ComputerRef No350
Finding No705:73 BA14450
TitleCroome Collection - the family and estate papers of the Earls of Coventry
Date13th century-1935
AdminHistoryThe history of the Coventry family, as far back as can be established for certain, begins with Coventry, Sir Thomas (1547-1606).
Born 1547. He was married to Margaret Jeffery, daughter and heir of William Jeffery of Earl's Croome, Worcestershire. Together they had one son, Thomas Coventry (later the 1st Baron of Allesborough). In 1592 Sir Thomas purchased the manor of Croome D'Abitot from Francis Clare of Kidderminster. Croome was to remain the seat of the Coventry family until the sale of Croome Court in 1948. Sir Thomas was made Sergeant at Law in 1603, and served as King's Sergeant to James I, 1605-6. In 1606 he became one of the Justices of the Court of Common Pleas. In this year he also received a Knighthood. Sir Thomas died on 12th December 1606. He was buried at Croome D'Abitot.

Coventry, Sir Thomas (1578-1640) 1st Baron of Allesborough, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England.
Born 1578, he was the first son of Sir Thomas Coventry and his wife, Margaret Jeffery. He was married to his first wife Sarah Seabright, daughter of Sir Edward Seabright, Knight, of Besford, Worcestershire, in 1606. Together they had a son and heir, Thomas Coventry (later the 2nd Baron of Allesborough) and a daughter, Elizabeth, who went on to marry Sir John Hare of Stow Bardolph, Norfolk. After the death of his first wife, he was remarried to Elizabeth Pitchford, daughter of John Aldersley of Spurstow, Cheshire and widow of William Pitchford. Together they had four daughters: Anne, Joane, Margaret and Dorothy, and four sons; John, Francis, Henry and Sir William.
Sir Thomas Coventry was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, with the intention of pursuing a career in Law. He moved to the Inner Temple in 1595 where he later took on the role of Treasurer. He was called to the Bar in 1603. In 1606 he became judge to the Sheriff's court. Sir Thomas had a very busy career in Law, including positions such as Counsel for the Company of Apothecaries; Justice of the Peace in Surrey and Middlesex; Autumn Reader and High Steward for Cambridge, Coventry, St Albans, Kingston-upon-Hull and Bath. In November 1616 he was appointed as Recorder of London and at various times in his life he also held the position of Recorder for Coventry and Boston. In March 1617 he was appointed as Solicitor General, the same year in which he was Knighted. He was elected as MP for Worcestershire in 1621 and later that year was appointed as Attorney General. In 1622 he purchased part of the manor of Pershore. He became Custos Rotulorum for Worcestershire in 1624. In 1625 he was appointed to perhaps his most prestigious position, that of Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England. He continued in this role until his death. In 1627 he was admitted as brother of the Company of Apothecaries, the first lawyer to have received this honour. On 10th April 1628 he was made Baron Coventry of Allesborough by Patent. Sir Thomas died 14th January 1640. He was buried at Croome D'Abitot.

Coventry, Thomas (1606-1661) 2nd Baron of Allesborough.
Born 1606, the first son of Sir Thomas Coventry (1st Baron) and his first wife, Sarah Seabright. He succeeded as Baron of Allesborough in 1640. Married to Mary Craven, daughter of Sir William Craven, Knight in April 1627. Together they had two sons: George (later the 3rd Baron Coventry) and Thomas (later the 5th Baron of Allesborough), and two daughters, both of whom died young. Thomas served as MP for Worcestershire and in 1633 became Councillor for Wales. During the 1630's he was to purchase some of the most important additions to the Coventry estate, including lands in Pirton, Powick, Mitton [in Bredon] and Severn Stoke. In the 1640's there was a fire at Croome court, which resulted in some major rebuilding work under the 2nd Baron. Thomas died 27th October 1661. He was buried at Croome D'Abitot.

