The Clifford family of Chudleigh, Devon, were a cadet branch of the great medieval family of Clifford, who came to England at the time of the Norman Conquest. In 1552 Sir Piers Courtenay died and left Ugbrooke Park to his daughter Anne, who was married to Anthony Clifford. Their grandson Sir Thomas Clifford (1630–1673) was a parliamentarian, soldier and one of the advisers of Charles II. Having been Comptroller of the Household (1666–68), Treasurer of the Household (1668–72) and Lord High Treasurer (1772–73), he was created Baron Clifford of Chudleigh in 1772. At the height of his power, however, he resigned on account of the 1772 Test Act, which made the holding of public office conditional on taking Anglican communion. He began to openly worship as a Roman Catholic, as had his descendants.

Until the Catholic Relief Act was passed in 1829, members of the Clifford family were debarred from holding public or military office and from sitting in the House of Lords due to their religion. Instead, they managed and developed their estate, wrote histories and other scholarly works, and collected artworks, manuscripts, books and pamphlets. Their sons were usually educated on the Continent—at the English Jesuit Academy at Liège, the English academy at Douai—and in Rome, and several took orders in the Catholic Church. William Clifford, the son of the 7th Baron, was Bishop of Clifton from 1857 to 1893. After Catholic Emancipation, members of the family were also prominent in the Army and public life. Both Sir Hugh Clifford (1866–1941) and Sir Bede Clifford (1890–1961) were colonial governors. The family had links with the Weld family, including Cardinal Thomas Weld (1773–1837), many of whose possessions were housed in the Cardinal’s room at Ugbrooke.

Ugbrooke was originally a small, straggling house, dating from early Tudor times. The 1st Baron began rebuilding it and a chapel dedicated to St Cyprian was consecrated in 1671. In 1760 the 4th Baron commissioned Robert Adam to design a new house in front of the old house, incorporating a few of the older rooms. The house had two storeys and formed a square, with towers at each corner. The library and the chapel formed one wing. The 4th Baron also extended the park and plantations and Lancelot (Capability) Brown designed the gardens. Further changes to both the house and the park were made in the nineteenth century.


The Clifford Collection was purchased in 1963 from Hugh Clifford, later 13th Baron Clifford. Hugh Clifford had lived in Australia in his younger days, following the marriage of his father to May Knox, the daughter of the Chief Justice, Sir Adrian Knox. One item in the collection—the Chertsey Cartulary—was not received until 1974, when an export licence was granted by the British Government.


Printed Materials

Assembled over three centuries, the Clifford Collection is the largest family library to have been acquired by the Library. It contains over 10 000 volumes and 1500 pamphlets (about 6430 titles), written in English, Latin, French, Italian, German and Spanish, with particular strength in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Reflecting the interests of many different family members, it is broad in its coverage: Greek and Latin classics, ancient history, British history, local history, European history, heraldry, genealogy, biography, politics, religion, theology, church history, philosophy, law, economics, land management, agriculture, animal husbandry, gardening, botany, medicine, optics, astronomy, architecture, art, music, exploration, travel and literature.

The following are examples of early imprints in the collection:

Homeliarius Doctorum, Nuremberg, 1494

Geremia, Peter, Divinum Petri hieremie opus, Brescia, 1502

Mazocchi, Jacopo, Epigrammata antiqvae vrbis , Rome, 1521

Sallust, Opera Sallustiana, Lyons, 1526

Ioannes Frobenius candido lectori S. D. En Novum testamentum, ex Erassi Roterodami recognitione, Basel, 1527

Dűrer, Albrecht, Clariss: pictoris et geometrae Alberti Dureri De varietate figurarum et flexuris partium ac gestib, Nuremberg, 1534

Hardying, John, The chronicle of John Hardying in Metre, London, 1543

Pollio, Vitruvius, M. Vitruvii viri suae professionis peritissimi, de architectura libri decem, Strasbourg, 1543

Stumpf, Johannes, Gemeiner loblicher Eydgnoschaft Stetten/Landen und Voelckeren Chronickwirdiger thaaten beschreybung, 2 vols in 1, Zurich, 1548

Demosthenes, Demosthenis oratorum Graeciae principis opera, Basle [c. 1549]

Alberti, Leandro, Descrittione de tutta Italia, Bologna, 1550

Hall, Edward, The chronicle of England, London, 1550

Machiavelli, Niccolo, Tutte le opera di Nicollo Machiavelli, 5 vols in 1, 1550

More, Thomas, The Workes of Sir Thomas More Knyght, Sometime Lorde Chancellour of England, London, 1557.

While there are standard works on theology, such as writings of Thomas Aquinas and Thomas à Kempis, the great majority of religious works are of a devotional kind, including sermons, liturgies, breviaries, prayer books, catechisms and lives of the saints. There is a copy of the Rheims New Testament of 1582, the first English translation from the Vulgate (often known as the Douay-Rheims Bible). There are also a large number of tracts, some of them relating to the Test Acts and the relations between church and state.

