Deeds, Stretton and Congreve 16th-19th century, estate records, Staffs., Berks., Cheshire and Flint, 15th-19th century, personal papers include extensive 18th century, personal correspondence of members of the family and North America.
Papers relating to the depositor, his mother, father and brother are closed to inspection [* = closed].
Genealogical details are taken from the family history prepared by Major A.J.C. Congreve and Mrs. Hodson.
Title Deeds etc.
The Congreves were associated with Congreve and Stretton near Penkridge from the 14th century but regrettably few early deeds for Staffordshire survive in this archive. One deed of Congreve manor c.1300 and some documents relating to Stretton comprise the medieval Staffordshire title deeds. There are a few eighteenth century deeds for Penkridge properties and some documents relating to properties in Colwich and Gratwich, 1839 - 1890, which formed part of the Chartley estate purchased in 1904. There are no deeds of Walton near Baswich, the home of the 1st Baronet. The remaining Staffordshire deeds appear to relate to Birch family properties chiefly in Cannock, Wolverhampton and Checkley, possibly acquired by Revd. Richard Congreve (1714 - 1782) by his marriage to Elizabeth, widow of William Birch.
Richard Congreve who died in 1496 lived at Laughton in Essex and the family's property in this county is well documented in a series of deeds relating to Brentwood, Mountnessing, Ingatestone, the Rodings etc. from the 14th to the mid 17th centuries. These include deeds of the George Inn, Brentwood, 1426 - 1605 (D1057/A/2/11)
By the marriage in 1752 of Ralph Congreve to Charlotte daughter of William, Lord Stawell, the family acquired the Forster family lands in Aldermaston Co. Berkshire and Hartley Wespall Co. Hants. and a few early deeds survive for Aldermaston. The remaining out-county title deeds relate chiefly to lands in Cos. Montgomery and Salop, 16th-18th cent. (D1057/A/2/49-66), acquired early in the 18th century by the marriage of William Congreve (1670-1746) to Mary Nicholls, and to a copyhold estate in Burton in Wirral Co. Cheshire 17th - 18th cent. (D1057/A/3) purchased after the sale of Aldermaston in the mid-19th century. There are also mortgages of the estate at Iscoyd Co. Flintshire bought by the Revd. Richard Congreve (1714-1782) in 1780.
Wills and Settlements
There is a good series of family wills and settlements from the 17th to the 20th centuries, with associated documents including the parliamentary private bill for the settlement of the estates in 1731 following the death in a debtors' prison of John Congreve (1666-1729). There are also wills and settlements relating to the Birch family 1660 - 1741 and to the Leigh family 1697 - 1705 (Edward Birch was a trustee of Constance Leigh)
Amongst the few leases is one relating to an important pre-industrial charcoal site, Congreve iron mills and forge, 1766 (D1057/F/1/5); one for a windmill at Burton Hill Co. Cheshire, 1757 (D1057/F/3/6); with numerous sub-leases of the tithes of the townships of Wybunbury parish, Co. Cheshire, 18th cent. There is also a register of Burton leases, 1765 (D1057/F/3/1).
Estate Surveys and Valuations
Surveys and valuations of the Staffordshire estates are fragmentary and chiefly 18th century in date, although there is a particular of Acton's tenement in Congreve in 1689 (D1057/G/1/3) for which title deeds, 1687 - 1732 and accounts 1707 - 1790 also survive. An undated but early 19th-century survey of the Manor of Coven is also present (D1057/G/1/7).
Of the out-county material, the most interesting item is a rental and particular of Leonard Berners' estate in the Manors of Thoby and Ingatestone Co. Essex which includes former monastic lands, 1566 (D1057/G/2/1). In addition, there is a 1653 survey of lands in Mountnessing and a late 18th-century particular of all Ralph Congreve's Essex estates (D1057/G/2/3). One Berkshire particular, a few Cheshire surveys, two Salop valuations and three Co. Montgomery valuations complete the non-Staffordshire estate surveys.
