Rare insight on Regency Richmond

Insights into political and social life in Regency England from the ancient borough of Richmond in North Yorkshire to the royal court during the “madness of King George” are recorded in a collection of private papers acquired by the North Yorkshire County Record Office.

The papers consist of letters and other documents written by and to the holders of the Dundas and Zetland titles and their families between 1764 and 1820.

The 300 papers relate to the affairs of Sir Lawrence Dundas, his son Thomas Dundas, first Baron Dundas of Aske, and his grandson Lawrence Dundas, the first Earl of Zetland.

The family lived at Aske Hall, north of Richmond, and took a keen interest in the political life of the nation.

Sir Thomas, who was born in 1741 and died in 1820, was the MP for Richmond, and an associate of the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York.

The main Dundas archive was deposited with the County Record Office in 1965, but an important group of papers had become separated and its whereabouts remained unknown until the documents were offered to the office by a private dealer.

With the help of a £1,000 grant from the Friends of National Libraries and £2,000 from the Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, the Record Office has now added this important addition to its archives, for all to see.

“This remarkable collection of documents will be of enormous value to people with many different and varied historical interests,” said County Councillor Chris Metcalfe, Executive Member for Library and Community Services.

“As well as chronicling the affairs of a leading Yorkshire family, they give us an insight into attitudes and behaviour at an extremely important moment in the nation’s affairs – the Regency crisis of 1788-89.

“We are very grateful to the Friends of the National Libraries and the V and A for their financial assistance in securing this collection for the benefit of all.”

The principal seat of the Dundas family, Aske Hall, near Richmond, North Yorkshire, was purchased by Sir Lawrence Dundas (1721-1781) in 1762, the same year in which he was appointed a baronet.

Descended from a Scottish family, Sir Lawrence had made his fortune as an army contractor, being particularly successful during the Seven Years War.

One letter talks of the sugar plantation in Grenada.