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This collection of Eyre family correspondence was presented to the Library in April 1974 by Pauleen, Lady Chapman, in accordance with the wishes of her late step-sister Mrs A. M. H. Westland. Mrs Westland is understood to have worked on the present collection in her spare time, and she was aware that an important group of papers relating to the Thornton family - closely related to, and neighbours of the Eyres - had recently been deposited in the Library (Add. MS 7674). She appears to have inherited the papers from her sister-in-law Miss Mildred Westland, but it has not proved possible to trace any earlier reference to this material.

The Eyre correspondence complements both the Thornton papers, and also the papers of William Smith MP and his family (Add. MS 7621). Together these holdings illustrate the activities of the so-called Clapham Sect, a group of prosperous, evangelical families which flourished in South London at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Add. 7961 consists, with few exceptions, of two sets of correspondence. The first is that of Elizabeth Eyre, younger daughter of Charles Eyre of Clapham (1732-94), the second that of George Edward Eyre (1804-87), eldest son of Elizabeth's only surviving brother, George. Elizabeth's papers include many lengthy letters from her brother, and a similar number from her sister Maria, who made an unhappy marriage to the ultimately-bankrupted MP Robert Thornton. George Edward Eyre's correspondence includes a series of letters from his father advising him upon his studies at Oriel College, Oxford and at Lincoln's Inn during the 1820s, and also letters from his business partner William Spottiswoode relating to the fortunes of the publishing firm Eyre & Spottiswoode during the 1840s and 1850s. A few papers of George Eyre, and of George Edward's son George Edward Briscoe Eyre, complete the collection. The latter shed some light on attempts made during the Great War to preserve the New Forest from short-term military development.

The collection consists of some 250 items, and is open for consultation in the Manuscripts Reading Room by all holders of full Library reader's tickets. A catalogue is available on the ArchiveSearch database, whilst a hard-copy cataloue is held in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Contact: Department of Manuscripts (01223 333147;