The earliest map in this archive also relates to Essex. It is a 'true platt' by Thomas Peachye of a house and lands in Ingrave dated 1602 (D1057/H/3). The Staffordshire maps are few and relatively late in date but there is a good series of maps and copy maps of the estuary of the River Dee, 17th - 19th century (D1057/H/2) and some 18th and 19th century maps of Shropshire properties (D1057/H/4).
Estate Rentals and Rent Accounts
A solitary survival from the medieval period is a bailiff's account for Congreve and Stretton, 1446 - 1447 (D1057/J/1/2). 18th century rentals and rent accounts of the Staffordshire estates are more numerous (D1057/I/1) and there is a reasonable series for the Burton in Wirral and Wybunbury estates Co. Cheshire 1719 - 1859 (D1057/I/2)
Estate correspondence for Staffordshire includes a bundle, 15th - 18th centuries, relating to a protracted dispute over fishing rights in the River Penk between the Congreves and Lord Brooke (Edward Littleton's predecessor) lords respectively of the manors of Stretton and Water Eaton (D1057/J/1), Stretton estate letters 1690 - 1734 (D1057/J/2), chiefly concern the sale of the property to William Conolly but there is also an account of damage done to Stretton Hall 'more than common wear' by Lady Midleton, 1733 (D1057/J/2/6) and of repairs to the chancel of Stretton church, 1733 (D1057/J/2/33). Eighteenth-century letters include papers concerning Congreve Mill and Forge (D1057/J/3) which reflect the importance of this site at this period, but the bulk of the estate correspondence of this century is between Col. Wm. Congreve of Shrewsbury and his 'man of business' Mr. Sanxay or the Colonel's brother Revd. Richard Congreve and it reflects the financial and other difficulties experienced during this time.
Berkshire estate correspondence survives from the late 18th to the mid-19th century and includes references to a plan to stock Aldermaston Park with merino sheep, 1809, a bundle of papers relating to tree planting at Aldermaston for which he was awarded several medals undertaken by William Congreve 1809 - 1816 and 6 papers concerning the disastrous fire at Aldermaston House in 1843 with a list of "men at the buckets" and how much they were paid. The sale of the estate led to some correspondence amongst members of the Congreve family, 1842 - 1849 (1057/J/19-22).
Cheshire estate correspondence relates chiefly to the development of the estate at Burton by Richard Congreve (1778-1857). Burton became the main family seat from the mid-nineteenth century and correspondence survives relating to rights to wrecks, 1860 - 1881 (D1057/J/34) inclosure of common lands, 1803-1804 (D1057/J/33) and to rock quarries at Burton, 1871 - 1880 (D1057/J/36).
Welsh estate correspondence chiefly concerns Iscoyd Co. Flintshire during the lifetime of Mariamne Congreve (1780-1871; daughter of the Revd. Richard Congreve) whose home it became after her father's death (D1057/J/40-50). There is a small group of papers arising from the sale in 1898 of an estate in Kaldkloöv, Norway purchased for shooting and fishing by William Congreve (1831 - 1902). (D1057/J/51)
Staffordshire estate accounts are not numerous, but there are a few relating to the Chartley estate, 1928 - 1937, inherited by Sir Geoffrey Cecil Congreve (D1057/K/6). The commonplace books of Thomas (1551-1617) and Rev. Richard (1714-1782) also include notes of estate accounts. Out-county estate accounts include papers concerning the sale of the Hartley Wespall estate, Co. Hants. 1759 - 1787 (1057/K/12); Anne Congreve's (d.1780) accounts as executrix of her brother Ralph d.1776 and heiress of the Aldermaston estate, 1776 - 1781 (D1057/K/10) and a few accounts relating to the purchase of Iscoyd Co. Flintshire, 1780 - 1783 (D1057/K/13).
