The papers are divided into two sub-collections. The business records of the firm of Leeds wool merchants and manufacturers Benjamin Gott and Sons form the first sub-collection MS 193.
The second sub-collection MS 194 consists of family papers, covering the period from the middle of the 18th century to around the time of Beryl Katherine Gott's death in 1941. During this period, the Gotts were one of the most prominent families in Leeds.
The collection includes a number of papers from the Ewart family, of whom William Ewart the younger (1798-1869), the M.P. is probably the best known member. Among these papers are letters and poems of the Rev. John Ewart (1717-1799), minister of Troqueer, Kirkcudbrightshire, and father of William Ewart the elder in MS 194/13.
The miscellaneous material in MS 194/14 and MS 194/15 includes over 370 engravings and prints mostly of Yorkshire scenes in the 18th and 19th centuries.
|Administrative / biographical background:
John Gott (1720-93), of Woodhall, Bradford (MS 194/1/1-3), married twice. By his first wife, Mary Parker, he had a son William (1745-1810), a civil engineer of Woodhall and Burley (MS 194/1/4-6).
Benjamin Gott (1762-1840) the wool merchant, was John Gott's son by his second wife, Susanna Jackson. He was the first member of his family to rise to prominence in Leeds. His wealth enabled him to build a fine collection of art at Armley House, as well as helping to finance works such as the rebuilding of Armley Chapel. There are several letters to him from Sir Thomas Lawrence, the fashionable painter, and from the sculptors, John Flaxman and Joseph Gott. The latter was a distant relation of Benjamin Gott. Benjamin's wife was Elizabeth Rhodes (MS 194/1-20). A collection of her diaries and cash accounts spanning the years from 1809-1850 records their family and social life. MS 194/21-23 comprises items concerning Elizabeth's unmarried sister, Abigail.
Benjamin's eldest son was John (1791-1867) (MS 194/4). His second son Benjamin (1793-1817), died young while on a visit to Athens (MS 194/5). Their letters include some written when the boys were away at school.
The third son William (1797-1863) of Wyther Grange, inherited his father's taste for fine art (MS 194/6). He also built up a magnificent collection of rare books, now dispersed, which included several early editions of the Bible, liturgies, and Shakespeare's works. His papers include over 100 letters from art dealers (Dominic Colnaghi, John Sheepshanks), booksellers (Boone, Pickering), and book collectors (Francis Fry). William Gott was active in encouraging public building in Leeds. He was the Chairman of the Building Committee when the extension to the Philosophical Hall was built, in 1861-62. About 20 letters from him to T. P. Teale, the Leeds surgeon, concern the planning and building of the new Leeds Infirmary in 1862-63. He married Margaret Ewart (1795-1844), daughter of the Liverpool merchant, William Ewart the elder (1763-1823). Margaret's sister Charlotte married William Rutson. Harriet Gott (1795-1883), who endowed almshouses at Armley, was William Gott's unmarried sister (MS 194/7).
William's second son William Ewart (1827-1879) married Anne Mary Aitchison (MS 194/8). His third son John (1830-1906) became vicar of Leeds, and afterwards Bishop of Truro (MS/9). He married Harriet Mary Maitland. Most of his surviving correspondence is with bibliographers, such as A. W. Pollard and W. Barclay Squire, and the organisers of exhibitions, such as the Caxton Celebration in 1877.
William Ewart Gott had several sons. Francis (1858-1920) was an estate agent and Lord Mayor of Leeds in 1917-18 (MS/10). He married his cousin, Beryl Katherine Robins, whose mother, Harriet Caroline, was a daughter of William Gott. Beryl Katherine (Robins) Gott (MS/11) collected a large amount of material on the history of her family and Leeds. Much of her correspondence is concerned with this. Four of Frank Gott's brothers are represented in the collection William Henry (1852-1929), Allan (1856-1924), George Arthur (1857-1926), and Charles Rhodes (1864-1953) (MS/11-12). Among William Henry's children were William Henry Ewart (1897-1942) and Anne Rosamund (MS/10-11). William Henry Ewart was a prisoner of war in 1917-18. He reached the rank of Lieutenant-general and was killed in the Second World War.