Wainwright MSS

In: Fourth Report of the Committee on Devonshire Records. Trans. Devon. Assoc. 1892, Vol XXIV, pp. 68-69.


R W Cotton

Prepared by Michael Steer

The report, read at the Association's July 1892 Plymouth meeting refers to manuscripts relating to Devonshire held by Association member Mr Thomas Wainwright, described as “the well-known Librarian and Curator of the North Devon Athenaeum”, whose obituary appeared in Devon & Cornwall Notes & Queries vol. 9, no. 3, (1916) pp.68-69. In 1872, Mr Wainwright was appointed head master of Barnstaple's ancient Grammar School and retired from that position in 1890, when he became Librarian of the Barnstaple Athenaeum. It was in this capacity that he is best remembered. In addition to his great knowledge of local history and topography, he was much interested in botany and meteorology and took a prominent part in church affairs. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

1. There is in the possession of Thomas Wainwright, Esq., head master of the Barnstaple Grammar School, a complete transcript, methodically arranged and written with his own hand, of the voluminous parish registers of Barnstaple, from their beginning in 1538 down to the end of the year 1837. The not unusual hiatus occurs in these entries during the period of the Great Civil War, of which the following note is made in the original register-book:

"The regester of the Towne and Burrough of Barnestaple by the cause of the troubles and the contagion was not kept for Bapt. from the year anno 1642 till the year anno 1647." There is also wanting: Baptisms, 30 Nov. 1557 to 29 Nov. 1559.

There are several interesting original notes on current events interspersed.

2. Mr. Wainwright has also calendared the whole of the existing ancient municipal records of the borough of Barnstaple, which are now deposited in the MS. room of the North Devon Athenaeum. The earliest of these records is of the date A.D. 1311. The calendar runs to no less than 4881 articles, comprising, besides the very large number of documents of local interest, many of general historical value.

3. Among the records mentioned in the preceding paragraph is (No. 4147) a fragment of the original Register of the old Court of Probate of the Archdeacon of Barum, extending from 1573 to 1586 inclusive, which has been separately transcribed by Mr. Wainwright. It contains an account of upwards of two thousand wills, the parish of the testator in each case being given. (B. W. C.)