Catalogue description Personal Papers of Sir John Evans

This record is held by Oxford University: Ashmolean Museum, Department of Antiquities

Details of JE
Reference: JE
Title: Personal Papers of Sir John Evans

The papers largely concern John Evans' professional career although some personal papers are included. Most of the personal papers are to be found amongst the family papers, which include correspondence, publications and many papers on the history of the Evans' family as well as some photographs. The rest of the papers largely concentrate on antiquarian matters. The largest section is clearly the correspondence files which date from 1848 until after the death of John Evans. There are also many books and pamphlets, several of these written by John Evans. In addition are Evans' own papers created in the course of his antiquarian work including scrapbooks, notebooks and draft manuscripts. A final section contains papers for other aspects of Evans' life including his work at the paper mill and as High-Sheriff of Hertfordshire.

Date: 1677-1941
Held by: Oxford University: Ashmolean Museum, Department of Antiquities, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Evans, Sir John, 1823-1908, Knight, Archaeologist and Numismatist

Physical description: 5 linear metres
Immediate source of acquisition:

The initial deposit of papers was made a gift to the Ashmolean Museum by Sir Arthur John Evans either in 1927 or in 1941. The later deposit of papers was loaned to the Museum by Arthur L. Evans Esq. of South Africa in 1984 and formally gifted in 1985.

Custodial history:

When John Evans died in 1908 his papers were bequeathed to his son Sir Arthur Evans. Arthur Evans was Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum from 1884-1908. In 1927 Arthur Evans passed a large part of his archaeological collection to the Ashmolean Museum. It was either then or upon his death in 1941 that a selection of John Evans' papers were also passed to the Museum, largely the correspondence divided by author, as this was the section that most related to the objects. Some numismatic papers were also passed to the Ashmolean's Coin Room where they still reside today.


Upon Arthur Evans' death the remainder of the papers were largely bequeathed to his nephew John Dickinson Evans, son of Lewis Evans, who in turn passed them to his own son. This son was married to Barbara Evans and on her husband's death she passed the papers to his brother Arthur L. Evans Esq. of South Africa. Aside from these papers, a small selection was also in the possession of John Evans' daughter Joan. She bequeathed her papers to the Ashmolean Museum but instead they were collected by Arthur L. Evans and taken back to South Africa. In 1895 Arthur Evans made a formal gift of all of the remaining papers to the Ashmolean Museum.

  • Archaeology
  • Numismatics
Administrative / biographical background:

John Evans was born at Britwell Court, Buckinghamshire, on the 17th November 1823, son of the Rev. Arthur Benoni Evans, head master of Market Bosworth grammar school, and his wife Anne. At the age of 16 John Evans was apprenticed to his uncle John Dickinson's paper mill at Nash Mills, Hemel Hempstead, where he worked for many years. But it was as an antiquarian and numismatist that he made his name.


John Evans was the author of three major works in this field; The Coins of the Ancient Britons (1864), The Ancient Stone Implements, Weapons and Ornaments of Great Britain (1872), and The Ancient Bronze Implements, Weapons and Ornaments of Great Britain and Ireland (1881). He also wrote many papers on archaeological, geological and numismatic subjects, including the papers on Flint Implements in the Drift. Through this work, Evans found a place in many of the associated societies of the time. He was president of the Society of Antiquaries from 1885 to 1892 and of the Numismatic Society from 1874 to his death. He also presided over the Geological Society, 1874-1876, the Anthropological Institute, 1877-1879, the Society of Chemical industry, 1891-1893, the British Association, 1897-1898, and was treasurer of the Royal Society from 1878-1898. He also became a permanent trustee of the British Museum. His academic honours included honorary degrees from several universities and in 1892 he was created a K.C.B.


In his personal life John Evans was married three times. His first marriage was to his cousin Harriet Dickinson, daughter of John Dickinson. They were married from 1850-1858 and had 5 children - Arthur, Lewis, Philip, Alice and Harriet. Sir Arthur Evans later became Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum. John Evans' second marriage was to another cousin Frances Phelps from 1859-1890. His third wife was Maria Millington Lathbury who he married in 1892 and who gave him another daughter Joan. Maria survived Evans who died at Berkhamstead on the 31st May 1908.

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