Coventry, George (1628-1680) 3rd Baron Coventry.
Born 1628, the first son of Thomas Coventry (2nd Baron) and his wife, Mary Craven. He succeeded as Baron of Allesborough in 1661. He was married to Margaret Tufton, daughter of John Tufton, Earl of Thanet, in July 1653. Together they had three sons: John (later 4th Baron of Allesborough), Thomas and William, both of whom died young, and two daughters: Anne (died young) and Margaret, who went on to marry Charles, eldest son of the Marquis of Winchester. He became Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum of Worcestershire, and High Steward of Tewkesbury in around 1661. George died 15th December 1680. He was buried at Croome.

Coventry, John (1654-1685) 4th Baron Coventry.
Born 2 September 1654, the first son of George Coventry (3rd Baron) and his wife, Margaret Tufton. He succeeded as Baron of Allesborough in 1680. He became Custos Rotulorum of Worcestershire. John died unexpectedly, 25th July 1685, unmarried. He was buried at Croome.

Coventry, Thomas (1629-1699) 1st Earl of Coventry 5th Baron of Allesborough, Viscount Deerhurst.
Born 1629, the second son of Thomas Coventry (2nd Baron) and his wife, Mary Craven. He succeeded as Baron of Allesborough on the death of his nephew in 1685. He married his first wife Winifrida Edgcomb, daughter of Colonel Peirce Edgcomb, of Mount Edgcomb, Devon, in 1660. Together they had four sons: Thomas (later 6th Baron of Allesborough and 2nd Earl of Coventry), William, who died young, another who died young, and Gilbert (later 8th Baron and 4th Earl). After Winifrida's death he remarried to Elizabeth, one of his servants and the daughter of Richard Graham, Esquire. After the death of the 5th Baron, Elizabeth remarried to Thomas Savage of Elmley Castle, Worcestershire.
Thomas was seated in his estate at Snitterfield, which he purchased around 1660, as his chances of inheriting the Croome estate seemed remote at this time. As the 4th Baron had died intestate, most of the estate went to Lady Coventry and had to be bought back by Thomas in 1697 with a huge sum of £6000. He also purchased additional land in the parishes of Birlingham and Defford around this time. On 26th April 1697, he was created Viscount Deerhurst and Earl of Coventry by Patent, with limitations to William, Thomas and Henry Coventry, the grandsons of Walter, brother of the 1st Baron Coventry, and their issue male. Lavish expenditure took place in order to inherit this title and estate, including a gift of £8000 to William III. He was created Custos Rotulorum and Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire. Thomas died 15th July 1699. He was buried at Croome.

Coventry, Thomas (1662-1710) 2nd Earl of Coventry 6th Baron of Allesborough, Viscount Deerhurst.
Born 1662, the first son of Thomas (5th Baron) and his first wife, Winifrida Edgcomb. He succeeded as Baron of Allesborough and Earl of Coventry in 1699. He married Anne, daughter of Henry Somerset, Duke of Beaufort in May 1691. Together they had two sons: Thomas (later the 7th Baron of Allesborough and 3rd Earl of Coventry) and John, who died young. In 1706 he became Custos Rotulorum of Worcestershire and Recorder of Coventry. He died 20th August 1710, leaving debts of £7,914. The Countess Dowager administered the estate and saw that she paid off all of his debts, starting with the servants and tradesmen and paying off the wealthy financiers last.

Coventry, Thomas (1702-1712) 3rd Earl of Coventry 7th Baron of Allesborough, Viscount Deerhurst.
Born 1702, the first son of Thomas (6th Baron) and his wife, Anne Somerset. He succeeded as Baron of Allesborough and Earl of Coventry in 1710. Thomas died 28th January 1712, aged only 10 years old.

