In this blog, Archivist Liz Grant, explains how to access the vast and fascinating archive of the Luttrell family – former owners of Dunster Castle – and selects some of the stand-out documents from the collection.
A Rich and Complex Collection
The Luttrell family archive, as the second largest family estate collection housed at the Somerset Heritage Centre, contains a wealth of documents relating to the family’s lives and their estate holdings across West Somerset and South Devon. It can be a complex collection to understand, a complexity which has been exacerbated by the historic cataloguing of the collection.
The Luttrell family archive was catalogued whilst housed at Dunster Castle, and these catalogues still form the basis for the present-day organisation of the collection. The catalogue falls into four sections:
Medieval estate papers, deeds and manorial rolls
DD/L/P: This section contains the medieval estate papers, deeds and manorial rolls for the Dunster Castle estates. These papers were catalogued by William Prynne (English lawyer, author, polemicist, and political figure), who was imprisoned at Dunster Castle between 1649-1651.
Post-medieval records and other estates
DD/L/1 and DD/L/2: These sections relate to Muniment Room 1 (DD/L/1) and Muniment Room 2 (DD/L/2), which are the rooms in which they were stored at Dunster Castle, and which can still be seen when visiting the National Trust property. The papers were organised and listed at Dunster Castle by Sir Henry Maxwell Lyte in the late 19th century. Muniment Room 1 contains the post-medieval records relating to Dunster Castle, and the Carhampton and Minehead estates. Muniment Room 2 contains records relating to other Somerset estates, followed by other family records such as legal papers and correspondence, and then by the Devon and Dorset estate papers.
18th-20th century estate, family and household papers
DD/L/3: This is an artificial arrangement imposed during our re-cataloguing which begun in autumn 2018 and relates to c. 150 boxes of archives which fall outside of Prynne’s classification and the Muniment Room arrangement. This section was briefly listed in 1957-8 by the National Register of Archives, whilst at Dunster Castle, and contains mainly 18th-20th century estate, family and household papers, along with earlier deeds for the Devon and Dorset estates of the Fownes and Rose families, which came though inter-marriage to the Luttrells.
The Prynne section, Muniment Room 1 and the first half of Muniment Room 2, were re-catalogued when housed at the Somerset Record Office by two dedicated volunteers. Our re-cataloguing of the archive began from where the volunteers ended, and we have started to uncover the secrets which have lain hidden in the rows of archive boxes. However, with it being such a large, complex collection it may take us several years to complete the task so bear with us!
Access the catalogues
The catalogues can be found on our website: https://somerset-cat.swheritage.org.uk/records/DD/L