Durham Cathedral Library Collection Description
Collection Level Description: William Longstaffe Manuscripts
Collection name: William Longstaffe Manuscripts
Collection code: GB-0036-LON
Date range: mid to later 19th century
Extent: 157 volumes and 9 boxes, 6.6 linear metres
Created by: William Hylton Dyer Longstaffe (1826-1898), creator (Dyer was added later in life)
A well-organised antiquarian's collection on a great variety of topics concerning the history and antiquities of Co Durham, and Darlington and Gateshead in particular. It comprises 2 sequences - quarto and octavo - of files arranged alphabetically by topic and including letters to Longstaffe with carbons of his replies, also notes, drawings, sketches, printed articles and notices, newspaper cuttings, prints and photographs. There are also papers on the controversial removal of the palatinate archives from Durham to London. Following the main alphabetical sequences are particular groups of material on such as coins and seals, Durham Dean and Chapter leaseholds, ecclesiastical history, Durham records and Durham heraldry. In addition there are outsize boxes of drawings, sketches, prints and illustrations for Surtees's History of Durham.
About the creator:
Born in Norton near Stockton in 1826, Longstaffe was deprived of a full education by his father's early death in 1842. He had to earn a living as a solicitor's clerk first in Thirsk and then Darlington from 1845. His early antiquarian interests were encouraged by Robert Henry Allan and Francis Mewburn which led to his History of Darlington appearing in parts from 1848 until its completion in 1854. He was skilled at drawing and emblazoning as well as writing, and brought a lighter, more narrative approach to his articles that appeared regularly in the St James's Magazine. In 1850 he moved to the town clerk's office in Gateshead and became a solicitor in the practice of Mr Kell. A particular professional concern was the cause of Durham Dean and Chapter's leaseholders against their new landlords the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, eventually winning 999 year leases for them. He also became involved in various official and administrative roles within Gateshead.
As an antiquarian, he contributed regularly to Archaeologia Aeliana and wrote on local institutions for the Gateshead Observer. He also edited various volumes for the Surtees Society and helped to establish the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland in 1861, often being prominent as a guide on visits. Interests in history and biography predominated, but he also had a great knowledge of coins and medals, on which he published various articles in the Numismatic Chronicle. He had been bequeathed £1000 by Robert Henry Allan in 1879 to complete Surtees's History of Durham but he considered the legacy inadequate and the work was not undertaken. Illness reduced his activities and his publications until his death in 1898. He had added "Dyer" to his names later in life in honour of his poet ancestor.
Location of originals:
The collection includes his transcriptions of the Littleburn deeds in Durham Uuniversity Library ASC SGD 54.
Open for consultation.
Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Librarian (e-mail Library@durhamcathedral.co.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.
Related collections elsewhere:
2 manuscript volumes previously owned by him are in Durham University Library ASC Add Ms 190 and Gibson 3.
Obituary by R. Welford in Archaeologia Aeliana xx (1899) p.1-12.
Date last modified: 8 July 2010