Coventry, Gilbert (1668-1719) 4th Earl of Coventry 8th Baron of Allesborough, Viscount Deerhurst.
Born 1668, the fourth son of Thomas (5th Baron) and his first wife, Winifrida Edgcomb. He succeeded as Baron of Allesborough and Earl of Coventry in 1712 after the death of his nephew, aged 44. Gilbert married his first wife Dorothy Keyte, daughter of Sir William Keyte, 2nd Baronet of Ebrington, Gloucestershire, in November 1694. Together they had a daughter, Anne, who later married Sir William Carew, 5th Baronet of Antony, Cornwall. After the death of Dorothy, he remarried to Anne, daughter of Sir Streinsham Masters, of Derbyshire, but with an estate at Strensham. Gilbert was quite extravagant with his family's money and only served to worsen the financial difficulties that were arising at this time. Gilbert died 27th October 1719. As he left no male issue, with his death the Barony of Allesborough became extinct. The Earldom and the greater part of the estates devolved upon William Coventry, the lineal descent of Walter Coventry, brother to the 1st Lord Coventry, according to the limitation of the patent. Some of the Coventry archives went to Antony, Cornwall with Gilbert's daughter, where they remain today.

Coventry, William (1678-1751) 5th Earl of Coventry.
Born 1678, the grandson of Walter Coventry (brother of Sir Thomas, Lord Keeper Coventry, 1st Baron). He succeeded as 5th Earl of Coventry in October 1719. He married Elizabeth Allen, daughter of John Allen, of Westminster in 1719. Together they had three sons: Thomas Henry, who died in 1744, aged only 23, George William (later 6th Earl of Coventry) and John Bulkeley. Around 1710 William became MP for Bridport, Dorset. In April 1717 he became Joint Clerk Comptroller of the Board of the Green Cloth. He was appointed a Privy Councillor in 1719, then Custos Rotulorum and Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire in 1720. In 1719 he ordered an inventory of Croome to be made, which deemed many areas 'unfit' and recognised the improvements needed. He proved himself to be a competent landlord, with annual incomes rising during his time. He spent much of his time dealing with the family's legal and financial affairs, with his wealth helping to cushion the estate from an impending disaster. Issues eased after the mid-1720's. William died 18th March 1751, leaving money to every member of his staff.

Coventry, George William (1722-1809) 6th Earl of Coventry.
Born 26th April 1722, the second son of William Coventry (5th Earl) and his wife, Elizabeth. He succeeded as Earl of Coventry in 1751. He married his first wife Maria Gunning, daughter of John Gunning of Castle Coote, Co. Roscommon, Esquire, in March 1752 . Together they had one son, George William (later 7th Earl of Coventry), and 3 daughters: Elizabeth Ann, who died an infant, Maria Alicia and Ann Margaret. After the death of his first wife, he remarried to Barbara, daughter of John St John, 10th Baron of St John of Bletsoe. Together they had two sons: John and Thomas William.
George William became MP for Bridport and Worcester. He was appointed Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum for Worcester in 1758 and served as Recorder of Worcester from 1774-1809. In October 1747 he was appointed the first co-president of Worcester Infirmary alongside the Bishop of Worcester. He chaired the annual meetings for this without fail for the next 20 years. George William served as Lord of the Bedchamber to King George II and King George III.
It was under George William that extensive works were carried out on Croome Court and the surrounding parkland. His elder brother, Thomas, had many plans for improvements he wished to make. His untimely death affected his younger brother greatly and the transformation of Croome by George William owes largely to his desire to carry out his wishes. Not long after death of his elder brother, George William began to put his plans for the estate into action. Survey work was carried out, fields were exchanged, divided and enclosed and there was reduction in leaseholders between 1749-50, which was made possible by doubling the rent. Formal gardens were also swept away, creating a blank canvas for work to begin. Around 1751 Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (1716-1783) was commissioned to work on the designs for the house and the garden. He was to continue working at Croome for over 30 years, until his death in 1782 on his way home from dining with the Coventry family. Croome is believed to be the first complete landscape design by 'Capability' Brown. This places particular importance upon the original plant bills and accounts in the collection, which show evidence of the original work carried out at this time.
George William also employed Scottish architect and designer, Robert Adam (1728-1792), to work on the redesign of the house and its surrounding buildings. Apart from his work on the house and the church at Croome, Adam designed most of the important buildings in the park, including the Temple Greenhouse, the Alcove or Park Seat, the London Arch and the pier gates, and possibly Dunstall castle. Architect James Wyatt completed the work in the park after Adam's death and developed the design of the Panorama tower from Adam's drawings. Original letters and bills from Adam's work survive in the Croome archive.
'Capability' Brown was also commissioned to build a new house for the Earl on his Broadway estate around 1763, called Springhill House. This was built with the aim of allowing the Earl a place in Worcestershire where he could retreat from his arduous social and official duties. In 1764 the Earl acquired another new home, Coventry House, in Piccadilly, London.
George William died 3rd September 1809 at Coventry house, aged 87. His body was taken to Croome and is said to have been met at Evesham by a whole body of his tenants. The funeral procession was said to have been 1 mile long. A monument to the Earl was erected in Croome Park, on the jubilee of George III later that year.

