Sneyd family papers

email: Helen Burton -      tel: +44 (0)1782 733237

Of particular significance to local historians are the papers of the Sneyd family of Keele, which are complemented by our Knight and Sons archive. The papers comprise muniments of title, manorial, estate, legal and business records, a quantity of music and watercolour and pencil sketches. However, it is the correspondence which is perhaps of greatest significance. The earliest letter written in about the second quarter of the 16th century by one 'Harry Delves' (probably Sir Henry Delves of Doddington) to Richard Sneyd (d. 1537) concerns buying land at Keele.

Sneyd family correspondence

As one would expect, it is the nineteenth century correspondence which survives in the greatest volume. There are series of letters of Walter Sneyd (1752-1829) and his wife Louisa (1764-1834) and of their children Ralph (1793-1870), Walter (1809-1888), Harriet (1796-1867), Elizabeth (1806-1869), Charlotte Augusta (1800-1882) and Frances (1798-1884). The very existence of these large groups of letters from the nineteenth century tells us something about the writers, their relationships with each other and about the social functions of a correspondence. Of particular importance in this context is the correspondence between Ralph Sneyd (1793-1870) and his friend Henry William Vincent (1796-1865) and that between Robert Curzon (1810-1873) and the Rev. Walter Sneyd (1809-1888).

A further miscellaneous group of letters includes a series concerned with Irish affairs. This comprises 40 letters (1784-1801) from John Fitzgibbon, 1st Earl of Clare to William Eden, 1st Lord Auckland and 72 letters (1784-1802) to William Eden from Irish correspondents such as John Beresford, Edward Cooke, John Forster and John Lees and from British politicians such as Pitt and Lord Hobart. A detailed calendar of this correspondence can be found below.

In 1977 the Sneyd papers were supplemented by the purchase of miscellaneous family papers and approximately 150 diaries of the Sneyd's of Ashcombe, near Leek, in particular William Sneyd (1767-1851), Penelope Sneyd (nee Holley) (d.1849), Revd. John Sneyd (1798-1873) and Susanna Ingleby (nee Sneyd) (d.1891).

The material is owned by Keele, is mostly listed, and there are no restrictions on access.

Sneyd correspondence handlist, PDF (19,733 KB)

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Sneyd estate papers

A large number of papers in the archive relate to the administration of the Sneyd estates, including their local mining interests, although unfortunately the archive includes few estate maps. The manorial content of the Sneyd archive dates from the early fourteenth century and includes a sequence of Keele court rolls and Tunstall court rolls.

Sneyd Pictorial Material

The Sneyd accumulation is enhanced by over 1,000 watercolours and pencil sketches executed by the family and others, depicting their friends, homes and travels. The most talented artists in the family were undoubtedly Walter Sneyd (1809-1888) and his sister Charlotte Augusta. Walter's comic illustrated Portraits of the Spruggins Family, a collaborative effort with the Countess Morley, was published privately in 1829 - Walter's own copy is in the archive. In 1984 a descendent of the Sneyd family donated to the library a copy of a previously unknown work by Walter, an illustrated collection of limericks dedicated without permission to Edward Lear and entitled Bosh (1876). Charlotte Augusta Sneyd was a proficient watercolourist, particularly skilled at catching a likeness and depicting interiors. Her finest piece surviving at Keele is a panorama of Almack's assembly rooms in St. James's London. This was executed in 1819-20 and depicts 154 identified figures on a rolled frieze measuring 80" in length and 10" in width, with an accompanying key in Charlotte's hand. She and her friends were also responsible for a volume entitled The Winds (1824), a collection of amusing drawings on various aspects of the title. Both the manuscript and the printed version are held at Keele.

The drawing room at Cheverells, Hertfordshire, c.1840, watercolour by Charlotte Augusta Sneyd [SW 3] Drawing Room at Cheverells, Hertfordshire (c.1835) Watercolour by Charlotte Augusta Sneyd.