The Coghill Family Archive

Item date: 17th century to mid 18th century.
Grant Value: £13,640
Item cost: £30,000
Item date acquired: 2017
Item institution: Queen's University, Belfast
Town/City: Belfast
County: Antrim

This extensive collection of family papers is comprised of a wide range of correspondence, photographs, drawings, prints and marriage documents, and is an important adjunct to the papers of Edith Somerville already held in the Special Collections Library at Queen’s. The Coghill Archive includes a substantial amount of family correspondence involving Somerville, particularly letters between her and her sister, Hildegarde.  The family correspondence is all the more interesting as some of it crosses generations: siblings, parents, and children, as well as husbands and wives. The Coghill Archive provides insight into the life in of Irish landed family, and because of the unusual amount of material relating to children we gain deeper insight to other aspects of that family life. It also includes evidence of the different experiences of members of the family during World War I. Members of the Coghill family were among the first to use cameras in 19th century Ireland; Sir John Jocelyn Coghill is recognised as a pioneer of photography in Ireland. This collection includes several boxes of glass slides (19th century) and some photographic prints which will shed light not just on the day-to-day interests of this family, but will also provide insight to their lives (settings, dress, props), how they saw themselves and how they wished to be perceived. There are several heraldic items, namely a grant of arms on vellum to Sir Josiah Coghill-Cramer of Belvedere House, Drumcondra, and of Kilkenny, Bart. Other items include royal letters patent dated 8 June 1782, creating John Coghill of Richings in Yorkshire a baronet and several documents detailing indentures from 1700 through to mid-1800s, as well as marriage settlements, property deeds, leases, assignments and surrenders.

After delivery and a period of acclimatisation at Special Collections, the collection was transferred to archival-standard storage boxes and is now housed in an environmentally controlled and secure store. Listing and cataloguing of the collection will commence in 2018. In preparation for cataloguing, all elements of the collection will be examined closely and additional protective measures considered for preservation and access (mylar pockets, archival folders and digitisation for preparation of surrogates).

The Coghill Archive will be a valuable addition to Queen’s Library Special Collections, it will enrich associated collections of primary materials in the Somerville & Ross collection (MS 17) and provide  primary evidence for students and researchers of issues examined and discussed in our substantial print resources on 18th and 19th-century Ireland. The papers and photographs will be of immense interest to our students on the MA in Public History as it will enable students to consider and work on the public value of the wider Somerville Ross collection and what it tells us about life in the Irish big house, particularly during the revolutionary period, 1912 to 1922, and its aftermath; and also on the history of photography with particular reference to Ireland and its development there.

Record of the birth of Patrick Coghill (right).
Record of the birth of Patrick Coghill (right).
Family play, c.1890. L-r: Willy Plunket, Violet Coghill, Hebe Coghill.  Images courtesy of Queen's University, Belfast.
Family play, c.1890. L-r: Willy Plunket, Violet Coghill, Hebe Coghill. Images courtesy of Queen's University, Belfast.