This section chiefly comprises a series of legal papers, mostly Acts of Parliament, relating to the River Dee Navigation, 1733 - 1850, including Sir John Rennie's report on the improvement of the River Dee and of Chester harbour, 1837 (D1057/L/1/7). The Dee estuary maps noted above complement these papers.
There are no papers of the dramatist William Congreve.
The main strength of the Congreve papers is the very extensive series of personal correspondence especially for the 18th century (see also the William Salt Library documents noted at the end of the introduction). There are a few copy letters of Ralph Congreve (1668-1725) while Governor of Gibralter, 1716 (D1057/M/B/1) and a detailed letter from Col. William Congreve of Highgate (1670-1746) concerning Marlborough's campaign in the Low Countries, 1707 (D1057/M/D/1).
William Congreve (1743-1814), later Lieutenant-General and 1st Baronet, carried on an extensive correspondence and there are letters relating to his military service in North America 1758 - 1760 including a reference to the "total reduction of Canada", 1760 (D1057/M/F/5). William returned to America to serve in the War of Independence but was wounded in the autumn of 1776. References to the American War are to be found especially in the letters to his uncle William (D1057/M/F/27, 30, 32). A few letters relate to William's later military career at Woolwich Repository and his problems with the Board of Ordnance and there is an interesting but undated account of an attack by footpads (D1057/M/F/41). William was created a baronet in 1812 and a letter of congratulation was received from his son Thomas, a prisoner of war at Verdun, in 1813 (D1057/M/F/65). There are no papers relating to the 2nd Baronet's invention, Congreve's rocket, other than a copy letter from Pitt to Castlereagh (D1057/M/F/49) and some correspondence, 1854 - 1856 (D1057/M/O/5).
Francis Congreve (1702 - 1742) was a merchant in Egypt and amongst his letters from Cairo (D1057/M/G/4) 1738 - 1742 on trade and personal matters are references to 'Mr. Anson' [Thomas Anson] and his travels in the Middle East. Transport difficulties figure largely in his letters but there are comments on political events.
Colonel William Congreve (1699 - 1779) was a professional soldier who lost his left hand on active service. He was head of the family from 1733 and inherited many debts from his father and brother which led to extended correspondence. In addition, there are letters relating to the capture by a native king in the East Indies of his brother Ralph in 1747 (D1057/M/H/5-6) while Captain of The Onslow en route to China.
Revd. Richard Congreve (1714 - 1782) succeeded his brother William as head of the family in 1779. Richard was ordained in 1742 and became Chaplain to Bishop Hough of Worcester, a fact recorded in his letters to his mother (D1057/M/I/1). Amongst the correspondence with other members of the family are letters from his brother William while on active service in Minorca c. 1740 (D1057/M/I/3); from his mother on William Congreve (later 1st Bart.) and the capture of Louisberg, 1758 (D1057/M/I/4); from his brother Francis Congreve in Cairo, 1739 - 1741 (D1057/M/I/5); from his brother Ralph Congreve including a report of Ralph's death at sea, 1748 (D1057/M/I/6); from his cousin Ralph Congreve b. 1718 describing an earthquake in London, 1750 (D1057/M/I/7); from his brother Archdeacon Charles Congreve including an account of nationalist rebels in N. Ireland, 1763 (D1057/M/I/8); from his sister Mrs. Anne Clavering, 1742 - 1756 (D1057/M/I/9); from his wife Elizabeth, 1748 - 1752 (D1057/M/I/10) and from William Congreve (later 1st Bart.) on the injury he received during the American War of Independence, 1776 (D1057/M/I/11). An important group of letters relates to the Jacobite rising in 1745 (D1057/M/I/12) with comments from other Staffordshire landowners. Thomas Townson, a close friend of Richard Congreve, maintained a correspondence with him chiefly on literary and travel matters, 1734 - 1778 (D1057/M/I/14). Richard's first wife was Elizabeth, widow of William Birch, Chancellor of the Diocese of Worcester, and there are letters from John Birch on this marriage (D1057/M/I/15), with some papers of William Birch (D1057/M/K) and of his brother Edward Birch (D1057/M/L). As well as official papers relating to Bishop Hough's ecclesiastical career (D1057/M/J/1-10), there is a small group of his correspondence (D1057/M/J/11-24), together with his will and Richard Congreve's "Observations on coming into the Bishop of Worcester's family" (D1057/M/J/25-26).
