The Coker Court Archives

Grant Value: £6,000
Item cost: £58,290
Item date acquired: 2014
Item institution: Somerset Archives and Local Studies
Town/City: Taunton
County: Somerset

The Coker Court manuscripts consist of the family and estate archives of the Helyar family of East Coker, in south Somerset, and of the Walker, Heneage and Button families of Somerset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire. The collection extends to 4.6 cubic metres and is an outstanding example of a family archive, containing materials dating from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. The collection is significant not only for the study of Somerset and the West Country, but also for the light it throws on aspects of national and international history.

The collection is not only extensive, but very rich and wide-ranging. It contains, for example, over 1,000 pre-17th century century deeds, including hundreds of medieval deeds.  Other highlights include manorial records of East Coker, Somerset; manorial records of Stallbridge, Dorset; manorial records of Calne, Compton Bassett, Alton Priors, Alton Barnes, Stawell, Box, All Cannings, Bishops Cannings, Tockenham, North Wraxall and Woodborough, Wiltshire; medieval deeds for various parishes across Somerset and Wiltshire; Civil War papers of William Button; the commonplace book of John Walker, containing a description of Colchester after the Civil War Siege of 1648; and the letter book of Laurence Steele, mainly corresponding with merchants at Virginia and Barbados, 1646. An individual highlight of the collection is a 1650 Letters Patent of Charles II, which bears the pre-Restoration seal of Charles II in exile. Only four copies of this Great Seal are known, and this is the only undamaged impression.

In 2014 the collection was offered to the Somerset Archive and Local Studies Service through hybrid Acceptance in Lieu (which confirmed the collection’s pre eiminent status), and with help from FNL, the V&A Purchase Grant Fund and local donors, the future of this collection has been secured.