Muniments of the Cornwall-Legh family of High Legh near Knutsford, Cheshire. The collection comprises medieval charters, later deeds and papers relating to the Cornwall-Leghs, the Leghs of East Legh, Cheshire (13th-19th centuries), the Leghs of Swineyard (or Swinehead) in High Legh, Cheshire (17th-18th centuries), the Cornwalls of Shropshire (15th-18th centuries), and the Chambres of Plas Chambres, Denbighshire (18th century). Material includes deeds, business and estate correspondence, papers and plans for High Legh, Knutsford, Lymm and Manley in Cheshire, Barton upon Irwell and Openshaw in Lancashire, and Birstall in Yorkshire; and records relating to the manors of Sale (14th-18th centuries) and Thornton-le-Moors (13th-18th centuries) in Cheshire. There are also correspondence and papers relating to the Cheshire militia and magistracy and to Bucklow Hundred in the early 19th century.
The arrangement of this collection has been both facilitated and complicated by the fact that a considerable part of it was examined at the end of last century by the Cheshire historian Earwaker. Earwaker classified the documents he saw into groups; numbered them consecutively in chronological order within each group; and compiled a two-volume "Index" ("Index to the High Legh Deeds" by J. P. Earwaker, M.A., F.S.A. 2 vols. 1892-3. In manuscript. The Library is indebted to Mr. Cornwall-Legh for his generous loan of this work.) containing abstracts of their contents. References in brackets relate to the two volume index.
Earwaker's adoption of a rigid system of consecutive numbers had drawbacks, for, after he had completed his numbering, many other documents came to light which would have fitted into groups which he had already formed; but those groups were now closed. In the case of odd, individual deeds he was able to surmount this difficulty by using "starred" numbers; even here he had to "star" additions twice (Thus, there is a "241", a "241*" and a "241"**". Other examples occur.) and sometimes three times (E.g., 914, 914*, 914**, 914***. Similarly with 933.). Descriptions of these "starred" items could easily be added on the blank versos in his "Index" (E.g., i 69v., 70v., 73v., etc., and elsewhere in that volume and in volume ii.). But this method of indicating additions could not be used with bundles of documents numbering many hundreds, and in these cases he simply avoided the difficulty leaving those items without any numbers at all. Thus, there are some three hundred and fifty items left unnumbered at the end of Volume i (He enters brief descriptions of them on pp. 138-40, but his last numbered item in this volume is on p. 137, namely, No. 499. Volume ii opens with No. 500.) and over six hundred and forty at the end of Volume ii.
Apart from these omissions among the documents he actually saw, there has been the further complication that the muniments as received by the Library contain many hundreds of deeds and papers which he did not see at all. They also include numerous items which would fit into the groups he originally formed, but they cannot now be fitted there because of his rigid system of numbering.
Nevertheless, Earwaker's volumes, with their full abstracts of the contents of so many individual items, form an invaluable work of reference and one which must have cost him much time and labour. He clearly intended his arrangement to be definitive for he has numbered the documents by sticking labels on them; any alteration of these, incidentally, would lead to further defacement. In all these circumstances the following compromise has been adopted:-
1. Earwaker's arrangement has been retained for the materials he actually examined and numbered (1-1086). All his groups and the individual documents within them have been checked and references are given to the pages of his "Index" for these items (below pp. 1-7).
2. The bundles of additional documents which he describes but leaves unnumbered have been transferred to the end of his list and numbered (1087-2160). (Se below p. 4, notes 2 and 3 and p. 7, note 2.) These occur on pp. 7-8 below.
3. The numerous documents additional to those described in his "Index" have been arranged in the system adopted by the Library, namely: I. Deeds and Allied Documents, set out, firstly, under counties and then, within each county, arranged in alphabetical order of place-names. As regards High Legh itself, there is a further grouping under the relevant members of the family. II. Manuscript Volumes, which fall into three subdivisions (George Cornwall Legh, High Legh Hall and High Legh Estate). III. Maps and Plans, firstly, Ordnance Survey maps, and, secondly, estate maps of land and plans of buildings; both are arranged under counties, and the latter also under place-names within counties. These additional documents, not seen by Earwaker, occur on pp. 9-12 below.
It should be added that several items described in Earwaker's "Index" were not included in the deposit received by the Library but have been retained by Mr. Cornwall-Legh. A separate list of these is given at the end. (See also the footnotes to pp. 2, 4, 5 and 7 below.)