Coventry, George William (1758-1831) 7th Earl of Coventry Viscount Deerhurst.
Born 28th April 1758, the son of George William (6th Earl) and his first wife, Maria. He succeeded as Earl of Coventry in 1809, at the age of 51. He eloped to Scotland with Lady Catherine Henley, 4th daughter of Robert Henley, 1st Earl of Northington, a former Lord Chancellor and the last person to hold the title of Lord Keeper (c.1760-79), in late 1776. Upon their return to England his father arranged for the errant couple to be remarried in Worcestershire in 1777. Catherine died in childbirth in 1779 and George William later remarried to Margaret 'Peggy' Pitches, daughter of Sir Abraham Pitches, a wealthy brandy merchant from Streatham, Surrey. Together they had five sons: George William (later 8th Earl of Coventry), John, Thomas Henry, who died an infant, another Thomas Henry (named after his brother who died) and William James, and five daughters: Augusta Margaretta (who later married Sir Willoughby Cotton), Georgiana Catherine, Jane Emily, Barbara and Sophia.
In 1776 George William became an ensign in the 64th Foot Regiment and by 1777 had risen to the rank of lieutenant in the 17th Light Dragoons. Immediately after his first marriage George William set sail to fight in American War of Independence. Only a few weeks after his arrival he sold his commission for £500 and returned home. In 1780 he was tragically blinded in a hunting accident. Around 1800 he purchased an estate at Streatham. Here he had part of the house demolished and commissioned James Wyatt to build him a fashionable villa, later known as Coventry Hall. In 1808 he succeeded his father as Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum for Worcester, and from 1809 served as Recorder of Worcester and High Steward of Tewkesbury.
From the 1820's onwards the 7th Earl's health began to fail. The Countess of Coventry took over responsibility of running the estates. The Earl also gave her control of his bank accounts, an indication that he knew that he would lose control of his mental processes. His physical and mental state declined to a critical level and George William died 26th March 1831.

Coventry, George William (1784-1843) 8th Earl of Coventry Viscount Deerhurst.
Born 16th October 1784, the first son of George William (7th Earl) and his second wife, 'Peggy'. He succeeded as Earl of Coventry in 1831. He married his first wife Emma Susannah Lygon, 2nd daughter of Lord Beauchamp of Madresfield, Worcestershire, in 1808. Together they had one son, George William (Viscount Deerhurst). Emma died only 2 years after their marriage and in 1811 the 8th Earl eloped to Scotland with Lady Mary Beauclerk (1791-1845), only daughter of Aubrey Beauclerk, 6th Duke of St Albans. They remarried on their return to England. George William and Mary together had a daughter, Mary Augusta, and a son, Henry Amelius Beauclerk. Not long after their marriage Mary had affairs with two of George William's younger brothers, amongst others. Newspaper reports on the various affairs of the 8th Earl's wife and the affairs he had in retaliation meant the reputation of the Coventry family had suffered greatly during this period. George William died 15th May 1843 at Coventry House, from an 'unsound mind'.
When the 8th Earl died in 1843, the title went to his grandson, George William, then aged only 5 years old.

