The Fitzwilliam Family of Malton Archive: 1593-1956

By Gail Falkingham, Record Assistant

For anyone studying the history of Malton, the collections of the North Yorkshire County Record Office contain a variety of records which provide information on the town, its buildings and inhabitants over the past four hundred years.

One of the largest collections relating to Malton is the Fitzwilliam archive [ref: ZPB], which spans the period 1593-1956. The archive contains a varied collection of material, from the earliest rentals of 1593, through to Estate insurance records of 1956. These records can be used to explore a number of aspects of Malton’s history including the growth of the town and its population, the occupants and tenants of houses, shops and other businesses, the history of particular buildings and aspects of life in the town in the 18th and 19th centuries.

ZPB I 7-13 Box 27 [29] Title deed for a burgage house and garth in Yorkersgate, Malton, purchased by Sir William. Strickland from Hebblethwaite, dated 29 Nov 1599

Historical Background to the Fitzwilliam archive

The manors of Old and New Malton were purchased from the heirs of the Eure family by the Hon. Thomas Wentworth in 1713, and additional burgages were acquired over the next ten years. The estate was further enlarged by his son, Sir Thomas Watson Wentworth, who was created Lord Malton in 1728, Earl of Malton in 1733 and 1st Marquess of Rockingham in 1746. The family seat was Wentworth Woodhouse, near Rotherham in South Yorkshire. His son Charles Watson Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham, was Prime Minister between 1765 and 1766 and again in 1782.

Charles’ sister, Lady Anne Watson-Wentworth, married the third Earl Fitzwilliam, Viscount Milton in 1744. Their son William, the fourth Earl Fitzwilliam, inherited the Malton estate, as well as the family seats of Wentworth Woodhouse and Milton Hall near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, and took the additional surname Wentworth. The earldom passed to their descendants, who continued to purchase property in Old and New Malton between 1788 and 1893, culminating with the tenth Earl, William Thomas George Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, who died in 1979. 

Overview of the collection

Spanning the period covered by this collection, there are title deeds for properties bought and sold, and a wealth of other papers, bills and correspondence relating to the running of the Estate and changes in tenancies. The majority of this material dates from the 18th and 19th centuries, after the initial purchase of land and property in Malton made by Thomas Wentworth in 1713.

One of the earlier items within the estate records is a 1625-6 survey of Malton, Welham and Easthorpe Park by Salomon Swale. This handwritten book contains information on the names of those associated with various pieces of land, described as furlongs and oxgangs, with the respective measurements of area recorded in acres, roods and perches.

William Copperthwaite, agent for the Fitzwilliam Estate in the second half of the 19th century, appears in much of the correspondence within the archive, as does his predecessor William Allen. Here we can see a letter to William Copperthwaite from Mr Wilson of the Glass, China and Earthenware Warehouse, Yorksersgate, Malton, dated 14th October 1871. This concerns works to the Talbot Hotel, including cleaning out of the spouts and the painting of doors and windows, all for the sum of twenty pounds.

ZPB III 9-19

The archive contains records of a number of churches and chapels in Malton, as well as material relating to the civil parish and Borough, schools, trade and communications, societies and institutions.

Image top left: ZPB III 8-10 Pages from an ‘Inventory of fixtures &c in and about The Lodge, Malton’ dated 10th October 1800

Image bottom left: ZPB IX 1/2/1 Plan of National School Premises, New Malton by C.H. Channon, architect, dated March 1891

Image right: ZPB VIII 5/1 Ground Plan of a Poor House, Malton by William Exley, approved 22 May 1789

Local transport features in the collection, including the Derwent Navigation, railways and turnpike roads. There are records relating to a number of local organisations, including the Malton Hunt and Malton Races, the Old Malton Association for the Prosecution of Felons, and Malton Brewery.

One of these organisations, the Union Society, was “begun the 10th October 1765 at the dwelling house of John Walkington at the sign of the Blue Ball in New Malton”. Their first rule: “That the Intention of this Society is, and shall be, for the Support and Continuance of mutual Love and Friendship among the Members thereunto belonging”.

The Earls Fitzwilliam were heavily involved in political matters in the 18th and 19th centuries. There is, therefore, also material relating to local elections, including bills and expenses, posters and squibs (satirical writings) within the archive.

The Fitzwilliam archive also contains a series of old maps and plans of Malton, the earliest of which dates to 1770. These, along with a selection of architectural drawings of a number of buildings in Malton dating from c.1799-1929 will be featured in future blogs.


Further Information

A summary overview of the Fitzwilliam Archive content can be found in our online catalogue. A more detailed, printed catalogue listing the whole collection [ZPB] can be found on our searchroom shelves at the County Record Office in Northallerton.

The relationship of the 5th Earl Fitzwilliam and the agent for his Malton estate, William Allen, from 1828-1853 is discussed in a 1999 University of Sheffield PhD thesis: Paternalism, Politics and Estate Management: the 5th Earl Fitzwilliam (1786-1857). A chapter from this thesis has drawn heavily on Allen’s correspondence within the Fitzwilliam Archive: ‘The Estate Agent: Malton’ by DJ Gratton, which appears in Review 1999, pp 20-40, NYCRO Publication No. 65. This is available from our online shop

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