During the nineteenth century great fortunes were made by various entrepreneurs in the cotton industry of Lancashire. One of the most remarkable of these cotton masters was Edward Hermon (1821?-1881), the managing partner of Horrocks, Miller & Company, an early giant in the field. Hermon became the conservative M.P. for Preston (1868-1881) as well as an eminent art collector, sportsman, philantropist and builder. His papers, dating between 1864 and 1867, cover a variety of topics, but for the most part deal with the building of Wyfold Court, his hunting preserves in Scotland, the division of the Hermon estate, and the insanity of Mrs. Hermon.
Correspondence for the years 1872 to 1876 concerns the construction of Hermon's country house, Wyfold Court. This fabulous mansion, described in Mark Girouards' "The Victorian Country House" (1979), is still today unique for its size, style and construction. Located near Henley, Oxfordshire, Wyfold Court was built under the direction of the noted architect, George Somers Clarke (1825-1882), a former pupil of Sir Charles Barry. The letters of Somers Clarke to Hermon are filled with valuable details about the house's construction and decoration. In addition, the collection includes a variety of of related expenditure statements, estimates, and sketches and drawings.
Hermon also had an abinding interest in games sports, and there is a considerable material about the game preserves in Scotland, which were rented on long term leases from various owners. Included in this segment of the collection are letters from Sir John William Ramsden (1831-1914), who leased hunting and fishing rights in Glensbero, Glen Roy, to Hermon in 1875. Ramsden was a prominent politician and owner of some 150,000 acres throughout Britain. During the same period, there are numerous letters about the leasing of Balnacoil on the estate of the Duke of Sutherland. Hermon was in correspondence over the terms of the lease with the Duke's representative, General Sir Arnold Burrowes Kemball (1820-1908), famous for his military exploits in India and the Middle East. (A full account of Kemball's career may be found in the Dictionary of National Biography.) Also present are a related series of sketches, expenditure statements, and maps, all concerning the Scotish game preserves.
Edward Hermon died in May 1881. His death and the distribution of his property is the main subject of the letters after that date. Most of them are from family and friends to Hermon's longtime solicitor, J. James, of the firm of Garrand, James and Wolfe. James continued to be the family's solicitor even following Hermon's death and there is correspondence with George and Fanny Hermon, Edward's children, and with their spouses, Mary May Hermon and Robert Hodge. Hodge, (1851-1937) who became first Baron Wyfold in 1919, assumed the name of Hermon in addition to that of Hodge, became Robert Hermon-Hodge. He and Fanny Hermon inherited Wyfold Court. Moreover, in 1886 became the conservative M.P. for North Lancashire, and afterwards became M.P. for South Oxfordshire (twice, 1895-1906 and 1917-18) and Croydon (1909-10).
Other family correspondence includes letters from Hermon's brother, Richard Hermon, a niece, Gertrude Palmer, and from Mrs. Hermon's son, Colonel Edward Ryan, by her first marriage to a son of the noted judge, Sir Edward Ryan ( 1783-1875, see DNB). While most of the papers in the collection are organized chronologically, the letters concerning Colonel Ryan and Mrs Hermon are separated from the rest. Colonel Ryan's abundant letters, together with his wife Adeline's letters, can be found in box number two, folder number seven.
The correspondence regarding Emily Hermon, Edward's wife, is of unique value for the study of Victorian psychiatric practices. Emily Hermon was the daughter of George Udny and sister of Sir Richard Udny of the Bengal Civil service, famous for his many campaigns on that frontier. Mrs. Hermon developed a serious mental condition, most likely due to lead poisoning, that required her to be institutionalized in 1869. The correspondence includes medical reports of her condition and letters from family and friends, both before and after Edward Hermon's death. Perhaps most interesting, are letters written by Mrs. Hermon, to friends and magistrates, such as Thomas James Arnold, (1804-1877), whose responses were in turn, addressed to Mr. Hermon.
The Edward Hermon papers consisting of 1.5 linear feet of material, provide a wealth of detail not only about British society in the second half of the nineteenth century in general and an important British family in particular, but it is also of great value to any historian of British architecture, game sports, and psychiatry.
This collection has been digitized and is available to view online in DigitalGeorgetown.