Coventry, George William (1808-1838) Viscount Deerhurst.
Born 25 October 1808, the son of George William (8th Earl) and his first wife Emma. In September 1834 he was blinded in a shooting accident at Donnington, just a few miles from Sir Charles Cockerell's new Indian Palace at Seizincote, Gloucestershire. He spent time in Seizincote recovering, where he met Sir Charles's eldest daughter, Harriet Anne Cockerell (1812-42). They became inseparable and decided to marry. In 15 March 1836 they moved into the house at Severn Bank. Together they had a daughter, Maria Emma Catherine (c.1837), and a son, George William (later 9th Earl) in 1838. George William, Viscount Deerhurst, died from consumption on 5th November 1838. His wife Harriet died of consumption at Pau in France, whilst on her way to Lourdes to seek a cure, January 1842.
After the death of Viscount Deerhurst, the title of Earl of Coventry passed on to his son, George William.

Coventry, George William (1838-1930) 9th Earl of Coventry Viscount Deerhurst.
Born 1838, the first son of George William (Viscount Deerhurst) and his wife Harriet Anne Cockerell. After the death of their parents, George William and his sister, Maria Emma Catherine (who later married Gerald Henry Brabazon Ponsonby), were brought up at Seizincote, but they visited Croome regularly. He succeeded as Earl of Coventry in 1843, aged only 5 years old. During his minority his great-uncle William James (fifth son of the 7th Earl and his wife 'Peggy') took responsibility for the estate, with assistance from his guardians and trustees: Richard Temple of the Nash, Kempsey, Worcestershire and his grandfather, Sir Charles Cockerell. When the 9th Earl came of age at 21 he let William James and his wife Mary live at Earls Croome Court rent-free for the rest of their lives.
George William married Lady Blanche Craven (1842-1930), the third daughter of William Craven, 2nd Earl Craven of Combe Abbey, Warwickshire. Together they had five sons: George William, Charles John, Henry Thomas, Reginald William and Thomas George, and three daughters: Barbara Elizabeth, Dorothy and Anne Blanche Alice.
In 1859 George William was elected as president of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). In 1868 he was invited to be the first Master of the new North Cotswold Hunt when the Cotswold Hunt split. He became a Privy Councillor in 1877 and served as Captain and Gold Stick of the Corps of Gentleman-at-Arms from 1877-80. George William served as Chairman of the County Quarter Sessions from 1880-88. From 1886-92 he was honoured with the Mastership of the Queen's Buckhounds, and then again from 1895-1900. He served as Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum of Worcestershire from 1891 onwards. In 1901 he became High Steward of Tewkesbury and was presented with the Freedom of both Tewkesbury and Worcester. He was created Honourable Colonel of the 3rd and 4th Battalions of the Worcestershire Regiment.
In 1891 the 9th Earl bought the fishing lodge called Wardens House, in Leintwardine, Herefordshire. This was a favourite holiday spot for the family and they kept diaries of their time there. It remained a popular retreat for them until 1920, after which the Earl's rheumatism made fishing impossible.
Community was very important to the 9th Earl and his family and they involved themselves in many local affairs. On Christmas Eve every year the Earl and his wife handed out gifts of beef and bread to all the tenants and their children. This was a tradition which marked the start of the Christmas festivities on the estate. In 1890 George William established a jam and pickle factory in a former industrial building near Pershore station. This enabled his tenants to sell their produce at fair market prices, thereby saving the cost of railway carriage and the risk of sending large consignments of perishable goods on long journeys. In 1915 Lady Coventry and their daughters organised a fund-raising concert at Croome in aid of the Red Cross. They were to become absorbed in many fundraising schemes.
The 9th Earl died on 13th March 1930 following an illness that lasted 12 days, aged nearly 92. Three days later his wife Blanche died also. A joint funeral was arranged which was attended by many; they had been married 65 years.

