Bacon, Nicholas, Sir, 1509-1579

Alternative names
Birth 1509-12-28
Death 1579-02-20

Biographical notes:

Lord Keeper of the Great Seal.

From the description of Letter signed : Windsor Castle, to William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester, Lord High Treasurer of England, 1563 Oct. 7. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270135723

Bacon was the Lord Keeper of the Seal (1558-1579) during the reign of Elizabeth I of England. He was the father of the philosopher Francis Bacon.

From the description of [Documents] (Smith College). WorldCat record id: 156790058

These papers "once formed part of the Townshend of Raynham collection, which was summarily listed in the Eleventh Report of the Historical Manuscripts Commission (1887), and later dispersed by sale at Sotheby's and elsewhere" -- Prest, Wilfrid. "An Australian holding of Norfolk manuscripts ... ", Norfolk Archaeology v. 37 (1978), p. 121.

From the description of [Two letters to Lord Burghley] : [contemporary copies referring to lease of Redbourne ...]. [1579] (Libraries Australia). WorldCat record id: 222237297

The Sir Nicholas Bacon Collection contains the muniments of title, court rolls, account rolls, rentals, and other documents which came to Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal under Queen Elizabeth and father of Sir Francis Bacon, when he purchased monastic and other lands in the mid-sixteenth century. While numerous families and properties are represented in the Bacon collection, the great majority of the manuscripts are concerned with the Bacons and their holdings in East Anglia and London. Preserving a fine chronological series of manorial court and account rolls spanning, in certain localities, four centuries, the Bacon collection provides an unusually detailed view of the development of English rural and agricultural society.

Much of the material relates to Redgrave Hall, Sir Nicholas Bacon’s chief seat and a former manorial holding of the Monastery of Bury St. Edmunds. Other lands from the Monastery of Bury St. Edmunds acquired by Sir Nicholas were Rickinghall, Wortham, Hindercley, Burgate, and Gislingham, all in Suffolk. Other properties of the Lord Keeper were Mettingham College, Mellis St. Johns, Wiverston, Brandon, Ingham, Tymworth, Plaford in Barnhams, Bramfelde, Parham and others in Suffolk; Stanforde, Stoddy, Stiffkey and Eccles in Norfolk; Markes in Essex; Cheddar in Somerset; various London properties; Gorhamburie in Hertfordshire; and others. Records of the Gorhamburie estate left to Sir Francis Bacon do not occur in the collection, except for occasional references in the Bacon rolls, nor do any documents occur relating to the philosopher-statesman himself.

The Bacon lands, and therefore the Bacon muniments, increased with the marriage of Sir Nicholas, eldest son of Sir Nicholas the Lord Keeper, to Anne, daughter of the Tudor court physician, Sir William Butts. This marriage brought into Bacon control the Norfolk lands of Thornage, Riborough, Culford, etc., and the lands of Foxerth and Pentlowe in Essex and Reydon in Suffolk. These three latter manors had come to the Butts family by marriages with the Bures family, prominent in East Anglia during the Middle Ages. Reydon had previously come to the Bures family by an early sixteenth century marriage with the Reydon family, so that all three families--Butts, Bures, and Reydon--are well represented in the collection.

Another important part of the collection is the papers of Sir Robert Drury, the younger Sir Nicholas’ son-in-law. Finally there are the title deeds connected with the breakup of the Bacon estates in the later seventeenth century, a disintegration which began with the death of Sir Edmund Bacon, the Lord Keeper’s grandson, in 1649, and some papers of Sir John Holt, Chief Justice of the Kings Bench, who subsequently purchased Redgrave. Numerous other persons, families, and properties are represented in the collection, but this description accounts for the main accumulations. The great majority of the manuscripts are concerned with East Anglia and London.

With the approach of the law of Property Act of 1924, the Holt-Wilson family, descendants of Sir John Holt, placed the above described manuscripts for sale with Bernard Quaritch, Ltd., the London book-seller. The collection was listed in Quaritch catalogue No. 380 (December, 1923) as lots 213 and 214. A list made by the antiquary Edmund Farrer formed the basis for the description in the catalogue. Professor C. R. Baskerville of the University of Chicago English Department persuaded the University to acquire the collection and Martin A. Ryerson generously provided funds for its purchase. Professor John M. Manly, Edith Rickert and Lillian Redstone were active in the purchase negotiations. Portions of the Holt-Wilson collection also were acquired by the British Museum, and by Edmund Farrer. Further information on the provenance of the collection may be found in C.R. Bald, Donne and the Drurys (1959).

The tin muniment boxes formerly used for storage at Redgrave Hall arrived with their contents at the University in 1924, and the work of cataloguing was undertaken by Edith Rickert and other members of the English Department who were working concurrently on the Manly-Rickert edition of the Canterbury Tales and the Chaucer life-records. Nearly all of the deeds had been indexed by Rickert by the time of her death in 1936. After her death the collection saw little use for nearly fifteen years until Professor C. R. Bald of the English Department stumbled on a John Donne holograph while searching for an example of sixteenth century handwriting. This discovery led to revived interest in the collection, several books, Ph.D. dissertations, Master’s theses, and the present catalogue.

From the guide to the Sir Nicholas Bacon Collection of English Court and Manorial Documents, 1200-1785, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)


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  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Stiffkey (England) (as recorded)