The collection is strong in publications of English and Scottish historians, including George Buchanan, Gilbert Burnet, William Camden, Lord Clarendon, William Dugdale, Edward Gibbon, David Hume, Peter Heylyn, Richard Knolles, Walter Raleigh, William Robertson, Tobias Smollett and John Speed. Other scholarly English writers represented in the collection are Francis Bacon, Edward Coke, Charles Darwin, Erasmus Darwin, Samuel Johnson, Isaac Newton, William Petty, John Selden and Adam Smith.

There are a number of books on art and architecture, some of them with lavish illustrations, by such writers and artists as Colin Campbell, William Gilpin, Andrea Palladio, Giambattista Piranesi, Joshua Reynolds and Johann Joachim Winckelmann.

The collection contains a diversity of literary works, many by obscure writers and others by famous figures such as Samuel Butler, Lord Chesterfield, Jeremy Collier, William Congreve, John Dryden, Maria Edgeworth, John Evelyn, Oliver Goldsmith, Ben Jonson, John Milton, Samuel Richardson, Jonathan Swift, James Thomson and Walter Scott. European writers include Giovanni Boccaccio, Luis de Camoens, Baldassare Castiglione, Dante Alighieri, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Molière, Michel de Montaigne, Jean Racine, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire.

Another strength of the collection is French history and political and economic affairs. Some examples are books by the historians Henri de Boulainvilliers, Jean de Launoy and Abbé de Mably, the theologians Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet and François de Fenelon, the banker and finance minister Jacques Necker, the politicians Lazare Carnot and the Comte de Mirabeau, and the agronomist Antoine-Augustin Parmentier.

The large number of pamphlets in the Clifford Collection were mostly published between 1750 and 1850. They deal with an extraordinary range of subjects: Catholic emancipation, the French Revolution, the Royal Navy, the government of Ireland, Indian affairs, colonies, parliamentary reform, the slavery question, Catholic education, the employment of children in factories, public health, agriculture, inventions and the repeal of the Corn Laws.


The most famous item in the Clifford Collection is the Chertsey Cartulary, the only medieval cartulary held in Australia and one of a very small number held outside Britain. It is a volume containing charters, accounts and property transactions of St Peter’s Benedictine Abbey at Chertsey, Surrey, between 1312 and 1345. During this period John de Rutherwyk was abbot and the abbey, which was probably founded in Saxon times, was extremely prosperous. The cartulary was bound by Sydney Cockerell.

The collection contains nine other medieval manuscripts, seven of which are illuminated. They are devotional works—Bibles, books of hours, a prayer book, a breviary, a psalter—executed in England, France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. In most instances, the bindings are of a later date. Two of the books of hours (MS 1097/5, 9) contain full-page miniatures of Biblical scenes and saints and are works of great beauty.

Most of the other manuscripts in the collection, dating from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, are of a religious and devotional nature. They include an original manuscript by Gregory Martin (d. 1582) entitled Roma Sancta and manuscripts by George Oliver on the history of Catholicism in Devon and Cornwall. Other works deal with the poor laws, prisons, hospitals, freemasonry, legal disputes, the Civil War and the defence of Devon during the war with France (1794–1802).

Of special interest is a nineteenth-century manuscript catalogue of the library of Lord Clifford (RBf CLI 4263).

Personal Papers

A small number of documents of the Clifford family are to be found in the collection. They include a commonplace book of the 1st Baron Clifford and his horoscope (1670), manuscripts by the 6th Baron on the lives of saints, financial accounts of estates of Lord Clifford in other counties (1748–50), verse written to celebrate the return of Lord Clifford to the House of Lords (c. 1831), a sketch book of Walter Clifford (1872) and a farm ledger (1844–1915).


All the books in the Clifford Collection, including the small number of modern books, are kept together in the Rare Books Collection. The books have been catalogued individually and the call numbers have the prefixes RB CLI, RBq CLI, RBf CLI and RBef CLI.

The manuscripts and personal documents are held in the Manuscripts Collection at MS 1097. They have been catalogued as a collection and an online finding aid is available at More detailed descriptions of the 10 medieval manuscripts can be found in:

Sinclair, K.V., Descriptive catalogue of medieval and renaissance western manuscripts in Australia, Sydney University Press, Sydney, [1969].

The illuminated manuscripts are described in detail in:

Margaret M. Manion and Vera F. Vines, Medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts in Australian collectionsThames and Hudson, Melbourne, 1984

Related Collections

Other cartularies of Chertsey Abbey are held in the British Library (Lansdowne 435) and the National Archives in London (E 164/29).


Chertsey Abbey cartularies, volume II, part I: being the second portion of the Cartulary in the Public Record Office, Surrey Record Society, Frome, 1958.

Chertsey cartularies, volume II, part 2: being extracts from British Museum Lansdowne MS. 435 and the Clifford Cartulary, together with index to volume II, Surrey Record Society, Frome, 1963.

Hutton, Ronald, Thomas Clifford, First Baron Clifford of Chudleigh, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 12, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004, pp. 115–19.

Jones, Mary, The history of Chudleigh, Devon: with a description of the surrounding scenery, seats, families etc., S. Drayton & Sons, Exeter, 1875.

Moseley, Charles (ed.), Burke’s peerage and baronetage, vol. 1, Delaware, Wilmington, 2003, pp. 821–3.

Ugbrooke House:

First posted 2008 (revised 2019)