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William Law Phelps papers

Identifier: MS-HUT-008

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Scope and Contents

This collection is formed by the legal papers (1741-1840) of William Law Phelps and other solicitors who were associated in a legal practice in Evesham, England. The papers are bound into 15 volumes without any apparent chronological or subject order. Despite the absence of a precise order, the papers are a good representation of the work of an English country solicitor in the nineteenth century.

The bulk of the material is in the form of correspondence (1803- 1834) addressed to Phelps or jointly to Phelps and an associate solicitor:Phelps & (Edward) Savage, 1812-1820; Phelps & (Thomas) Blaney, 1803- 1816; Phelps & (Samuel) Kinsey, 1816-1822; Phelps & (George) Best, 1827-1831; Phelps & Smith, 1833; and Phelps & (Samuel) Amos, 1811-1834. Interfiled with the correspondence are receipts, notes, bills, and a few small account books.

Although the bulk of the material in this collection involves Phelps, the contents establish that Thomas Blaney preceeded Phelps as solicitor in Evesham. An early associate of Blaney was Mr. Welch. (See V. 2) It is likely that Phelps and Blaney became associated around 1803. Some complaints and testimony are dated from the 18th century (1740-1799) and form part of the material specific to Thomas Blaney or to Blaney and Welch. Included are marriage and baptismal records from a parish church in Quinton, 1758; certificates for the British Tontine (1792-1793); rent receipts and transactions for Thomas Rous (1741-1764).

Between 1760 and 18l5, thousands of acres of common agricultural fields and pastures were converted into individual holdings during the enclosure movement in England. Since the law practice of Phelps and and his associates was located in an agricultural area, some of their work involved settling land disputes resulting from enclosure. (See V.6, 1799-1825 and V.7, 1800- 1822.) Another case of several years duration concerned the Bredon estates in Worcestershire. (See V. 9, 1806-1821.)

Subjects of other cases include collection of accounts, rents, dissolution of partnerships, settling estates, tresspass, and foreclosures. Some of the complaints demonstrate how highly regarded the countryside was held by the local people. One notice included in V. 2, 1758-1822 asks for information concerning the defacement of a brook called Twyning Cowpasture brook.

Members of an Evesham merchant family named Goore were clients of Phelps for many years. Included at the back of most of the volumes are bills from tea dealers, paper makers, tobacconists, snuff makers, and dye makers addressed to Francis and later, Thomas Goore.

After 1834, the correspondence is addressed to Samuel Amos, and deals primarily with settling estates. The final item relates to the estate of William Balden and is dated 1840.


  • Creation: 1741 - 1840


Biographical Note

William Law Phelps was a solicitor in Evesham, a market town in Worcestershire, England. Evesham is located on the north bank of the Avon River in what is known as the Vale of Evesham, a district which is mainly agricultural. Biographical information of William Law Phelps has not been found, but his legal papers indicate he was engaged in a law practice from at least 1803 to 1834. During this period he was associated with other solicitors including Thomas Blaney, Samuel Kinsey, George Best, Samuel Amos, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Savage.


4.13 Cubic Feet (3 record center cartons, 1 letter size document box) : 15 volumes

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers of William Law Phelps were formerly part of the Peabody Institute Archives. They were transferred to Special Collections, January 1990. The accession number is 89-90.37.

Related Materials

Of related interest is a collection on deposit at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. The papers of Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), an English antiquary and collector of rare manuscripts, include material of William L. Phelps from the same period.

Processing Information

For purposes of description, the volumes have been loosely arranged in chronological order and artificially assigned a volume number.

Joan Grattan
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA