The Archives of the Noel Family of Exton Park, Rutland
The Noel Family Archives are presently being renumbered and therefore remain closed to the public for the time being (with the permission of the Project Board). Please keep an eye on this website for information about the availability of the collection. Your patience is much appreciated.
National Cataloguing Grants Award 2010
Grant of Arms to Sir Baptist Hickes, February 1605 (detail).
In 1810, the Old Hall at Exton caught fire and suffered severe damages: most of the archives of the Noel Family (Earls of Gainsborough), dating back to the twelfth century, were thought to have been burnt to cinders.
However, in the late twentieth century, much of this archive was rediscovered at Exton Park and was deposited, along with later additions to the family archives, in the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland by the Earl of Gainsborough in 1987.
The sheer size and importance of the collection necessitated special treatment and the Friends of the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland managed to obtain funding from the Leverhulme Trust to catalogue the collection.
However, due to the discovery of more archival material alongside the limited funding available, work on the collection gradually came to a standstill. That is, until now.
The Record Office was granted an award by the National Cataloguing Grants Programme in 2010, in recognition of the importance of the collection, to employ a Project Archivist to complete the cataloguing and make the catalogue available online to ensure that the collection is accessible for present and future generations.
The National Cataloguing Grants Programme, administrated by The National Archives, distributed over £400, 000 in 2010 to support the cataloguing of 15 ‘outstanding’ collections including the papers of the Earls of Derby and the Sadler’s Wells Theatre Collection. The programme is supported by the Pilgrim Trust, the Foyle Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation, the Monument Trust, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Mercers Company Charitable Foundation, the Goldsmiths Company, the J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust and The National Archives. Final decisions on the allocation of grants are made by an independent expert panel.
Though many of the records in the collection date back to the medieval period, the association of the Noel Family with Exton in Rutland began in 1613 when Sir Baptist Hicks bought the Manor of Exton.
Upon Sir Baptist’s death, the Manor of Exton passed to his daughter and co-heir Juliana who had married Sir Edward Noel of Brooke: their grandson Edward Noel became the first Earl of Gainsborough in 1682.
Though the Earldom died out when the Sixth Earl died without issue in 1798, the estate passed to his nephew, Gerard Noel Edwards, who changed his name to Noel. The Earldom was revived in 1841 for Gerard’s son and heir, Charles Noel Noel: the title and estate is held by his descendants today.
What’s special about the Collection?
The collection is vast and wide-ranging. The collection is not only of local importance to the County of Rutland, but other counties including Gloucestershire and Kent where the family held estates. In fact, the Noel Family Archives contain records relating to many places in England, Wales and Ireland, as well as places around the world including China.
The collection, which also charts the history of the Noel family, includes an impressive variety of records from official property deeds and manorial court records dating back to the twelfth century to Edwardian personal diaries and exercise books. One of the things that makes the collection so important is its value to a wide range of people, catering for all interested in history, local or family history, biography, religious history (Jewish, Evangelical and Catholic history), military history, art, architecture, botany, cricket… the list goes on.
The Project to complete the cataloguing of the collection began in August 2011. The Project Archivist was Rachael Marsay, a recent graduate of the Masters in Archives and Records Management course at the University of Liverpool. As an undergraduate, she read History at Magdalene College at the University of Cambridge: after her graduation in 2009, she spent a year gaining pre-course archival experience, including – among other things – cataloguing work for the British Steel Archive Project.
After many weeks of sorting and arranging the collection, Rachael entered a description of each document into our cataloguing software to enable the catalogue to be searched online. The total number of document descriptions totalled 12,637!
Rachael is now working on the archives of the Earls of Dudley at Dudley Archives and Local History Service. However, she will edit a set of introductory articles about the Exton collection for publication in 2013, so please keep an eye out for this.
Features & Bulletins
Our feature section can now be found on the menu on the left hand side of the page alongside an archive of project bulletins.
Any queries can be sent to : firstname.lastname@example.org
Or by post to: Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland, Long Street, Wigston Magna, Leicestershire, LE18 2AH
Page Last Updated: 3 January 2013