Post - 1930.
Owing to the huge cost of running the estate and the desire of George William, the 9th Earl of Coventry, not to split any part of the estate by selling part of it off to reduce the tax burden, the whole estate was placed in the hands of the Croome Estate Trust in 1921. This is the date up to which the archive collection held at Worcestershire Record Office covers, after this date the records remain at the Croome Estate Trust office in High Green, Severn Stoke.
The 9th Earl's son, George William, Viscount Deerhurst, died 8th August 1927, before he could inherit the title of Earl of Coventry. He was buried at Croome. Upon the death of the 9th Earl in 1930, it was his grandson, George William, who took the title of 10th Earl. The 10th Earl died in battle in Givenchy, France, in 1940 whilst fighting in the Second World War, he was buried there. The death of the 10th Earl effectively brought to a conclusion the association of the Coventry family with Croome Court as it was sold shortly afterwards in 1948.

Custodial History:

The Croome collection - the family and estate archives of the Earls of Coventry - came into public ownership in 2005 as part of the Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) of Tax Scheme, whereby the nation accepts artefacts and cultural assets that are deemed to be of national importance to set against tax liabilities. The collection, which was professionally valued at £436,854, was considered by the Acceptance in Lieu Panel, which is an 'independent body set up in 1992 by the Museums and Galleries Commission, the predecessor of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA)' . The result of the consultation process was that the Panel considered that the archive met the third criterion, namely that the collection is 'of especial importance for the study of some particular branch of art, learning or history' . After agreeing that the archive was in acceptable condition and that it had been fairly valued, the Panel recommended that the offer should be approved. In 2005, on behalf of the Secretary of State, MLA accepted the recommendation. The following year, 2006, after making a case to MLA for custody of this exceptional collection, Worcestershire Record Office (WRO), was identified as its new permanent home.

WRO made its claim to hold this collection because a large portion of the Croome estate properties lay within the county of Worcestershire and it documented the lives of a very prominent local family. It provides an invaluable insight into the history of the county and is a very important resource for researchers. The collection now at the Record Office represents the estate archive up to the year 1921, the year that the estate was placed in the hands of the Croome Estate Trust. The records created after that date remain with the Croome Estate Trust.

The Croome archive is an internationally significant collection that has been created over hundreds of years by the Coventry family and has experienced a complex custodial history. The following outline of that history has been researched through numerous interviews with Jill Tovey, the estate archivist at Croome in whose custody the collection was held for over 20 years before its transfer to Worcestershire Record Office (WRO). Information regarding the collection's time at Birmingham Reference Library has been gleaned from the depositor file held at Birmingham City Archives relating to the collection. A copy of this depositor file was forwarded onto WRO after the transfer of part of the collection from Birmingham to Worcester.

Prior to its transfer to WRO in 2006, the Croome collection was for the most part housed in the family's home of Croome Court, in Croome D'Abitot, Worcestershire. It was stored for many years in the Court where conditions were damp and dirty, and this has caused some considerable damage to parts of the collection. In 1938 parts were sent to Birmingham Reference Library on permanent loan, by permission of George William, 10th Earl of Coventry and facilitated by E.A.B. Barnard, who had held an interest in the collection for many years. The part of the archive on loan was sent in two lots: 'Boxes A to J and a sack' were sent on 14th October 1938, and 'Temporary deeds vols. 1 to 31, boxes W to Z and a cylinder' were sent on 21st October 1938. An estimated total of 25,000 documents went to the Library, including the official papers of Sir Thomas Coventry, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England. It was agreed that the collection would be sorted and catalogued whilst at Birmingham Reference Library (B.R.L); however, a severe shortage of staff resulting from the intervening years of World War Two meant that this work was delayed until after the end of the war.

