Collection Crewe MS - Crewe Manuscripts

Identity area

Reference code

Crewe MS


Crewe Manuscripts


  • 16th-20th c. (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

c. 200 volumes

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Richard Monckton Milnes was born on 19 June 1809, son of Robert Pemberton Milnes, MP for Pontefract, and his wife Henrietta Maria Monckton, daughter of the 4th Viscount Galway. Milnes was admitted to Trinity College Cambridge in 1827 and graduated MA in 1831. While at Cambridge he was one of the founding members of the Cambridge Conversazione Society (The Apostles) and was a friend of Tennyson, Hallam and Thackeray. He pursued an active literary life, both by publishing in prose and verse and maintaining an active correspondence with many of the prominent writers of the age. His regular breakfast parties also played a part in bringing many figures of note from all walks of life together

Milnes was the son and grandson of Members of Parliament and in 1837 he was elected to the Commons to represent his father's old constituency of Pontefract. Initially a follower of Peel, he moved towards the Liberal side of the House, and became a supporter of Lord John Russell. Though never rising to high office, he was prominent in legislation concerning copyright, the Deceased Wife's Sister Marriage Bill and the abolition of capital punishment. In 1845 he succeeded in getting a pension paid to Tennyson

Having courted Florence Nightingale, Milnes married Annabella, daughter of the 2nd Baron Crewe; they had three children. He was created Baron Houghton in 1863. He died in Vichy in 1885.

Archival history

Nearly all of these manuscripts were collected by Richard Monckton Milnes, later Lord Houghton. Those he acquired loose he had bound; those bought as volumes were either re-bound or left as they were. After Lord Houghton’s death in 1885 the manuscripts descended, with the rest of his library, firstly to his son the 1st Marquess of Crewe, and eventually to Lord Crewe’s daughter the Duchess of Roxburghe. The duchess died in 2014, having bequeathed the contents of the library to Trinity College, of which both her father and grandfather had been members.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Mary Innes-Ker, Duchess of Roxburghe

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The collection includes manuscripts in various European languages, dating from the sixteenth century to the twentieth. Most of them are, broadly speaking, of a literary, historical, or religious nature, but it is not easy to summarise the range of subjects they cover. They include, for instance, from the seventeenth century, notarial instruments in French relating to Charlotte de Beaune, an English translation of Den Spegel der Gherechticheit by Hendrik Niclaes of the so-called ‘Family of Love’, and a collection of English court poetry; from the eighteenth, papers on British trade, literary copyright, notorious criminals, and the French revolution; and from the nineteenth, a collection of papers and prints relating to the history of ballooning, items collected by Richard Burton on his travels, and a series of volumes recording the transactions of the Philobiblon Society.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

As the manuscripts vary widely in subject, date, language, and other re-spects there was no obvious principle by which to arrange them. They have therefore been numbered in simple height order, which is the order in which they are set on the shelves in the Wren Library. This arrangement was chosen in order to provide the best support for the volumes, as there is a large difference in height between the tallest and the shortest.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

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      Finding aids

      Allied materials area

      Existence and location of originals

      Existence and location of copies

      Related units of description

      The Library also owns a large proportion of Lord Houghton’s collection of printed books, which were bequeathed to the college together with the manuscripts. See the catalogue of printed books.

      Notes area

      Alternative identifier(s)

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      Description identifier

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      Rules and/or conventions used

      Dimensions are given in the order height by width, and rounded up to the nearest centimetre. Unless otherwise stated, the leaves of the books are paper, and half-bound and quarter-bound volumes are bound partly in leather and partly in paper or some other material.


      Level of detail

      Dates of creation revision deletion

      This catalogue was begun by A. C. Green in 2016 and is still being compiled.




          Accession area