This is a very interesting collection, consisting mainly of family letters, diaries and papers, and also some early account books. These latter items are a primary source in the study of the business ventures of a seventeenth century merchant, and can be augmented by the correspondence between Edward and Thomas Wood and John Pack (in the Stowe and Harrison collections - see below, page iv). The farm account books provide information about the state of agriculture in a particular area of Middlesex in the eighteenth century. The letters are full of rich detail of everyday family life, as well as touching on wider local and national issues. Of special note are those letters describing student life at Oxford at the end of the seventeenth century (ACC. 1302/51-55, 57-67), and the early stages of the Crimean War as witnessed by an officer (ACC. 1302/213-41). Distinguished nineteenth century correspondents include Queen Adelaide, Emperor Napoleon III, Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington.Accounts, 1654-1821; Notebooks and diaries, 1721 - c.1832; Pedigree, 1694-1726; Correspondence and family papers, 1639/40-1924; Papers formerly mounted in album, 1639/40-1924; Correspondence mainly of Colonel Thomas Wood, 1812-55; Letters from Thomas Wood to his wife Fanny, 1852-69; Correspondence of Sir David Wood, 1857-69; Letters from Thomas Wood to his son Tom, 1862-72; Letters from Tom Wood to his mother Fanny, 1882-87; Family letters, 1854-93; Parish of Littleton - Rates, 1743-92; Miscellaneous items, 1631-1876..
Most of the early papers (ACC. 1302/37-193) had been mounted or loosely inserted in an album by a member or members of the family of Thomas Wood. From notes written in the album it appears that the collection was organised in 1893 with additions in 1917 and later. The documents, most of which were heavily stuck down, have been removed from the album for reasons of conservation, but have been kept together as a group. Some of the nineteenth century correspondence had been sorted into bundles, probably by Thomas Wood (b. 1853). In this case the letters have been arranged chronologically within the bundles.
The Woods took a keen interest in their family history and consciously preserved material. Sir David Wood suggested that a letter from Napolen III be "put in the family records, in days to come it may be interesting to the family of Wood". Charles Wood compiled an album of early family papers - in the possession of Mrs. Harrison - see below, page iv, and in 1842 he instructed his brother Thomas to "take care the good John Pack's letters are all preserved" (transcript in London Metropolitan Archives (Middlesex records) library - see below, page iv). Captain Thomas Wood (b. 1853) inherited the family papers in his father's possession. He added subsequent material and many annotations are in his handwriting. The papers were transferred from Littleton to Gwernyfed, probably before the fire of 1874, and remained in the family's custody for a number of years.
Among the papers of the Dukes of Buckingham and Chandos, Known as the Stowe Collection, part of which is held in this office (ACC. 262), are 256 items relating to the Wood family, including a quantity of seventeenth century letters from Edward and Thomas Wood to John Pack. These, along with the Littleton Park Papers (title deeds of the family estates), also held in this office (ACC/928), and the papers in the possession of Mrs. C. Harrison, a descendant of the Wood family (WFP.H.), were fully catalogued in 1966 by Valerie M. Hart. This catalogue, which contains a comprehensive introduction and family tree, is available for research in this office, on open shelves in the catalogue room.
The early papers in the present collection (ACC 1302) are closely related to items in the above- mentioned collections. In some cases letters from different collections fall into sequence e.g., letters from Edward and Thomas Wood to John Pack dated 11, 14, 21 Jan 1663/4 can be found as ACC. 262/43/18, Ace. 1302/41, ACC. 262/43/20. When this occurs it has been indicated in the catalogues.
An ever closer physical connection is revealed by the presence of small holes with rusted brown edges in some of the late seventeenth century letters. Thomas Wood filed on a metal spike many of the letters he received at Littleton, and evidence of this can be found on letters in the Stowe, Harrison and present collections. Filing holes have been noted in the catalogues.
|Administrative / biographical background:
The long-standing connection between the Wood family and the parish of Littleton began in the middle of the seventeenth century when Edward Wood, citizen and grocer of London, built his mansion house there. This remained the principal seat of the family until the house was destroyed by fire in December 1874, and Captain Thomas Wood removed permanently to the family estate at Gwernyfed, Brecknockshire, Wales.
The Woods were substantial landowners with property in a number of counties. The Middleham estate in Yorkshire was purchased in the seventeenth century and the estate at Gwernyfed was acquired in 1776 upon the marriage of Thomas Wood to Mary, daughter and heiress of Sir Edward Williams of Langoid Castle. In Middlesex the lordships of Astlam and Littleton were held by the family, and Captain Thomas Wood was lord of the manor of Littleton in 1906 (The Victoria History of the County of Middlesex, Vol. 2., 1911). The Littleton estate, comprising over 1250 acres in Littleton, Shepperton, Ashford and Laleham, was broken up and sold from 1892, although Captain Thomas Wood still owned much of the land in Littleton parish in the early twentieth century.
Members of the family followed careers, for the most part, in law, government, and the armed forces. The first Thomas Wood to live at Littleton (d.1723) continued his father's merchant business and held the appointment of Ranger of Hampton Court. His son Robert was a scholar and Doctor of Laws and, in the next generation, Thomas (1708-99) was Treasurer of the Inner Temple. His descendants entered the government, at home and overseas, often preceding this by military careers. Colonel Thomas Wood (1777-1860), Member of Parliament for Brecon for forty years, commanded the Royal East Middlesex Regiment of Militia for fifty six years and encamped with them at Aldershot in his eightieth year. His son Thomas (1804-72) commanded the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards in the early stages of the Crimean War, Prior to this he represented the County of Middlesex in Parliament, Thomas his son (b.1853) followed his father into the Grenadiers and saw action in the Sudan. Upon leaving the regular army he became a colonel in the Brecknockshire Rifle Volunteers and entered local government. Famous soldiers in the family include Charles Wood (1790-1877) who fought in the Peninsula, and at Waterloo, and his nephew General Sir David Wood (1812-94) an officer in the Crimean campaign and the Indian Mutiny.
Throughout the nineteenth century the family consolidated its position among the landed gentry by contracting alliances with the aristocracy. In successive generations three Thomas Woods married, respectively, the daughter of 1st Marquess of Londonderry, the grand-daughter of 4th Duke of Grafton, and the daughter of 1st. Lord Tollemache. Colonel Thomas Wood and his wife enjoyed the friendship of William IV and Queen Adelaide and the King. nominated Wood to be one of his executors. Colonel Wood was host to George IV at Gwernyfed, and members of the royal family visited Littleton. The fire which destroyed the Littleton mansion in 1874 also consumed a fine collection of paintings. The most famous of these was Hogarth's "Strolling Actors", which had been purchased in 1745 by Thomas Wood. The artist's signed receipt for the purchase money is among the documents in this collection (ACC.1302/91). It was preserved carefully by the family and is mentioned by James Thorne in his Handbook to the Environs of London, published in 1876.