Upon transfer to B.R.L. three paper baskets full of material, described as 'largely miscellaneous accounts', were destroyed for reasons of very poor condition. For many years the collection was kept in broken wooden boxes and a sack in the new basement at B.R.L. but in September 1947 it was cleaned and re-boxed, using metal trunks. This has caused some of the documents to be affected by patches of rust.

In 1948 work began on the cataloguing of the official papers of Lord Keeper Thomas Coventry, upon the advice of Sir Hilary Jenkinson (1882-1961), Deputy Keeper of the Records at the Public Record Office, and this was completed in 1950. Four boxes of deeds from the collection were also catalogued by B.R.L.

In October 1948, attempts were made by B.R.L. to obtain the parts of the Croome collection which remained with the Croome Estate Trust. The Trustees were unwilling to hand over any further parts of the collection. They deemed that the B.R.L. had done little to increase access to those parts of the collection which they held and decided that more work could be done on it if it was returned to Croome. Consequently, on 28th February 1950 the Croome collection was sent back to the trustees of the estate, under Lt. Col. O.D. Smith, D.L. J.P., Agent and Managing Trustee of the Croome Estate Trust. However, B.R.L. retained the papers of Lord Keeper Coventry and the four boxes of catalogued deeds, because it was argued that as these parcels had been catalogued they now formed part of their Manuscript Collections. The family papers of the Earls of Coventry were never sent to Birmingham; they remained at the estate throughout this entire period as it was felt that they were the personal property of the family and not appropriate for general public access.

During the 1950s the collection in its entirety was moved to the Croome Estate Trust (CET) Office at High Green in Severn Stoke, Worcestershire. Here Lt. Col. O.D. Smith worked on the arrangement of the archive, sorting it into three main sections: family papers (personal correspondence of family members, diaries, photographs, recipe books and the bills and accounts relating to the building and landscaping of the Court and park), estate management papers (rentals, accounts, estate diaries, wage books and papers relating to the running of the estate) and parish boxes (title deeds, leases, manorial documents etc.). Documents were bundled together into parcels which do not reflect the original order of the collection. This is evident from the lists showing the documents sent to B.R.L., which give some indication of their original state (for example, the deeds were kept separately from the manorial items at this point). The work that Col. Smith carried out on the arrangement of the collection means that it is no longer possible to ascertain the original order of the archive, as there is no evidence to indicate the extent of his reordering. Col. Smith compiled a basic list of parts of the collection, though this was not exhaustive. The collection remained in the order imposed by Col. Smith whilst at the CET office until its transfer to WRO in 2006, whereupon WRO maintained the existing order of the records until such time as a thorough examination and sorting of the collection could be carried out.

Col. Smith worked upon the Croome collection for over 5 years until his death. His son (also Col. Smith) followed in his father's footsteps working as trustee for the Croome Estate. Several years later the position of trustee and agent for the estate was split into two separate roles. John Henderson took on the role of agent for the estate, and the archive remained under his management for the next c.30 years, until 1996. Until the late 1980s little time was devoted to the archive owing to the huge task John Henderson faced managing the Croome estate, but limited parts of the archive were available for use by searchers, including the building and furniture bills and some of the papers relating to the estate, such as title deeds and leases. At this time the estate was still somewhat active, so the use of deeds relating to the estate could be expected. The personal family papers were not available for public access. Col. Smith believed that this was a taboo area of the collection and that it would not be proper for people to be allowed access to the personal papers of the Coventry family.

