Tim Eggington, Fellow Librarian, writes: The collection of papers in this collection is of a particularly local nature, they are the papers of Thomas Verner Jr. (1796-1875). Verner was appointed as receiver of the distressed Donegall estate in 1847 by the Chancery Court and retained this role under the new Encumbrance Act. Verner was related to the third Marquis of Donegall and acted as his agent in Belfast. The Donegall estate which comprised significant amounts of land in counties Antrim and Donegal included the town of Belfast. Initially a profitable estate it fell to bankruptcy in 1850 was directed to be sold under court order. The distressed state of the estate did not relate to circumstances associated with the famine in Ireland during the 1840s but rather to the irresponsible activities of members of the Chichester family, namely the third Marquess of Donegall, George Hamilton Chichester and his father, George Augustus, the second Marquess.
The papers in this collection comprise approximately 700 documents spanning just over 20 years of a pivotal period in Ireland’s history 1840 to 1861. The papers and correspondence addressed to Verner, also include printed items and receipts which will be of interest to social historians, these comprise invoices and receipts for carriages, coach makers, hotels (some in France), horses, wine, silverware and crockery, plus leases for fisheries and postage stamps from 1849 for instance.
Of particular interest to local historians and the non-expert audience will be the genealogical and topographical information relating to Belfast available in this collection as tenants, businesses and solicitors are noted in the discharge of debts associated with the sale of Belfast and areas nearby. In addition to the papers relating to the sale of the Donegall estate and Verner’s involvement in that activity are papers relating to Verner himself and his own business interests, some of which include the Cave Hill Railway Works in Belfast and local limestone quarries.
The collection has been received and added to holdings at Special Collections & Archives. All of the papers have been transferred to archival standard folders and boxes and are now stored in our secure and environmentally controlled store. A box listing has been created so that all items are documented. This ensures they can made available for consultation even with these rudimentary notes as security can be maintained and easy management of the files is possible.
A browse through the box listing indicates there is plenty of scope for calendaring exercises to be taken forward by MA history students which will give real skills development opportunities for these early career researchers. There are some documents which seem to be immediately interesting in terms of blog posts which will be useful to highlight this collection in our holdings and bring it to the attention of wider audiences through social media promotion at a later date.
As more detailed cataloguing of this collection progresses collection level descriptions will be made available for resource discovery tools such as RASCAL www.rascal.ac.uk , the Archives Hub www.archiveshub.ac.uk from which resource they will be harvested by Archives Portal Europe (APE) https://www.archivesportaleurope.net/ to provide multiple access routes for researchers and the general public to information about the collections.