Manuscripts and Special Collections

Myles Thoroton Hildyard and the Thoroton Hildyard Collection

2 June 1st, 2011 at 08:06

Myles Thoroton Hildyard and the Second World War

60 years ago today, on 1 June 1941, Myles Thoroton Hildyard was reported missing from the island of Crete. It was three months before his family learnt of his daring escape, along with his friend Michael Parish, from the Maleme airfield prisoner of war camp. Hildyard and Parish had made their way across Crete on foot, hiding in the mountains with the aid of Cretan locals, and rowed in a boat across international waters to Turkey. He was awarded the Military Cross for his exploits. Later in the war he served as an intelligence officer. His papers include his war diaries and correspondence, and also various items collected by him in the field of battle including the three shown below.

Postcard sent in 1942 by an Italian soldier (THF/C/5/1/4/2)
Postcard sent in 1942 by an Italian soldier (THF/C/5/1/4/2)

Printed message to the 8th Army by General Montgomery, Commander in Chief, 1943 (THF/C/5/1/3/4)

Document found in a German slit trench, 1944 (THF/C/5/1/4/11)
Document found in a German slit trench, reading ‘Good by Tommy es grusst die Sturm=Kompagnie 11.8.44′ (THF/C/5/1/4/11)

Myles Hildyard inherited Flintham Hall from his father in 1956 and restored the Victorian house and garden to its former glory. His wartime papers are just part of a large collection of 96 boxes of material relating to the Thoroton and Hildyard families of Screveton and Flintham Hall. The collection contains 18th and 19th-century title deeds and estate papers recording the family’s ownership of land in Nottinghamshire. One of the earliest items is this map of Screveton.

Map of Screveton, 1670 (THF/E/1/2/5/3)
Map of Screveton, 1670 (THF/E/1/2/5/3)

However, the collection also contains other, more surprising items!

Kew Palace

Detail from inventory (THF/E/4/2/8)

Detail from inventory (THF/E/4/2/8)

Kew Palace was known as ‘Dutch House’ in the 17th century, and was bought by Sir Richard Levett of London in 1697. In 1728 Sir Richard’s son-in-law Robert Thoroton leased the house to Queen Caroline, wife of King George II. It has remained a Royal palace ever since. The Thoroton Hildyard collection contains papers relating to ‘Dutch House’ and the other Kew properties owned by the family. The papers include this inventory of fixtures and furnishings in 1728.

Lead mining

Plan of lead workings in Arkengarthdale, Yorkshire (THF/X/2/7)

Plan of lead workings in Arkengarthdale, Yorkshire (THF/X/2/7)

The Thoroton family were involved in coal and lead mining ventures in Derbyshire in the 18th century, in partnership with their relatives the Turner family of Swanwick. The collection contains various legal papers relating to this. But it also contains a beautifully drawn late 17th or early 18th-century plan of lead workings in Arkengarthdale, Yorkshire – and it’s a mystery why!

The Townshend family, Viscounts Sydney

Photograph of W.E. Manners (THF/X/3/9/2)

When people go abroad, their loved ones write letters to keep them in touch with events back home. In 1786 the policitian Viscount Sydney (after whom Sydney in Australia was named) wrote to his son John T. Townshend, who was in The Hague (THF/X/3/5). Forty years later John, by now 2nd Viscount Sydney, followed his father’s lead and wrote to his own son John Robert (later 1st Earl Sydney), who was in St Petersburg and Moscow as part of the British delegation attending the coronation of Tsar Nicholas I (THF/X/3/6). John Robert’s sister and aunts also wrote to him, with plenty of gossip about marriages, elopements and babies among their family and friends.

Why would these bundles of intimate family letters end up in the Thoroton Hildyard collection? The answer is that they were bought by Walter Evelyn Manners at auction when the Townshend family’s house, Frognal in Kent, was sold in 1915. Walter was a historian and writer, and probably intended to use the papers for research. His papers were bequeathed to his executor and distant cousin, Myles Thoroton Hildyard, and so they came into the Thoroton Hildyard collection.

  1. The first four pictures aren’t visible at the moment.

    Posted by J Horton

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