Fonds GB 0210 CHERBURY - Herbert of Cherbury Manuscripts and Papers

Identity area

Reference code



Herbert of Cherbury Manuscripts and Papers


  • [1550x1600]-1808 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

0.229 cubic metres (8 boxes).

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

The Herbert families of Montgomery (later Cherbury), Dolguog and Powis Castle shared a common ancestor in Sir William ap Thomas (d. 1466). The Powis Castle branch traced its pedigree through his eldest son, Sir William Herbert, earl of Pembroke, who was executed after the battle of Edgcote in 1469, while the Montgomery and Dolguog branches, together with the Herbert earls of Pembroke and the Herberts of Coldbrook, near Abergavenny, all traced their ancestry through the second son, Sir Richard Herbert of Coldbrook, who was executed along with his brother.

The Cherbury branch of the family was established at Montgomery by Sir Richard Herbert (d. 1539), and took the name of Cherbury after one of its most celebrated members, the philosopher, poet and ambassador Edward Herbert (d. 1648), was created baron Herbert of Cherbury in 1629. His writings are the focal point of this archive.

The Powis Castle Herberts took their name from the ‘Red Castle’ (Powis Castle), which was purchased in 1587 by Sir Edward Herbert (d. 1595), the second son of William Herbert, earl of Pembroke. Despite the physical proximity of Cherbury, Montgomery and Powis Castle, the two branches of the family rarely communicated with each other after the late sixteenth century, largely because, while the Herberts of Powis Castle were staunchly Catholic, the Herberts of Cherbury were generally either Protestant or indifferent to religion.

Both families held extensive estates, primarily in Wales and the marches, and both held the lordship of Montgomery at various times during the period covered by this archive; notably, also, the Herberts of Cherbury acquired the lordship of Castle Island in County Kerry, Ireland, as a consequence of the failure of the Desmond rebellions, which ended in 1583. Both families also played a central role in politics during the upheavals of the seventeenth century, and both suffered for it. In particular, Edward Herbert of Cherbury lost Montgomery to Parliament during the civil war, and the Herberts of Powis Castle found themselves increasingly isolated because of their Roman Catholic leanings, to the point that William Herbert (d. 1696) and his son William (d. 1745) were both outlawed for treason during the ‘Glorious Revolution’ and subsequent Jacobite resistance.

The Herbert lines of Cherbury, Dolguog and Powis Castle were re-united in the person of Henry Arthur Herbert (1703-1772), who inherited Dolguog from his father, Francis Herbert, and was created baron Herbert of Cherbury in 1743 and earl of Powis in 1748.

Archival history

The archives of Powis Castle, Cherbury and Dolguog were brought together some time after 1748, when all three titles came into the possession of Henry Arthur Herbert. Many years of handling and consultation at Powis Castle have resulted in the documents becoming intermixed in an apparently haphazard way. As a result, the precise descent and movements of much of the archive is difficult to trace, since the papers of several branches of the Herbert family have become entangled with each other without becoming fully merged. Many of the papers of Edward Herbert of Cherbury (d.1648) and his descendants were transferred to the British Library and the Public Record Office (now TNA) in 1928, and many of them remain there. The present archive was removed from Series II and deposited at NLW in 1959 and 1965; it is therefore sometimes referred to as ‘H[erbert] M[anuscripts] Series II’. Some attempt to arrange it was made in the past, but in general this has meant that documents were merely placed in chronological order under thematic headings such as ‘Historical – Charles I’. This has resulted in the papers of several of the Herbert families becoming mixed up. Most of the documents have been numbered in the past, but some have been without numbers until the present catalogue was produced.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The Right Honourable Edward Robert Henry Herbert, CBE, TD, 5th Earl of Powis, per the Historical Manuscripts Commission; Deposit; 1959 and 1965

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Manuscripts and papers of the Herbert families of Cherbury, Dolguog and Powis Castle, [1550x1600]-1808, and in particular those of Edward Herbert, 1st baron Herbert of Cherbury (d.1648), including his literary, philosophical, political and personal papers. The archive also includes political, estate and personal papers of the Herbert families of Cherbury and Powis Castle, 1565-1808. Many of the letters in the 1959 deposit are calendared in W. J. Smith, Herbert correspondence: the sixteenth and seventeenth century letters of the Herberts of Chirbury, Powis Castle and Dolguog, formerly at Powis Castle in Montgomeryshire (Cardiff, 1963).

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


Accruals are not expected.