In 1984 Jill Tovey came to the estate office to work on a project involving the estate maps. At this time the archive was stored in the muniment room at the estate office in High Green. The family papers, evidently deemed to be the most important part of the collection, were stored in boxes. Other parts of the collection were bundled into brown paper parcels and stored directly on shelves, with the remaining parts of the collection being stored on open shelves with no protection whatsoever. In 1987, at the suggestion of Jill Tovey, the CET purchased archival quality boxes for the improved storage of the collection. The existing parcels and bundles of documents were transferred to these boxes and then stored on shelving. The order of the items within the bundles was not altered from the work done by Col. Smith. The room in which the boxes were kept was windowless, with a cast iron door. Environmental conditions were controlled by using a dehumidifier and by monitoring the temperature within the room.

In 1987 Jill Tovey was taken on as estate archivist for the CET and continued to work on the Croome collection in this role for the next 20 years. In order to make the collection more accessible to interested researchers Ms Tovey created a box list of key items within the collection, using the reference numbers assigned to the items by Col. Smith as a guide. At this time researchers were able to use the collection, the office being open on allocated days of the week. The collection was stored in the working estate office, so visits were by appointment only and were limited to one or two searchers at a time.

The value of the Croome collection has long been recognised. In 2003 it was assessed by Christies on behalf of MLA and deemed to be of appropriate value to be accepted on behalf of the nation in Lieu of (Inheritance) Tax. At this point a public invitation asked bodies wishing to house the collection to present their case. Given that the information contained within the archive is integral to the history of Worcestershire, WRO expressed great interest. In 2006 WRO was granted permanent allocation of the collection, and on 9th November it was transferred from the Croome estate office to WRO, where it is housed in a high security strongroom that adheres to the standards set out by BS 5454. Funding from MLA has helped to facilitate the current cataloguing project which aims to make this historical collection accessible via an online catalogue for the first time.

MLA's agreement that the whole of the archive should be allocated to WRO included those elements of the collection that had previously been deposited in other repositories. These were: the papers of Thomas Coventry, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England at Birmingham City Archives (formerly Birmingham Reference Library); the papers relating to the Croome estate manors of Wiveliscombe and Fitzhead, which were held at Somerset Record Office; and papers relating to early coal mining in Warwickshire, which were held at Warwickshire Record Office. Whilst Birmingham City Archives did not seek allocation of any of the material, Somerset and Warwickshire both sought to retain the material that had been deposited with them. The National Archives, however, advised the Allocation in Lieu Panel that this represented 'a welcome opportunity to bring all the material back into single ownership and to have it located at a single repository'. It was therefore agreed that all parts of the collection would be united at WRO, on condition that suitable copies of the material would be supplied to the repositories which formerly held some of the material, in order to minimise inconvenience to those used to consulting the material at Birmingham, Somerset and Warwickshire.

Further papers remain in the archives at the Croome Estate office, including original drawings and plans by Robert Adam and James Wyatt, as these were not included as part of the AIL offer. The Croome estate, which is now owned by the Society of Merchant Venturers after its sale by Sun Alliance in 1996, is still a working estate, running to between 7000-8000 acres. All records produced by the estate are transferred to the estate archives at High Green, which also holds all of the Croome archive post-1921, the cut-off date of the collection held at WRO.

Related parts of the Croome Collection have been separated over several centuries and still remain at different repositories throughout England. Thomas Coventry, 2nd Earl of Coventry died in 1710, with his son and successor Thomas dying in 1712. The 2nd Earl's wife, Lady Anne Somerset (4th daughter of Henry Somerset, 1st Duke of Beaufort) lived until 1763, and after the death of her husband and son appears to have taken parts of the Croome Collection to Badminton House, home of the Duke of Beaufort, where they remain to this day. After the death of Gilbert, 4th Earl of Coventry in 1719, his only child Anne, wife of Sir William Carew, 5th Baronet of Antony took parts of the Croome Collection with her to Antony House. Further papers are also held at Gloucestershire Record Office, Longleat House, Alnwick Castle, Oxford University Bodleian Library and the British Library.
Physical DescriptionAccess may be refused to any document which requires conservation or is considered too fragile to be handled.
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