- [c.1200]-1937 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
0.63 cubic metres (1 large box; 36 medium boxes; 142 small boxes) + 1 special-sized box (housing one volume and two loose items) (additional material, December 2021)
Name of creator
Egerton Grenville Bagot Phillimore, an antiquarian who specialised in Welsh and Celtic history, languages and literature, was born in 1856, the only son of John George Phillimore, Q.C., and Rosalind Knight Bruce. The family moved to Shiplake House near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, in 1859, but for financial reasons they were unable to remain there after J. G. Phillimore's death in 1865. When Egerton's mother died in 1871, he was taken under the guardianship of his uncle, the lawyer Sir Robert Joseph Phillimore, and he finally sold Shiplake to his cousin Walter, later Lord Phillimore, shortly after his uncle's death in 1885.
Egerton Phillimore inherited from his parents a strong resistance to conformity, as a result of which family relations were sometimes strained. He married and was widowed twice: firstly in 1880 to Susan Elise Roscow, by whom he had a son and three daughters; and then, after Elise died in 1893, to Marion Owen in 1897, a marriage which he kept secret even from his own children. He encountered considerable financial problems throughout his life, especially after Marion died in 1904.
Phillimore was educated at Westminster Boys' School and Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. in 1879 and M.A. in 1883. While at Oxford, he developed a profound interest in antiquarianism, particularly in Wales. He became familiar with a number of prominent Celtic scholars, including Sir John Rhys and Whitley Stokes, and began to learn Welsh in 1880. He taught for some time at Oxford, and became an avid collector of manuscripts and rare books, travelling widely in Wales and eventually settling in Corris, Merionethshire, around 1903, where he lived until his death in 1937.
Even though he only published a single work under his own name, Egerton Phillimore contributed extensively to contemporary literary and historical publications. From 1886, he published scholarly articles on early Welsh history, literature, topography, genealogy and place-names in journals including Bye Gones, Archaeologia Cambrensis and Y Cymmrodor, the latter of which he edited between 1889 and 1891, his most significant article being 'The publications of Welsh historical records' (Cymmrodor xi ). He also provided detailed footnotes on Welsh place-names and traditions for Henry Owen's edition of George Owen's Description of Pembrokeshire (4 vols, 1892-1936).
Egerton Phillimore was never fully respected by his scholarly contemporaries, probably because of his eccentric nature. He was disorganised; his handwriting was often barely legible; he was perennially in financial crisis; he married against the better judgement of his family; and he acquired a reputation for having an interest in erotic and ribald texts, largely because of his article 'Welsh aedoeology', which was published in the journal Kryptadia in 1884. It was in fact a scholarly work on Welsh etymology, but the misrepresentation stuck because it contained a degree of truth about Phillimore's puerile interest in genitalia, sex and toilet humour.
It appears that most of the papers in the archive arrived at the National Library of Wales shortly after Egerton Phillimore's death in 1937. It is not clear whether they were donated by his daughter or bought by the Library through the offices of Galloway and Sons, Aberystwyth; there is, however, enough surviving correspondence between his daughter, the Library and Galloway and Sons to suggest that they were transferred at this time. Furthermore, there is no formal record of their receipt in the National Library's Annual Report, and there are many conflicting reports (based entirely on dated hearsay) of Library officials driving to Corris to 'save' what was left of Phillimore's collections, and others of the collection being 'censored' for unsavoury material before being transferred to the Library.
Another two small deposits were made at later dates. The first donation was made by Mr A. O. Jones, Corris, in December 1958, and consisted of letters, 1912-1929, sent by Egerton Phillimore to the owners of Bryn Awel, Corris, relating to his tenancy of the house. These have now been incorporated into the archive. The second donation was made by Mrs Millicent Gregory, Comins Coch, Aberystwyth, 1991, and included notes, press-cuttings and six letters, 1885-1911, sent to Phillimore by Llywarch Reynolds, A. E. Lawson Lowe and John Fisher; these have also been incorporated into the archive.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
A. O. Jones; Corris; Donation; December 1958
Mrs Millicent Gregory; Comins Coch, Aberystwyth; Donation; 1991; 1991228
Sarah Lloyd-Jones, Abergavenny; Donation; December 2021; 99204522502419.
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Papers, [c.1200]-1937, of the antiquary Egerton Phillimore, including: correspondence; notes and drafts of his contributions to various publications; transcripts of manuscripts; poems written by himself and other members of his family; papers relating to his family and his early life and education; family papers; and manuscripts and other documents of antiquarian interest.
Additional material, donated December 2021, comprises a printed volume: 'Llyvyr Taliessin ... The Text of the Book of Taliesin' (ed. J. Gwenogvryn Evans (1910)) inscribed to and annotated by Egerton Phillimore; a postcard note addressed to Egerton Phillimore from minister, academic and lexicographer Daniel Silvan Evans relating to place-names referenced in the Book of Taliesin; and a newspaper cutting, 17 August 1916, containing a review of Llyvyr Taliessin.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
Action: Some items were allegedly destroyed before the papers were transferred to the National Library..
Accruals are not expected.
System of arrangement
Arranged at NLW into four groups: correspondence; antiquarian notes and transcripts; literary compositions; and personal papers.
Material donated December 2021 added on to the existing archive.
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Readers consulting modern papers in the National Library of Wales are required to abide by the conditions noted on the 'Modern papers - data protection' form issued with their Readers' Tickets.
Conditions governing reproduction
Usual copyright laws apply.
Language of material
- Ancient Greek
Script of material
Language and script notes
English, Welsh, Latin, French, Greek, German, Italian, Breton and Irish.
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
Title supplied from contents.
Since Egerton Phillimore habitually re-used every scrap of available paper, regardless of what it had been used for previously, there is a variety of historical and literary material, letters, drafts of letters, forms, household accounts and bills scattered throughout the archive.
Virtua system control number
GEAC system control number
Subject access points
Place access points
Name access points
Genre access points
Description control area
Rules and/or conventions used
Description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd ed.; AACR2; and LCSH
Level of detail
Dates of creation revision deletion
Additional material (donated December 2021) described May 2023.
The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: The Oxford companion to Welsh literature (Oxford, 1998); The Dictionary of Welsh Biography down to 1940 (Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion: London, 1959); The Phillimore Papers 1798-1945 (Ashford Press : Botley, Hampshire, 1997); documents within the archive.
Description compiled by David Moore.
Additional description, relating to December 2021 donation, compiled by Bethan Ifan, May 2023, utilising primary source material and online search engines.