System of arrangement

The archive was formerly arranged as follows: Parcels I-VIII (now in The National Archives [TNA]); Volume IX (Montgomery castle 1644-1650; Local history 1587-1754); Parcel X (not transferred to NLW); Parcel XI (Historical papers – James I); Parcel XII (Historical papers - Charles I and Commonwealth); Parcel XIII (not transferred to NLW); Parcel XIV (Historical papers – Charles II); Parcel XV (Historical papers – James II and later, and undated); Parcel XVI (Miscellaneous political papers Part 1); Parcel XVII (Miscellaneous political papers Part 2); Parcel XXVIII (Miscellaneous literary papers Part 1); Parcel XIX (Literary fragments Part 2); Parcel XX (Literary works Part 3); Parcel XXI (Literary and miscellaneous); Parcel XXII (Irish estates, 1633-1685; Mining operations in Spain, 1727-1734); Parcel XXIII (Business correspondence, 1614-1770 and undated); Parcel XXIV (Accounts, receipts and money matters); Parcel XXV (Legal papers, bonds, deeds, etc.); Parcel XXVI (Literary and other fragments [letters, anecdotes, religious, political and philosophical essays, medical treatise, etc.]); 1965 Deposit (numbered 1-15). -- The archive has been broadly re-arranged at NLW according to the provenance of the documents, and thereafter thematically and chronologically. This was necessary in order to disentangle unrelated documents and place them in a more intelligible and meaningful context. In particular, the documents in the 1965 deposit have been placed with related material from the 1959 deposit. Generally, however, an effort has been made to keep as close as possible to the original order, and previous call numbers are noted. -- Arranged at NLW therefore into four groups: Edward Herbert, first baron Herbert of Cherbury, manuscripts and papers; Herbert family of Cherbury and Dolguog papers; Herbert family of Powis Castle papers; and Miscellaneous political and literary papers.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

No restrictions.

Conditions governing reproduction

Usual copyright laws apply.

Language of material

  • Ancient Greek
  • English
  • French
  • Latin
  • Spanish

Script of material

Language and script notes

English, Latin, French, Greek, Spanish (see appropriate level descriptions).

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

A conversion table of old and current call numbers is available online at:

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Further papers of Edward Herbert of Cherbury and his family are in The National Archives (TNA 30/53) and at NLW. In particular, parcels I-VIII of this archive are now TNA 30/53/1-13, and the documents formerly numbered XV 3, XV 7, XV 11, XV 17 and XXI 25 are now TNA 30/53/9/14-18. Parcels X and XIII are believed to be at the BL (verbal report from the Earl of Powis, 26 July 2012).The main body of the Powis Castle archive is held at NLW. Further details of these and other related documents in TNA, NLW, the British Library [BL] and other repositories are given at the appropriate levels of description in this catalogue.

Related descriptions

Notes area


Details regarding previous reference numbers are given at the appropriate levels of description.


Title supplied from contents.


The origin of the variant spelling ‘Cherbury’ is not known, and it is arguably incorrect: it does not conform to the usual spelling of the village of Chirbury; it does not appear in the letters patent granting the barony to Edward Herbert in 1629; and it has not generally been preferred by subsequent holders of the title. However, over many years, it has become a more widely recognised usage than ‘Chirbury’ in relation to the Herbert family, and for this reason it has been retained in this description.

Alternative identifier(s)

Virtua system control number


GEAC system control number


Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru = The National Library of Wales

Rules and/or conventions used

This description follows NLW guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd ed.; AACR2; and LCSH


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

September 2008.


  • English



The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: Dictionary of Welsh Biography down to 1940 (London 1959); J. M. Shuttleworth, ‘Edward, lord Herbert of Cherbury (1583-1648): a preliminary, annotated checklist of works by and about him’, National Library of Wales Journal XX (1977), 151-68; 'Old Herbert papers at Powis Castle and in the British Museum', Montgomeryshire Collections [20] (1886) 1-282; Royal Commission on Historical MSS, 10th Report (1885) 378-99; Royal Commission on Historical MSS, 10th Report (Miscellaneous MSS) (1885) 18; R. D. Bedford, The defence of truth: lord Herbert of Cherbury and the seventeenth century (Manchester, 1979); J. A. Butler, Lord Herbert of Chirbury: an intellectual biography (Lewiston, 1990); J. Carey, 'Herbert of Cherbury: sex and violence', New Statesman, January 7, (1977) 22; E. D. Hill, Edward, lord Herbert of Cherbury (Boston, 1987); H. Gardner (ed.), The metaphysical poets (London, 1972); R. G. Howarth (ed.), Minor poets of the 17th century: Sir John Suckling, Richard Lovelace, Thomas Carew, Lord Herbert of Cherbury (London, [1931]); D. A. Pailin, ‘Should Herbert of Cherbury be regarded as a “deist”?’, Journal of Theological Studies, new ser., 51 (2000), 113–49; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography website, March 2008; documents within the archive.

Archivist's note

Description compiled by David Moore.

Accession area