The Croome collection – the archive of the Earls of Coventry – came into public ownership in 2005 as part of the Acceptance in Lieu of Inheritance Tax Scheme, whereby the nation accepts valuable assets to set against tax liabilities. In 2006, after making a case to the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) for housing the collection, Worcestershire Record Office was identified as its new permanent home. A project is currently underway to catalogue the collection according to the International Standard for Archival Description (ISAD(G), making it fully accessible to the public for the first time.
The Croome Collection takes its name from Croome Court in Croome D’Abitot, Worcestershire, the seat of the Coventry family from the 1592 until 1948. It is an internationally significant archive that has been created over hundreds of years by the Coventry family and their estate. The archive includes substantial runs of papers relating to the estates of the family, including plans, rentals, deeds and correspondence. It also includes unique records relating to the building, decoration and furnishing of Croome Court and the creation and development of the parkland surrounding it, which was Lancelot "Capability" Brown’s first complete landscape work.
In 1948 work began to catalogue the official papers of Lord Keeper Thomas Coventry. This was completed in 1950. Four boxes of deeds from the collection were also catalogued. Although attempts were made by Birmingham Reference Library to attain the other existing parts of the Croome collection, in 1950 the Trustees of the Croome Estate requested that the material be returned back to the estate office. The collection was returned to the Croome Estate Trust on 28th February 1950, although Birmingham Reference Library retained the papers of Lord Keeper Coventry and the four boxes of catalogued deeds.
During the 1950’s Lt. Col. O.D. Smith, D.L. J.P., Agent and Managing Trustee of the Croome Estate Trust worked on the arrangement of the archive, sorting it into 3 main sections: family papers (personal correspondence of family members, diaries, photographs, recipe books and the bills and accounts relating to the building and landscaping of the Court and park), estate management papers (rentals, accounts, estate diaries, wage books and papers relating to the running of the estate) and parish boxes (title deeds, leases, manorial documents etc.). During the 1980’s work was done on the collection, storing it in archival quality boxes and creating box lists to help navigation around the collection. The collection remained in this order until its transfer to Worcestershire Record Office in November 2006.
The archive was professionally valued and upon consideration that it met the third criterion of the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme, that is to say that it is of ‘of especial importance for the study of some particular branch of art, learning or history’, the collection was accepted to settle £436,854 of tax. An invitation was put out to tender for interested bodies that may wish to house the collection. Owing to the fact that the information contained within the collection is integral to Worcestershire history, Worcestershire Record Office expressed great interest in the collection and was granted permanent allocation of the collection. On 9th November 2006 the collection was transferred from the Croome estate office to Worcestershire Record Office. The collection held at Worcestershire Record Office covers the estate archive up to the year 1921, the year that the estate was placed in the hands of the Croome Estate Trust. Records created after this date remain with the Croome Estate Trust.
Here are the key members of the Coventry family who created the archives:
|Sir Thomas Coventry (1547–1606) Sir Thomas Coventry (1578-1640) 1st Baron of Allesborough, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England|
(1) Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), Acceptance in Lieu Report 2005/06, (MLA), 2006 ISBN 1-905867-00-X
(2) Gordon, Catherine, The Coventrys of Croome, (Phillimore), 2000, ISBN 1860771394