An overview of the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum's Pitt-Rivers manuscript collections

The Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum has a substantial collection of artefacts and manuscripts relating to Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers, see here for their information about these holdings.

See here for scans of most of the letters from the Pitt-Rivers papers at S&SWM

Quite a few of their manuscript letters have been transcribed and are available as 'Primary Documents' on this site (some are also given elsewhere). Please note that the RPR researcher observed that there were very few letters dating from 1889-1891, and there is some evidence from within the letters that Pitt-Rivers was suffering ill-health during this period and therefore less active (personally, as can be seen from the year-by-year activities under Pitt-Rivers life on this website he was professionally active throughout).

It is hoped that as part of this project progress can be made to digitalize and help access to the important manuscript collections. Access to the physical collections can be arranged by contacting the Museum at

The King's House
65 The Close
+ 44 (0)1722 332151
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

or by following the links here.

A full catalogue of the Salisbury Museum Pitt-Rivers papers is available here, created by Rachel McGoff:


Here are Rachel's notes about preparing the catalogue:

Notes on SSWM Letters Catalogue

For each letter this catalogue lists the catalogue number (assigned by Thompson), the date of writing, the names of sender and recipient, a brief summary of the contents, and additional comments where relevant.

Since the majority of the letters are addressed to General Pitt-Rivers, I have left the recipient column blank unless the letter is addressed to someone else, if the recipient is unknown I have marked it with a question mark. In the catalogue ‘General Pitt-Rivers’ is how I refer to A.H.L.F. Pitt-Rivers, no matter the date of the letter (i.e. before or after he took the name Pitt-Rivers) and his wife I refer to as Alice Pitt-Rivers, children and other relatives are referred to by the names used in the relevant letters, and their relation to Pitt-Rivers is generally noted in the ‘Notes’ column.

There are a number of cases where one catalogue number includes more than one letter, such as a copy of the reply included with the original letter. In these cases I have made separate entries for each individual letter under the same number. In cases where items such as photographs or leaflets are enclosed with letters, I make a note of this but do not give such items their own catalogue entries.

I have tried to transcribe the names of senders as signed on the letters, which means in some cases the same sender’s name may appear slightly differently throughout the catalogue, although surnames should be consistent. The same applies to the places and institutions the senders are from, which I have made a note of where known. I have tried to match the names with those in Thompson’s catalogue, where I read a name differently I have usually made a note of this, and if I have identified individuals I have included links to my sources.

I have tried to be consistent as possible with the entries although no doubt there are some discrepancies, especially between the B series and L series where the letters have been organised quite differently by Thompson (the B series contains large numbers of letters grouped under one number, whereas in the L series assigns letter is generally assigned it’s own number.)

Sometimes it has been difficult to pinpoint the exact subject of a letters, as the author might refer to several subjects very briefly or the letter is clearly a continuation of previous communication and the subject is not obvious without this context. In these cases I have given very general descriptions. If I have been completely unable to indentify what the letter is about, either due to it being too vague or because of illegible handwriting, I have made a note of this.

AP, November 2014

Introduction to Michael Thompson's catalogue of the S&SWM PR papers written in 1976:


The papers that are catalogued here formed part of an accession to the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Musuem from the contents of the Pitt-Rivers Museum at Farnham, Dorset, accepted by H.M. Treasury in lieu of death duties on the estate of the late Captain George Pitt-Rivers. The British and Agricultural Collections were transferred to Salisbury under the same arrangement in 1974 when it was decided to disperse finally the collections at Farnham. A committee under the Chairmanship of Mr C.E. Blunt was set up under the aegis of the British Academy [insert] Salisbury Museum [end insert] to catalogue the papers, from which the present work stems.

The catalogue covers material at Salisbury from three different sources: the main collection of papers, which it will be suggested came originally from Rushmore Lodge, twenty six rolls of plans and sections retrieved by the Curator of Salisbury Museum from Farnham Museum where they had possibly been since the previous century, and three albums of prints and other photographs of the late [insert] H. [end insert] St George Gray acquired by the National Trust with his house at Martock, and transferred to Salisbury. Appendix I deals with the General's records that form a small part of a loan deposit at the Dorset County Record Office made by two of his great grand-sons. Appendix II deals with letters still in the possession of the family at Hinton St Mary which are available in photocopy in box 11.

The main collection of papers, which arrived in Salisbury in five cardboard cartons from a London solicitor's office, had been only recently stored at the Farnham Museum which is not their place of origin. At the time of a visit to the house of Captain George Pitt-Rivers in 1959 they were kept there ... The collection contains around 4,000 letters dated between 1881-99, addressed to Pitt-Rivers, and there can be no reasonable doubt but that it represents the contents of the private study or office ... at Rushmore Lodge, the mansion where General Pitt-Rivers lived from 1880 until his death in 1900. The house was subsequently given up by the family and is now used as a school.

It is important to establish the place of origin of these papers in order to understand their composition. The most surprising feature about them is the virtual absence of field records of the Cranborne Chase excavations. These were no doubt kept in a different place, presumably the museum. They must have been of considerable bulk, and, as no trace can now be found of them, they appear to have been destroyed, possibly at the time the sixteen Inspector's field notebooks were presented to the Office of Works in the 1920s. The present writer knows from discussion with the late H. St George Gray that the excavation records were maintained in the same type of notebook with metal clasps as was used in the Inspector's travels.

When the papers were laid out and a small quantity of post-1900 items removed it was abundantly clear that the boxes contained the literary remains not of one but of two people. Fortunately the correspondence M41-45 survived to eplain this anomaly. Thomas Wake Smart, a physician living at Cranborne, ... his papers were acquired by the Postmaster at Cranborne who offered them on approval to Pitt-Rivers. They arrived in two packets weighing 20 lbs and were purchased by Pitt-Rivers for £2. This happened in 1895 but subsequently in the Rushmore office the papers of the two men became intermingled. ...

... The material has been classified under six broad headings, three of these being further subdivided. Each part has a short introduction [not given here] ... The arrangement of the first three sections is chronological, the first Army paper is 1855, the first professional paper 1864, the first Ancient Monuments paper 1879. The sub-division of the Professional Papers, a-h is also roughly chronological.

The small Army section and the Professional papers differ from the others in that they are largely pre-Rushmore, that is pre-1880, and also largely written by Pitt-Rivers himself. The last four sections are almost exclusively from the Rushmore period, 1880-1900 ... and the last three sections, being letters received without copies of replies are almost exclusively non-autographic material. ...

... The last two sections which contain some 3,500 letters received in 1881-99 present problems of their own. The absence of copie of replies greatly reduces the value of the letters and in any case the vast majority are of a trivial nature. It did not seem a subject index would be justified. Accordingly the letters have been arranged in chronological order and the 960 correspondents indexed. ...

The Professional Papers probably constitute the most rewarding but also the most exacting section from the cataloguer's point of view. Subjects could go through the following sequences: rough (sometimes illegible) notes on preliminary reading, very rough draft, less rough draft (with references), first fair copy, second fair copy (for lecture), another fair copy (for publication.) Normally only fragments of one or two stages will survive (there are some complete articles) so that the problem merely of identification has been considerable. ....

Transcribed by AP

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