Fonds ENF - Correspondence and Papers of the Enfield family, once of Norwich, Nottingham and London

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Correspondence and Papers of the Enfield family, once of Norwich, Nottingham and London


  • 1770s-c 1955 (Creation)

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14 boxes

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Received by the Norfolk Record Office on 7 July 2000 (ACC 2000/73). Catalogued July 2015 (JHA).

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This collection consists largely of the papers and correspondence of the descendants of the Revd Dr William Enfield, the Unitarian minister, from the 1770s to the twentieth century. William Enfield was minister of the Octagon Chapel, Norwich, from 1785 until his death in 1797. Two of his sons were town clerks of Nottingham, his grandson Edward was one of the moneyers of the Mint, and a noted philanthropist. All generations of the Enfields were deeply involved in philanthropy which evolved from support for the poor during the Napoleonic wars, to education and social housing in Nottingham and London in the Victorian era, and to Toynbee Hall and the Women's Co-operative movement in the 20th century. They were also keenly interested in science and technology. Their Unitarianism remained strong, and they married into, or were friends with many of the leading Unitarian families in England - Aikin, Barbauld, Taylor, Kinder, Martineau, Roscoe, Lawford, Madge and Sharpe.

Several groups of correspondence are of particular interest. The largest is the letters of Fanny, wife of Harry Enfield (1775-1845), to her sister-in-law, Eliza Kinder. These, which run from 1800-1841, give a detailed account of life in a middle-class household in Nottingham, with interesting and frank advice about childcare, home nursing, diet, clothing, and much comment on local and national affairs. The Enfields became friends with the Huishes, a wealthy and glamorous couple. Mark Huish was a manufacturer and deputy lieutenant, but his nature was highly volatile and following the deaths of many members of his family culminating in that of his wife in childbirth in 1814, he fell into an almost catatonic state of depression from which he did not recover until 1829. The whole of his illness is chronicled in great detail by Fanny who felt grief at his decline but also irritation at his selfishness and lack of care for his children.

Two of Harry and Fanny's daughters, Maria and Anna Enfield, married brothers: John Withers Dowson and Septimus Dowson. Family relationships became complex when Maria and Anna's youngest brother, Richard Enfield (1817-1904), married his sisters' niece Mary Dowson (1827-1884), who to the amusement of the family became sister-in-law to her aunts. Mary's father was Henry Gibson Dowson of Geldeston (1798-1876), a wealthy brewer, and her mother Mary Pendlebury Houghton was the daughter of the Revd Pendlebury Houghton (1758-1824), who was a Unitarian minister at Norwich and Liverpool. The Enfield/Dowson marriage accounts for the presence in this collection of letters of Pendlebury Houghton and many of his Dowson descendants. There is a large correspondence between Mary Dowson and her daughter Mary Enfield which touches on the failure of the brewery in 1857 and the disastrous effect it had on the careers and prospects of the younger Dowson boys.

Edward Enfield (1811-1880), son of Harry and Fanny Enfield, married first, Honora Taylor, whose father and brother were mining engineers, and who were descended from the Taylors of Norwich, another prominent Unitarian family; his second wife Harriet Roscoe was descended from William Roscoe of Liverpool, a notable Unitarian, and through her mother she was a great-granddaughter of William Enfield. These marriages account for the presence in this collection of small groups of Taylor and Roscoe papers.

Other small groups worthy of note are Dr Enfield's letters about the engagement of his son Harry to Rachel Gurney in 1796 which was broken off because of the disapproval of her father, John Gurney of Earlham; letters from John Aikin (1747-1822), physician and writer, to Anna Fletcher, Dr Enfield's elder daughter; letters about Travers Madge, known as the 'Protestant Poor Friar', a childhood friend of both the Enfields and Dowsons, and a religious eccentric; letters of Philip Dowson who worked in America and Japan after the collapse of his father's brewing business; letters from Douglas Lawford, brother in law of Ernest Enfield (1849-1925), about the fortune he expected to make from the sub-marine telegraphic cable to the Cape, and his pressing need for money in the meantime; letters from the family of Italo Giglioli, agricultural chemist, with whom Ernest Enfield's daughters Nora and Joyce spent a holiday in 1914, and found themselves detained in Italy for ten weeks by the start of the Great War; letters and papers of Ernest's son Sir Ralph Roscoe Enfield (1885-1973), agriculturalist and civil servant, and papers of his wife Doris, Lady Enfield, about broadcasting.

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