Dickinson Mss

This record is held by Somerset Heritage Centre (South West Heritage Trust)

Details of Dickinson Mss
Title: Dickinson Mss
Reference: DD\DN

Dickinson MSS


Introductory note


The Dickinson MSS. can be described under the five following main Headings:


(a) A normal estate accumulation reflecting the development of the family's Somerset estates from the purchase by Caleb Dickinson of the manor of Kingweston in 1741, which became and remained the family seat. This purchase is treated first in the section on property tenure and is followed by the deeds of acquisitions elsewhere in Somerset in alphabetical order by parishes and within each parish in chronological order of Dickinson purchases


Thus, for anyone wanting to study the build-up of estates, generation by generation, Caleb Dickinson's purchases will be found under entries DD/DN 1, 9, 10, 25-27, 89, 93, 94, 100-104, 112, his son's (William Dickinson) purchases under DD/DN 13, 16, 34, 35, 46, 49-51, 54, 55, 58, 59, 95, 114, 115 (jointly with his son), his son's (another William) purchases under DD/DN 3, 5, 14, 15, 17, 18, 28, 29, 31, 33, 56, 58, 59, 64, 65-67, 69, 72, 73, 99, 120, and finally his son's (Francis Henry) purchases under DD/DN 6, 8, 19, 20, 23, 74-76, 98, 117, 121, 122.


(b) The personal and business correspondence for the above four heads of the household and for Francis's son, a third William. Separate introductory notes will be found at the beginning of each group, that is to say, at DD/DN 196 (Caleb), 232 (William I), 274 (William II), 293 (Francis Henry) and 388 (William III).


(c) Records of the management of the family's Jamaican estates, which were first settled by Captain Francis Dickinson in the 17th century: see DD/DN 484 and Collinson, vol.II, pp.417-8, for the origins of the estate and DD/DN 143, 470 and 485 for the entitlement to these estates of the English branch of the family.


(d) Business records of Graffin Prankard, a Bristol merchant, to whom Caleb Dickinson was apprenticed and whose only daughter, Sarah Prankard, Caleb married in 1738. He was the grandson of Robert Prankard, a Somerton maltster.


(e) Records of Stephen Fuller of Rose Hill, Sussex, whose daughter, Phillippa married William Dickinson in 1770. Fuller was the London based agent for Jamaica for nearly 30 years and there are letters and papers reflecting this post particularly for the last years of his office, 1789-94.


Unfortunately, the records have suffered from adverse storage conditions in the early part of this century and many of the papers in the above categories are noted in the catalogue entries as in poor condition or even too fragile to be handled. Many others must have been lost or destroyed, for there are obvious gaps [see, in particular, the correspondence of Francis Dickinson] and the letter announcing the discovery of the documents tells of them being ravaged by 'worms, mice, rats, boys and other vermin'.


196-231 Business, estate and personal correspondence and accounts of Caleb Dickinson, initially a Bristol merchant, but from 1741 living sometimes at his house at Kingweston. The correspondence is arranged in chronological bundles and most of them are endorsed with the date and name and address of the correspondent. The old style year is used to March 1751 and the normal calendar year from Jan. 1752 (the remainder of 1751 is one of several years missing). All letters from abroad are noted under each bundle entry. No division is made between the business, estate and personal elements in the correspondence, but the first named tends to decline through the period, although there are regular references to the family's W. Indian interests, cargoes moving both ways and insurance, particularly in periods of war, and also to the Flat Holm lighthouse from 1744. Many letters from brothers Ezekiel and Vickris Dickinson.


232-273 Correspondence received by William Dickinson I, son of Caleb Dickinson, resembling that of his father in both content and arrangement. The condition of these letters is generally poor and many were found loose. The loose letters have been sorted into similar chronological bundles. Lighthouse business continues and minutes and accounts of the Brass Wire and Copper Co. are usually found from 1779. There are numbers of letters from the Lamb family from Rye to 1790 when W.D. ceased to be a member for that constituency. There are fewer letters from Jamaica, but frequent references in correspondence from the London and Bristol agents and other members of the Dickinson family.


