The earliest mention of the activities of the Newton family in Barbados dates from 1654, when Samuel Newton acquired his first piece of property in the Christ Church parish on the island. By the time of his death in 1684 Samuel was a substantial landowner. His property was left half to his wife Barbara and half to his son John, although provision was made that the property should be managed jointly. John Newton was also the owner of an estate of Kings Bromley in Staffordshire, England.
After John Newton's death in c. 1706 the estates were inherited by his son Samuel (died ?), and subsequently by Samuel's son John (died 1783). On John Newton's death the plantations came into the possession of his sisters, Sarah Holte and Elizabeth Newton. After the deaths of the two sisters the land passed, in 1794, to Elizabeth's cousins, John Lane a barrister of King's Bromley in Staffordshire and Thomas Lane who was a solicitor in private practice of Leyton Grange in Essex.
On his death Samuel left two plantations, referred to as the Newton's plantations, which were inherited by John Newton and Barbara Newton. By the mid-eighteenth century one of these plantations had been sold or otherwise disposed of, but the Lanes eventually inherited the other. This land is referred to variously as 'Newton's', 'Newton's Lower plantation' or just the 'Lower plantation'. Mount Alleyne plantation which came into the possession of John Newton (died 1783) on his marriage to Elizabeth Alleyne in October 1740. The family also owned the Seawells plantation from at least 1784, but it may have come to the Newton family from the same source, as Elizabeth Alleyne's great-grandmother's maiden name was Seawell.
Thomas Lane took on the management of the brothers' inheritance because he was based in London. In 1803 the estates were divided, John Lane taking Seawells and Thomas taking Newton - however Thomas continued to manage the estates for them both. The Lanes were absentee landlords. The brothers both died in 1824, and from that time it is difficult to trace the ownership of the estates. Richard Stuart Lane and his wife appear to have owned the estates between 1870 and 1894.
The material indicated by reference codes 1 to 987 was identified in about 1960 amongst papers stored at the Goldsmiths' Hall in London. These papers appear to have belonged to Prideaux and Sons, a firm of solicitors which had previously conducted their business from the Hall. Items 1 - 987 were deposited on permanent loan at the University of London Library by the Clerk of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, Mr W A Prideaux in 1960 and 1961.
Items 988 to 1053 had originally been identified and sent by the British Records Association to the Greater London Record Office (now the London Metropolitan Archives) from Goldsmith's Hall early 1950s, but were transferred to the University of London Library in April 1967. Items 1 to 1053 are known as the 'first deposit'.
Items 1054 to 1117 were formerly part of the collection of Sir Thomas Phillips (1792-1872). They cannot be clearly identified with items in the catalogue of his manuscripts (Catalogus Librorum Manuscriptorum in Bibliotheca D. Thomae Phillips, Holland Press, 1968), but it is possible that they correspond with all or part of MS 15961 and MS 22721 listed there. This material was acquired by the University at a sale of Sir Thomas' manuscripts at Sotheby's on 26 June 1974. The endorsements on this material suggest that they were never kept together with the other material. This material is known as the 'second deposit'.