Medieval parchment service book from Rushall, Staffordshire, on display in the Weston Gallery, Lakeside Arts Centre.

November 21, 2013, by Sarah Colborne

Family inheritance on display

Keeper of Manuscripts with the Buchanans

New Keeper of Manuscripts Mark Dorrington with Sir Andrew Buchanan and his son George Buchanan on their visit to Manuscripts and Special Collections

We were delighted to welcome Sir Andrew Buchanan, 5th Baronet, and his son George Buchanan to Manuscripts and Special Collections last week, on Mark Dorrington’s first day as the new Keeper of the Manuscripts at The University of Nottingham.

Over the years the Buchanan family have deposited several significant collections of papers created by ancestors and Mellish family members.  Sir Andrew Buchanan (1st Baronet and diplomat, 1807-1882) married Frances Katharine Mellish in 1839. The Mellish family (originally London merchants) purchased the Blyth estate in north Nottinghamshire, and Hodsock Priory, which later became the main family residence for the Mellish family. Sir Andrew Buchanan, 5th Baronet, inherited Hodsock Priory in 1935  and it remains in the Buchanan family today. It has been transformed into a luxury hotel and wedding venue famous for its snowdrops and woodland walks. Information and historic photographs of the two family seats and biographies of prominent members of the Mellish/Buchanan family are available on our website.

Also available is a guide to the archives of the Mellish and Buchanan families. The papers include medieval deeds, a letter from Napoleon Buonaparte dated 1790, correspondence relating to the American War of Independence, the Peninsular War, and the Franco/Prussian Wars. There is even a collection of meteorological records taken by Colonel Henry Mellish at Hodsock Hall, Nottinghamshire, where a station was maintained from 1875 through to 1925-26.

Meriel Buchanan in nurse's uniform

Meriel Buchanan worked as a nurse in the hospital for wounded Russian soldiers, set up by her mother in St Petersburg, 1914 (from photograph album, Bu B 8/1/43/3)

The current Weston Gallery exhibition at Lakeside Arts Centre ‘Secret Intelligence and Hidden Evidence, Surprising Finds in The University of Nottingham’s Historic Collections’ features items from the Mellish and Buchanan Collections. The 15th century Rushall Psalter, complete with heavy chains, contains surprising survivals of texts by Lydgate and Chaucer, and is protected by curse threatening anyone who might be tempted to remove it!

The ‘Caught in Conflict’ case features an extract from the journal of Meriel Buchanan (1886-1959), the daughter of Sir George Buchanan (1854-1924), who served as the British Ambassador to Russia during the period of First World War and the Russian Revolution. Her diary gives a fascinating view of the life of a young English woman in St Petersburg in the years leading up to the 1914-1918 war.

Early entries in her albums and journals include photographs from sailing trips and articles from magazines showing society banquets, but as war looms, she vents her frustration at her position. Her father insists that she stay indoors in the British Embassy building in St Petersburg, while they wait to see if England would join the war, fearing that locals would stone the building. When war is declared she writes of her intention to go and help at the hospital “…not just play at it, but work seriously in the room where all the poor people come to have their wounds dressed.”

We are extremely grateful to the Buchanan family for entrusting such fascinating items to our care. The exhibition continues until 5th January 2014, and anyone is welcome to come and explore the collections in our reading rooms at King’s Meadow Campus.










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