swinburne as stated in Intro. in Part I) who sorted and had bound up the seven volumes of Swinburne charters etc., which forms Part I of this calendar (No. 628)


The documents in these volumes have been numbered by the volume (the first number) and then by the individual item within that volume (the number following the stroke). Transcriptions of many of the documents were printed by Hodgson in his History, but these are sometimes inaccurate and frequently incomplete. The reference to such a transcription has been given in this catalogue


There are many very interesting documents in these volumes. Particular mention must be made to the 13th century charters by the Kings and Queens of Scotland relating to their lands in Northumberland (Nos. 1/1-2, 12-13, 15-16, 18-22, 24) some of which have fine seals; the charter which purports to be the earliest (1/1) appears to be a mid 13th century forgery, probably based on a genuine royal charter of the 12th century. The collection also contains some letters of the late 14th or early 15th century written in French, some on paper (Nos.1/101-105, 4/27, 60) of which 1/104 is an invitation to go on "a ride" into Scotland and 1/101-2 relate to a meeting between the officers of the English and Scottish Marches at Kershope Bridge at the end of the 14th century. There are a number of other documents relating to Border warfare or the turbulent conditions there (e.g. 1/58, 68, 2/42, 4/27, 6/16) one of which (6/16) being as late as 1601. In addition to Border warfare, there is a group of agreements in 1374 (Nos. 4/42-50) as to the wages and division of booty between a lesser captain and his men at arms in the war in France and Brittany, and a letter (4/60) in very difficult French apparently from an English prisoner in Brittany about his ransom. The presence in North Wales from 1399 to about 1402 during the rebellion of Owen Glendower of Sir William Swinburne as a follower of the Earl of Northumberland has resulted in an interesting group of documents (Nos. 1/99, 109, 111-117), one (1/111) being an order to proclaim the General Pardon to the rebels in 1400 by King Henry V when Prince of Wales, and another (1/112) referring to building work at Beaumaris Castle in 1402


Medieval ecclesiastical matters, particularly Simonburn Church, are the subject of a number of documents (Nos. 1/14, 38-39, 86, 88-90, 160, 175, 2/6, 4/31, 88), the most notable being an agreement (No. 4/31) in 1356 between York Abbey and Sir Henry le Scrope to send one or two monks to Oxford University for three years. Other interesting documents are Nos. 1/6 (13th century arrangements for lodgings at Hexham), 1/29 (establishment of a ferry at Chollerton in the 13th century), 1/94 (episcopal indulgence in 1396 for the repair of Chollerford bridge), 4/20, 32 (illustrating medieval farming), 5/43 (agreement of 1307 to learn the mystery of a mason), 7/23 (letter of 1618 reporting the execution of a catholic priest -Ven. William Southern- at Newcastle) and two 15th century documents in English dated 1415 (1/150) and 1426 (2/51)


Papers in ZSW Part II include




Family Settlements (Head of House), No. 8-26


Family Settlements (Swinburne Daughters), No. 27-30


Other Title Deeds to Estates, No. 31-59


Leases of Houses in Stamfordham Village, No. 60-164


Title Deeds to Nine Banks Property, No. 165-166


Title Deeds to Nafferton, Halliwell & Other Properties, No.167-171


Title Deeds to Little Swinburne Property, No. 172


Title Deeds to Deanham Property, No. 173-178


Miscellaneous Deeds, No. 179-181




Estate Papers (including Recusancy Papers), No. 182-211


Steward's Letters, No. 212-213


Rentals, No. 214-226


Estate Account Books, No. 227-341


Estate Vouchers, No. 342-412


Household Vouchers & Accounts, No. 413-449


Papers and Accounts for Alterations to Capheaton House, No.450-453




Personal Accounts of Swinburne Baronets, No. 454-504


Miscellaneous Letters, Accounts and Papers of Swinburnes, No.505-547


Deeds and Papers for the Estates of Swinburne Wives, No. 548-562


Swinburnes as Executors or Trustees of Friends and Relatives, No. 563-579




Papers on Public Matters - Turnpike Trusts, No. 580-588


Papers on Public Matters - Militia and Lieutenancy, No. 589-607


Papers on Public Matters - Political, No. 608-621


Papers on Public Matters - Other Local Affairs, No. 622-640


Miscellaneous Papers, No. 641-654


Addittional Papers No. 655-


Index to Places

Date: 12th century-19th century
Held by: Northumberland Archives, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Swinburne family, baronets, of Capheaton

Physical description: 50 Linear Feet
Administrative / biographical background:

The Northumberland family of Swinburne has been seated at Capheaton since the 13th century. Other important centres of their property were Chollerton, Haughton and Simonburn, Stamfordham and Heugh, Matfen, Knaresdale and Allendale, Edlingham and Newtown (held by a junior branch of the family until inherited by the Capheaton line in the early 17th century), Ottercops in Redesdale, the upper North Tyne valley, and for a time, Hamsterley and Slingley in County Durham. The head of the family was created a Baronet in 1660, the title passing to a distant cousin in 1934 on the death of the father of the present owner of Capheaton, Mrs. Browne-Swinburne. The family continued to be Roman Catholic from the Reformation until the end of the 18th century (some of the junior branches remaining so after that time) and its members suffered for their recusancy in the 17th and early 18th century (for examples of this see the documents 7/1-95) although they were not very actively engaged on the Royalist side in the Civil War. The family was connected with the Earls of Derwentwater, and two of the younger sons of the first Baronet were out in the 1715 Rebellion and their estates were confiscated, but the main estates of the family were not touched


Up to the time of the Reformation, the Swinburnes played an important part in local affairs in Northumberland and the Border and elsewhere, frequently as followers of the Percy family (see 1/161, 165-167 and the documents relating to North Wales in 1399-1402, 1/99, 109, 111-117). As recusants, however, they necessarily were excluded from public business until the time of the sixth Baronet, Sir John Edward Swinburne, who conformed to the Established Church and was a supporter of Fox and Grey and the reform movement. He took a prominent part in organising the militia defence of Northumberland against Napoleon's threatened invasions, and besides his interest in local improvements such as the turnpike road to Edinburgh by Carter Bar, was actively concerned in the literary, antiquarian and scientific pursuits of his time. He was a great friend and patron of John Hodgson, the local historian, and the latter seems to have used the library and records at Capheaton most extensively in compiling his "History of Northumberland"


The records of the family date from about 1200, and give a very full picture of their estate business. About 1820, Sir John E. Swinburne (almost certainly in order to help the work of John Hodgson) had most of the early charters bound into seven handsome volumes, the first containing 213 items, and the remainder each about 80-100 items. The collection falls naturally therefore into two parts - these seven volumes on the one hand and the remaining deeds, accounts and papers (about 15 tin trunks full and requiring much sorting) on the other. The latter date mainly from the 17th century to the mid 19th century and are mostly a continuation on a much fuller scale of the records in the volumes, with the addition of estate accounts and some family papers.

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