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Estate Collections

Explore – Discover – Unravel

The extent and diversity of the historical resources which can support and inspire research into Welsh estates is substantial. And yet, our understanding of this corpus of evidence is very much in its infancy - with much to explore, discover and unravel!

Inspiration from the Archives

Many landed families have deposited collections of papers relating to the development and management of their estates in archives and record offices.  There is a tendency to characterise these collections as piles of ‘dusty old deeds’, but their contents can be fascinating - shedding light on an array of themes and issues.

The chronological, geographical and subject scope of collections can be extraordinarily broad and diverse, with materials ranging from the medieval period to the present. You never know what you might discover in an estate collection and the individual character of each is determined by the innovations, interests and identity of the family, estate and locality to which they relate. 

However, some of the most common material types include:

  • rentals, inventories, leases, conveyances, maps, plans, surveys and valuations
  • bills, receipts and account books
  • manorial, tithe and enclosure records
  • pedigree rolls, last will and testaments and marriage settlements
  • industrial, railway and mineral records
  • correspondence, journals and diaries
  • documents relating to local governance and politics
  • medieval manuscripts, Welsh poetry and early printed books

Bangor University Archives and Special Collections hosts one of the most significant corpuses of family and estate collections in all of Wales. Other important repositories include the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth and each of Wales’ county archives and record offices. Other collections are still in the possession of their parent family or estate. Useful summaries of individual collections and general information about their content and location can be found on the Archives Wales website. Most repositories have detailed catalogues of their collections, which are increasingly available online.

Architecture, image, landscape and memory

Welsh estates have also left their physical mark on the landscape, through architecture, in a host of visual and material artefacts and in the memories of tenants, employees and farmers. Wales’ country houses, together with their contents (whether they still be in private ownership or in the custodianship of bodies such as the National Trust or National Museum of Wales) represent fertile territory for innovative interdisciplinary research.  Portraits and artwork, heraldic displays, inscriptions, furniture, libraries, heirlooms and buildings can reveal much about the cultural outlook of estate owners.

The remnants of estate architecture and landscapes can be found in almost every corner of Wales – rural and urban. An estate’s architectural influence often spread to farms and stables, lodges and gatehouses, cottages, villages and towns, churches and chapels, bridges and mills and a whole range of industrial works. Likewise, their influence is etched in the landscape in the layout and arrangement of parks, gardens, woodlands, fields, trees, heritage sites, watercourses, walls and boundaries.  All of these features have extensive research potential.

ISWE is also keen to add to the existing body of resources relating to Welsh estates, principally by capturing and preserving the memories of the many individuals who have experience of living or working on Welsh estates.

University Collections

Bangor University’s Archives and Special Collections Team is responsible for the preservation and promotion of the University’s estate collections. The collections provide an outstanding basis for research and our aim is to ensure that their vast potential is fully unlocked.

The collections cover most parts of north Wales and relate to some of the region’s most influential families and estates, with principal estate collections including:

The collections are open for researchers, students and members of the public to explore and can be consulted in the Archives and Special Collections reading room where you can browse detailed hard-copy catalogues of the estate collections. This information is gradually being incorporated into an online catalogue. Please click here for visitor information.

If you have material relating to a Welsh estate that you would like to deposit in the Archives, please contact the University Archivist.

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