General John Congreve 1806 - 1861 served in India in the Sutlej campaign, 1845 and in the Punjab campaign, 1848 - 1849 and his letters include references to the battle of Ferozepore, 1845 (D1057/M/P/1).
Mary Ann Congreve née Birch, the wife of Richard Congreve (1778 - 1857) is represented in this collection by a letter giving a timetable of her children's lessons and instructions on modest dress etc. to a new governess, 1817 (D1057/M/R).
Revd. George Congreve (1835 - 1918) took orders after being influenced by the Oxford Movement. Letters to his nephew and godson, Walter N. Congreve, give details of his life at Oxford, 1913 - 1918 (D1057/M/S). William Congreve (1831 - 1902) is represented by a few letters to his son Walter and an account of "an afternoon's stalk in the Kaldkloöv", the Norwegian estate where he hunted and fished (D1057/M/U).
The correspondence of General Walter Norris Congreve (1862 - 1927) includes letters from the Duke of Connaught whose private secretary he was from August 1904, (D1057/M/U/4). There are also letters of the time of the 1st World War (D1057/M/U/9) in which Walter N. Congreve lost his left hand and a group relating to the Middle East (D1057/M/U/10-20) where from August 1919 Walter N. Congreve was G.O.C. in Egypt and Palestine under Lord Allenby. There are many references to military affairs 1919 - 1922, including a letter from Winston S. Churchill, 1921 describing his proposed tactics in Palestine and Transjordan (D1057/M/U/15). Archaeological events in Egypt are represented by an invitation from Lady Evelyn Herbert to the Congreves to attend the opening of the tomb of Tutankhamun, Feb. 1924 (D1057/M/U/18). A small group of letters from General Lord Rawlinson includes references to "Gandhi-ite extremists" and the political and military situation in India, 1923 - 1925 (D1057/M/U/27-28).
Samuel Johnson was a contemporary of Revd. Richard Congreve and photostats of Johnson's letters (the originals of which are in the Bodleian Library) include his references to plans to open a boarding school, June 1735 (D1057/M/Z).
Personal accounts survive for only a few members of the Congreve family. The most interesting items are an account of the 1st Baronet's income while Comptroller of the Royal Laboratory, Woolwich in the late 18th century (D1057/N/4/2) and the accounts for the supper he gave to "firemen and artificers" there on the King's recovery in 1789 (D1057/N/4/3). From the time of the 2nd Baronet, there is a memorandum of disbursements for the coronation celebrations in 1820 including a balloon ascent from Green Park (1057/N/6).
Diaries and Commonplace Books, Travel Journals
The most important item in this group is the commonplace book, 1585 - 1611, of Thomas Congreve (1551-1617). As well as noting the births, marriages and deaths in this period of his numerous children and relatives, Thomas recorded in detail his receipts and payments for both estate purposes and for local taxation. For example, his contribution towards the building of a House of Correction at Stafford in Aug. 1598 is noted together with levies for militia purposes in 1589 and 3s 4d "for a man that had been robbed... and sued the Hundred of Cuttlestone" in 1595. There are many references to Stretton Mill including the purchase of new millstones in 1599, and information is also given about the wages paid to his servants. In 1598, Thomas agreed to provide board and lodging for his uncle Ralph Shirley for £20 p.a. to include food for two geldings for Ralph to ride at his pleasure and there are then meticulous notes of Ralph's absences from his new home including a month spent "making merry" with Thomas's "Aunt Brooke" at Madeley in 1602 (D1057/0/1).