274-292 Correspondence and papers of William Dickinson II, who died in Naples in January 1837. In arrangement, quality and condition these fall short of the similar records of his father and grandfather (listed above) and of his son (to be listed below). There were some traces of a chronological arrangement in the papers of estate, local and personal interest and the loose papers of a similar nature have been similarly arranged. In addition, a limited number of bundles bearing on the public side of his life, both nationally as a Member of Parliament and locally as a Justice of the Peace were found.


293-387 Correspondence and papers of Francis Henry Dickinson, reflecting not only his offices held, nationally and locally, but also his strong personal interests in the church, education and church architecture. He was for a period an M.P., an active J.P., a member of various other official bodies in the county and also of local and national societies reflecting his personal interests. In spite of its bulk the correspondence which has survived in this deposit can only represent a fraction of the original whole: there are very few letters after 1857 and none of the parliamentary papers referred to in DD/DN 383. For the first few years after his inheritance he appears to have kept his papers in general, chronological bundles; from c.1846 the arrangement is by key initial letters of which the series for D,E,F,G,K,O,P have survived. These include not only correspondents with surnames beginning with those initials, but also places (e.g. from which appeals were received) and subjects (e.g. letters about the abolition of the death penalty under 'P' for punishment).


388-404 Correspondence and papers of William Dickinson III, relating largely to personal, family and financial affairs. There was no original arrangement to these papers when deposited and for the purposes of this catalogue a rough division has been made between the largely personal letters (which have been sorted into chronological bundles) and the many letters received from the family's solicitors, estate agents and financial advisers. As the eldest of a large family, he appears to have been saddled with heavy mortgages to provide for the younger members of the family and also his second wife and consequently seems to have lived away from Kingweston House for long periods.


487-506 Bundles, some original, the rest found loose and placed in artificial chronological groups, of letters received, drafts of outgoing letters and papers, relating to a variety of estate family and business affairs; generally in poor condition. [20 bundles]


The condition of the documents has prevented a detailed examination of every item.

Date: 16th cent - 20th cent
Held by: Somerset Heritage Centre (South West Heritage Trust), not available at The National Archives

Introductory note




1,2 Deeds, etc., Kingweston


3-8 Deeds, Babcary


9-15 Deeds, Baltonsborough


16-19 Deeds, Barton St.David


20-23 Deeds, Berrow


24 Deeds, Bridgwater


25-30 Deeds, Butleigh


31-33 Deeds, Castle Cary


34-88 Deeds, Charlton Adam and Mackrell


89-98 Deeds, Glastonbury and Butleigh


99 Deeds, Keinton Mandeville


100-104 Deeds, East Lydford


105-119 Deeds, Lympsham


120-121 Deeds, Mark


122-127 Deeds, Somerton


128,129 Deeds, Tintinhull, Weston Zoyland


130,131 Leases


132-136 Deeds of Gloucestershire, Kent, Middlesex, Sussex


137-143 Dickinson family settlements and testamentary records


144-148 Prankard, Alloway, etc., families, settlements and testamentary records.


149-155 Litigation papers agreements, etc).




156-157 Manorial records


158-166 Estate surveys and maps


167-194 Estate papers, arranged by parishes




195 Jonathan Dickinson


196-231 Correspondence of Caleb Dickinson


232-273 Correspondence, of William Dickinson I


274-292 Correspondence, of William Dickinson II


293-387 Correspondence, of Francis Henry Dickinson


388-404 Correspondence, of William Dickinson III


405-416 Caleb Dickinson's accounts


417-421 William Dickinson's [I] accounts


422 Francis Henry Dickinson's accounts




423-432 Prankard letter books and correspondence


433-452 Prankard trading accounts


453-464 Records of business associates of Graffin Prankard




465-485 Plantation accounts, deeds, agents' papers, etc.




486 Family papers


487-507 Personal and business correspondence


508-512 His papers as agent for Jamaica


513-519 Misc. Fuller papers




520 Academic studies


521 Travel diaries


522-525 Misc. manuscript and printed items.

Language: English
Extent: 58 boxes
  • Dickinson family of Kingweston, Somerset and Jamaica
  • Somerset
  • Jamaica
  • Slavery
Immediate Source Of Acquisition:
  • C/315a

Related Material:
  • See also DD/X/WBB 180/... G/2768 (accounts, tenancy agreements, etc.)

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