Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)JER
TitleJerningham Letters
Extent1764 letters and 10 volumes of journals
DescriptionLetters and journals 1780-1833, originally collected by Charlotte, Lady Bedingfeld (nee Jerningham).

The collection comprises extensive family correspondence spanning the years 1779 to 1824. A large proportion of the letters are addressed to Charlotte from her mother, Lady Jerningham. Some letters are from Charlotte's brothers and sisters-in-law, and in particular Lady Frances Jerningham, wife of her brother, Sir George Jerningham. Other letters are from her own children, away at school and then subsequently as adults. For example, Felix wrote about school and Matilda and Agnes with news of their adult life and of their own children, Charlotte's grandchildren. The collection also includes letters from other members of the families of Jerningham and Bedingfeld. The correspondence begins during Charlotte's childhood and continues throughout her schooldays and marriage to Sir Richard Bedingfeld of Oxburgh Hall, near King's Lynn, in 1795 until just before her mother's death in 1824. There are also a few letters from well-known friends of the family, notably Fanny D'Arblay and the Ladies of Llangollen who included Lady Eleanor Butler.

The collection includes Charlotte's journals and diaries, which she appears to have kept spasmodically between 1809 and 1833. These cover the final illness and death of her father, Sir William Jerningham, various tours, a period of time she spent at Hammersmith convent, and when she was a member of the household of Queen Adelaide, serving as a Woman of Bedchamber, 1830-1837.

Both families were Roman Catholic, and the collection is a rich source for the study of Catholic spirituality, religious behaviour and rituals; the education and marriage of English Catholics in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries; the conduct of monastic schools, both in England and on the continent; and hostility towards and persecution of Catholics. However, the collection is not restricted to Catholic historians: it forms, for example, a valuable record for Norfolk history, for women's history and for the history of medicine. The disease, erisypelas, which killed Charlotte's brother, Edward and his wife, Emily, is described in some detail; and the prolonged death of Sir William Jerningham in 1809 is also chronicled.

The collection also provides material relating to other leading English Catholic families in other parts of the country through the marriages of the children of the children of Sir Richard and Lady Charlotte Bedingfeld. These include the Sulyards of Suffolk, the Petres of Essex, the Carys of Devon and the Molyneux-Seels of Huyton, Lancashire. In addition, the Bedingfelds were forced to leave Oxburgh because of financial difficulties and they took up residence in Ghent for some years. As a result, the collection also contains much detail on the social life of the English Catholic community there in the early 1800s.
ArrangementThe collection is arranged in three series: family correspondence; the contents lists and binding boards of the original 16 volumes of correspondence; and her diaries.
Access ConditionsAccess to all registered researchers
Finding AidsA catalogue of this collection is available on the online archive catalogue. Click on the Finding Number to display the summary contents list of the catalogue and to view the full catalogue. This is based on a paper catalogue by Christine L. Penny, 'A catalogue of the Jerningham Letters' (University of Birmingham Library, 1980) although the records relating to the diaries have been expanded. Other items, principally the contents and binding boards of the original volumes of letters, have been added to this updated catalogue. A paper copy of this catalogue is also available for consultation at Special Collections.
Access StatusOpen
Administrative HistoryCharlotte Georgiana Jerningham (1770-1854) was the only daughter of Sir William and Lady Frances Jerningham of Costessey Hall, Norfolk (referred to in correspondence as Cossey). She had three brothers: Sir George Jerningham, 8th Baron (1771-1851),
William Charles (1772-1820), an officer of rank in the Austrian service, Edward (1774-1822), barrister-at-law.

Charlotte married Sir Richard Bedingfeld (1767-1829) of Oxburgh Hall, near King's Lynn, in 1795 and they had eight children:

1. Frances, known as Fanny (1796-1822) who married Lord Petre in June 1815 and died shortly after giving birth.
2. Matilda (1797-1881) who married Stanley Cary of Follaton in December 1820 and the birth of two children, Camilla (b 1821) and Charlotte Matilda (b 1823) are recorded in the correspondence
3. Agnes (1798-1870) who married Thomas Molyneux Seel in October 1823 and the birth of their son, Edmund (b 1824) is recorded in the correspondence.
4. Henry (1800-1879) who became the 6th Baronet.
5. Charlotte (1802-1879) who became a nun in Bruges and was called Sister Mary Agnes
6. Charles (1803-1870), a captain in the Hussars, Austrian Service.
7. Edward (1805 -1823), a midshipman who drowned in 1823.
8. Felix (1808-1884), Colonial Secretary for Mauritius.

Charlotte wrote and received many letters during her life and, in addition to her children, her principal correspondents are listed below:

Her mother, Lady Frances Jerningham (nee Dillon) (1748-1825). She appears to have spent considerable time in London where the family had a residence at 13 Boulton Row, Piccadilly. Lady Jerningham sometimes refers to members of the Dillon family in her correspondence with Charlotte.

Her father, Sir William Jerningham (1736-1809).

Her uncle, Edward Jerningham (1737-1812), brother of Sir William who abandoned Catholicism for the Church of England. He is often referred to by the family as Edward the Poet and also Edward the elder.