Revd. Richard Congreve (1714-1782) also kept his own commonplace books, three of which survive here (D1057/0/2/1-3) together with his manuscript of Bishop Hough's Table Talk (D1057/0/2/4). For the 19th century, there are a few travel journals relating to England, Western Europe and India (1057/P).
Documents relating to appointments, chiefly military and naval, of the Congreves date from 1678 to 1930. They include Thomas Congreve's appointment as a Captain in Lord Gower's Regiment at the time of the Jacobite rebellion, 1745 (D1057/R/2), papers relating to the award of the Victoria Cross to Walter N. Congreve, 1900 (D1057/R/5/7), his appointment as Governor-General of Malta (D1057/R/5/15) and correspondence etc. relating to French and English decorations conferred on his wife Cecilia for her nursing services during the First World War (D1057/R/6).
Family History and Genealogy
The continuing interest of the Congreves in family history and genealogy is well documented with several pedigrees and volumes of genealogical notes, the most important of which are those contained in a contemporary manuscript copy of Sampson Erdeswick's History of Staffordshire. This was written in 1593, not published until the early 18th century, but circulated in manuscripts such as this (D1057/5/4) amongst those interested in local history. This group of documents ends with Walter N. Congreve's notes in his 'Army Book' of the history of the family and estates during his lifetime, 1903 - 1920 (D1057/5/23) with detailed comments on his decision to sell the Burton in Wirral Co. Cheshire estate in 1903 and the purchase of the Chartley estate in Staffordshire which later became the home of his son Geoffrey. Walter N. Congreve also obtained transcripts of early family documents from Miss Julia Schomberg in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (D1057/T).
Few household papers survive but they are of some interest and include an inventory of John Congreve's goods, 1688 (D1057/V/1); the bill of sale of Stretton Hall with the inventory of furniture, 1726 (D1057/V/2); sale catalogues of Ralph Congreve's household furniture and effects at Aldermaston House, 1776 (D1057/E/2/5-6) and an inventory and valuation of furniture at Iscoyd Park, 1809 (D1057/V/3/1) with Mariamne Congreve's household accounts 1834-1837, 1855 (D1057/V/3/2-5).
This group comprises overseers of the poor accounts for Burton in Wirral Co. Cheshire 1702 - 1799 (D1057/W/1) and a catalogue of the parish library, 1866 (D1057/W/2) with fragmentary accounts of overseers of the poor for Atcham [Attingham] Co. Salop, 17th cent., inc. civil war payments to the army (D1057/W/3-4).
Papers survive relating to Harwoods' Charity 1734 - 1877 and to Jones Charity 1882 - 1894, both in Shrewsbury Co. Salop (D1057/X/1-2).
There is a small group of manorial court papers for Burton in Wirral Co. Cheshire, 1716 - 1764.
Miscellaneous documents include two interesting early 17th century volumes of importance for parliamentary history. One concerns 'the orders proceedings, punishments and privileges of the Lower House of Parliament' including the procedure for choosing a speaker (D1057/Z/5) and the other is a petition to the King concerning proceedings against the Parliamentary leader Sir John Eliot (D1057/Z/6), both dating from c.1630. There are also two Customs and Excise documents, an account of ship's goods seized at Hartlepool, 1760 (D1057/Z/7) and a lease of personal prosecutions by the Customs at Berwick, 1760 (D1057/Z/9). A most interesting item is a contemporary list of prisoners, with details of names, regiments and some ranks, taken at Preston, Co. Lancashire during the Jacobite rebellion, 1715 (D1057/Z/17). Other papers include a copy of The Protestant (Domestick) Intelligence relating to the Popish Plot, 1679 (D1057/Z/4) and a copy letter of Queen Caroline to her children on the death of George I, 1727 (D1057/Z/7).