Historic letter found at Boughton House

4th July, 2013

A Boughton House tour guide that taught himself to type in order to transcribe almost 500 letters dating back to the 1700s has had his work published in a history book on Northamptonshire.

Alan Toseland, a Northampton historian, began his pursuit of the county’s past when he stumbled on a box of letters dating back to 1709. Intrigued by the content he approached the late Duke of Buccleuch to inform him of his findings and was given the opportunity to go through the Estate’s archives of letters sent from the time of John, 2nd Duke of Montagu.

Taking almost five years, and tasked with learning how to type, Alan began the painstaking task of transcribing each of the 450 letters that threw light on life at Boughton and the surrounding areas from 1709-1739.

The letters illustrate some of the interests of John, 2nd Duke of Montague from genealogy of his own family and his keenness to reassert some of his ancestral rights, all the way to his financial problems.

Alan Toseland says: “I’m delighted that my years of transcribing these wonderful letters have finally come to fruition, resulting in a book that gives a fascinating insight into what life was like in the early eighteenth century. It’s been a labour of love and I would like to thank many people for their support throughout this long journey, particularly the Duke and her Grace for their continued encouragement. As a Northampton boy born and bred, this project has combined my passion for history as well as my love for my county and I hope people get much enjoyment from reading the stories.”

The book introduces a number of characters that were vital to the Estate’s running and who dealt with problems such as poaching and the fire at Wellingborough. The letters show that gossip was rife back then particularly from the Rev Charles Lamotte, who began working at the Estate as the Duke’s eyes and ears, but lost his position after incessantly gossiping about the newly appointed Land Agent, Elis Walter.

The Duke of Buccluech comments: “Long overlooked in the archives of Boughton these documents see the light of day thanks to the tenacity and vision of one man, Alan Toseland. As an eminent local historian, his informed transcription of near 450 handwritten papers has given depth of characters not only of my forbearers but many in the county and beyond with whom they had relationships and did business.
Often these documents quite change our view of them. What they got up to at time provokes smiles, at others grimaces, with detail on everything from large property transactions to the safe delivery of John Montagu’s dog Harlakin to London, casting new light. Be it the brewing of beer, the blackened faces of poachers, how deep the canals should be dug, it is fresh as if it was happening yesterday.”

Detailing the Duke John’s life in London and the politics of the time, including a trial of a local man convicted of murdering his wife that lead to his hanging, the book details the fascinating insights to the goings on in England over 300 years ago.
The book has been published and edited by the Northamptonshire Record Society. The Society, which was set up in 1920, preserves and publishes the records of the county, with 46 volumes published to date.

For more information please visit www.northamptonshirerecordsociety.org.uk. For more information on Boughton House visit www.boughtonhouse.org.uk

Issued by Beattie Communications on behalf of Buccleuch Group
For further information please contact:
Victoria Andersen
020 7053 6006