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The ‘Snelling’ Archive

The Snelling Archive is a series of letters, wills, probate documents and ephemera relating to George Baxter and the Baxter, Harrild and Snelling families, so called as it came down the family line of George’s Sister, Ann Baxter, who married Francis Snelling.

The ‘Archive’ was purchased by the late Bryon Parkin, an ardent Baxter collector, member and past president of the New Baxter Society. He purchased it in two Lots at Dominic Winter Auctions on 6th October 1994 and gave this collection its name.

Bryon Parkin traced the archives history back to Sarah Ann Snelling who was the daughter of George Baxter’s sister Ann and Francis Snelling. Sarah Ann had died in 1917 and by the late 1980’s the then owners of the archive had decided to sell as by this time it had passed to them through marriage and they had no direct connection with the Snelling, Harrild or Baxter families.

Some items in the archive are beyond the scope of my wider interest in Baxter but there is still a wealth of information contained within it. It gives or confirms many facts but perhaps more importantly it gives an insight into George Baxter, the man, his character and his relationships with his family. A slightly later series of letters from George Baxter junior, George’s son, also gives some great information about his work and financial situation along with some unknown examples of his own work.

Bryon Parkin bequeathed the archive to Reading Museum on his death and it has sat there ever since possibly only being seen by a handful of people. Before his death Bryon copied the archive and passed this to Brian Harrild a descendant of Robert Harrild who has very kindly given me access to it and allowed me to transcribe and publish the items I feel are of interest. A couple of items seem to be missing from the copied archive, perhaps they have been lost or were not copied in the first place, whatever, hopefully I will get a chance to see those extra items at Reading Museum at some time in the future.

I have transcribed the letters, with the invaluable help of my wife. This was not an easy task, first George Baxter’s handwriting varies from very artistic to an absolute scrawl, sometimes in the same letter and sometimes you can virtually feel his anger as he is writing.  Punctuation and paragraphs seem to be only used minimally, or perhaps it was just the ‘grammar’ of the day. Combine this with phrases, words and the style of writing from over 170 years ago and the fact that I am working from photocopies and you get the idea that any transcription can’t be 100%, 95% if I am lucky, any help would be greatly appreciated.

Bryon Parkin published about five of the letters in the New Baxter Society newsletters in the 1990’s but I feel there is most probably over 20 items of interest which I will add to this article in stages.

To appreciate the letters I first detail the abbreviated family tree to show the people involved so hopefully you can get a better understanding of their contents:

George Baxter Family tree - abbreviated to show the main people involved in his story so far.

Letter dated 23rd July 1853 from George Baxter to his Brother in Law, Francis Snelling, regarding Robert Harrild's death

Letter dated 28th July 1853 from George Baxter to his father John Baxter concerning the death of Robert Harrild

Letter dated 26th December 1853 from George Baxter to Francis Snelling regarding the death of his Mother in Law Elizabeth Harrild

A Sketch of Robert Harrild's home Round Hill House in Sydenham by Mary Snelling

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