Her uncle, Charles Jerningham (d 1814), another brother of Sir William. He is usually referred to as The Chevalier Charles Jerningham.

Her eldest brother, Sir George Jerningham (1771-1851) and his wife Frances (nee Sulyard) and there are also a number of letters between Charlotte and her sister-in-law Lady Frances Jerningham, not to be confused with Charlotte's mother. Their children included Charlotte (1800-1876), Henry Valentine (1802 -1884 who became 9th Baron Stafford), twin girls, Frances (1803-1838) and Georgina (1803-1841), Edward (1804-1849), George (1806-1874) ,Charles (1807-1884), Mary (1809-1815), Laura (1811-1886), William (1812- 1874), Francis (1814-1874) and Isabella (1815-1847). They moved to Costessey Hall on the death of Sir William Jerningham in 1809. Sir George Jerningham assumed, by Royal Licence, the name and arms of Stafford in 1826 and was known from that point on as Sir George Stafford Jerningham.

Her second brother, William Jerningham (1772-1820). He joined the Austrian service. He was married twice: to Anna Wright (d 1814) and Anne Moore. His children included Edmund (1805-1860), Arthur (1807-1889), William (1809-1809), Frederic (1813 -1870), Lucretia (1804-1891), Louisa (1808-1893) and Gertrude (1811-1897).

Her youngest brother, Edward Jerningham (1774-1822). He is often referred to as Edward the younger and Edward the dear by his mother, Lady Jerningham. He was a barrister and married Emily Middleton in 1804. Their children included Charles Edward (1805-1854), Valentine (1807-1807), Henrietta (1808-1808), Mary Clementina (1810-1864), John (1813 -1838), and James (1817-1848). Both Edward and Emily died from erysipelas in 1822 within a month of each other.

Reference: Finding aid to The Jerningham Letters; Aristocratic Women: the social, political and cultural history of rich and powerful women. A Listing and Guide to Part 2 of the Microfilm Collection (Adam Matthew Publications, 1998)
Custodial HistoryThe letters and journals passed into the hands of Lady Charlotte Bedingfeld's second daughter, Matilda Cary and then by her to her eldest daughter, Camilla Cary, the grand-daughter of Lady Bedingfeld. The papers were borrowed from the family by Egerton Castle during the late 19th century who published an edited selection of the letters and diaries in 1896 under the title 'The Jerningham Letters, 1780-1843' (London: Richard Bentley & Son). The papers bear evidence of editorial annotations made by Castle, often in red and blue crayon. By 1949, they were the property of Lord Dillon whose family was connected to the Jerninghams through the marriage of Sir William Jerningham to Frances Dillon, Lady Charlotte Bedingfeld's parents in 1767. Lord Dillon sold the collection to an antiquarian bookseller.

In 1993, the University of Birmingham was awarded a grant by the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust towards the conservation of the Jerningham Letters which, because of the extensive use to which they had been subjected while still in the hands of the family, were in a poor state of repair. The letters, which were formerly bound either during Lady Bedingfeld's lifetime or soon after her death in 1854 in 20 volumes, were disbounded, repaired and remounted into 21 new volumes containing 100 pages of acid-free paper. The ten journal volumes were repaired.
AcquisitionThis collection was purchased in 1971 with assistance from the Victoria and Albert Museum.
CopiesAvailable on microfilm and online.

In 1998 the Jerningham Letters were micropublished by Adam Matthew Publications as part of their micropublication, 'Aristocratic Women: the social, political and cultural history of rich and powerful women'. A set of the microfilm is available in Cadbury Research Library for use on site by all registered researchers.

The microfilm has since been digitally published by Adam Matthew Digital Ltd so the collection can also be seen online by members of, and visitors to, the Cadbury Research Library and other institutions that subscribe to 'Research Source - Women's Studies'.

All visitors who have registered for a Cadbury Research Library Reader ticket can access the online copies on the public access computers in the Cadbury Research Library Reading Room.

Staff and students of the University of Birmingham may also access the products when off campus through the University’s eResources. Log in through FindIt@Bham, select Database Search and enter ‘Women’s Studies’.

For institutions that do not currently subscribe to this Adam Matthew Digital product, free four-week trials of Adam Matthew Digital products are open to teachers, faculty and librarians of universities, colleges, and academic institutions. Further information about trial access is available at
Related MaterialThe University of Birmingham Information Services, Special Collections Department also holds the Lady Stafford's Letters (GB 0150 STA), a collection of letters from Lady Susan Stafford to her daughter Charlotte, Marchioness of Worcester and later Duchess of Beaufort, 1774-1805. This collection was also microfilmed and published by Adam Matthew Publications
Associated MaterialsPapers of the Jerningham family of Costessey, Norfolk and the Stafford-Jerningham family, Barons Stafford of Costessey, Norfolk are held at the Staffordshire Record Ofiice and the Norfolk Record Office. Papers of Bedingfeld (later Paston-Bedingfeld) family,
Publication NoteAn edition of the journals and about a third of the correspondence was published in two volumes: Egerton Castle 'The Jerningham Letters, 1780-1843' (1896). A copy of this publication is also available in the Special Collections Department at the shelfmark rDA 506. A1 and the first volume contains a family tree. This edition largely concentrates on national and public events


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