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Arthur Moore collection

Call Number: MS 143


This collection consists of the correspondence and business records of Arthur Moore (1666?-1730) and his immediate family in England in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.


  • Creation: 1503-1857 not inclusive (bulk 1680s-1730s)


Language of Materials

The majority of the collection is in English; some items are in French, Spanish, or Latin.

Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

History of the Moore family

Information about the family background and early life of Arthur Moore (1666?-1730) in Ireland is sketchy, although there is some correspondence from Irish relatives in this collection. The collection at Spencer largely documents the activities in England of Arthur Moore and his immediate family and their acquaintances. He was employed in London as early as 1681 at the Alnage (or Aulnage) Office that oversaw the quality control of woolen cloth production. By 1686 he was a co-agent for George Monck, 2nd Duke of Albemarle (1653-1688), who had invested in a successful expedition to retrieve treasure from a sunken Spanish galleon.

After the Duke died suddenly in 1688, Moore served as agent for the Duchy of Albemarle estates until 1692, when the Duchess remarried and her new husband, taking advantage of her insanity, assumed control. For most of the period from 1695 to 1722, Arthur Moore represented the borough of Great Grimsby, Lincolnshire in Parliament. Personal involvement in various ventures included the South Sea Company, the Convex Lights Company, the Royal Fishery, the Royal African Company, and the Royal Company of Mines.

After 1702, Moore was appointed to various government positions, including manager of the East India Company, Comptroller of Army Accounts, Commissioner of Trade and Plantations, and Director of the South Sea Company. However, he came under suspicion of profiteering during negotiations for the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. In 1722 he lost his seat in Parliament, afterward retiring to Fetcham Park, the estate he had purchased in 1705 near Leatherhead in Surrey. He had also invested in the nearby manor of Polesden. Costly lawsuits and estate maintenance ate up his fortune, leaving debts to settle after he died in 1730 and a much diminished inheritance for his widow and sons.

In 1691 in London, Arthur Moore had married Susanna Browne (1673-1694), daughter of physician and traveler Edward Browne and granddaughter of physician Sir Thomas Browne. Her death followed those of their two infant daughters. Arthur Moore’s second marriage in 1696, at Westminster Abbey, was to Theophila (1676?-1739), daughter of William Smythe of the Inner Temple and Lady Elizabeth, eldest daughter of George, Earl of Berkeley. Their six children included three sons (in order of birth): William (1697?-1746), Arthur (1699?-1734), and James (1702-1734).

Arthur Moore’s brother, Colonel Thomas Moore (1668?-1735), had commanded one of Queen Anne’s regiments of foot before becoming Paymaster to her land forces abroad. In 1729, having profited from a South Sea Company investment, he bought the Polesden estate from Arthur Moore, who was in financial difficulty.

Arthur Moore’s middle son, Arthur, or “Atty,” married Elizabeth Ormond. He died in 1734, his early death having been hastened by his insalubrious way of life. James, or “Jemmy," the youngest of Arthur Moore’s sons, outlived his brother by only a few months. Well before receiving a BA degree from Oxford University in 1722, James’s profligate lifestyle had alienated his father. He remained close to his maternal grandfather William Smythe, who arranged his appointment as Receiver and Paymaster of the Band of Gentleman-Pensioners in 1718. The same grandfather’s bequest to James in 1720 required him to change his surname to Smythe (recognized by Act of Parliament in 1728). After running through his inheritance, James Moore Smythe sought to earn money as a playwright. His play The Rival Modes (1727) was modestly profitable, but a critical tongue-lashing for plagiarism by Alexander Pope ruined his reputation. Smythe died impoverished and unmarried in Middlesex in 1734. William, or “Billy,” Arthur Moore’s eldest son, outlived his brothers and his uncle Thomas. In 1730 he succeeded his father at Fetcham Park in Surrey but had to sell it in 1735 to pay his father’s debts. In that same year his uncle died, and William succeeded him at Polesden Lacey, his estate in Surrey. William Moore was returned by his friend, Francis North, 1st Earl of Guilford, in November 1740 as a member of Parliament for Banbury, a seat that he held until his death in 1746. When William Moore visited North’s estate, Wroxton Abbey, in Oxfordshire, he was a favorite of his friend’s young sons, including Frederick (1732-1792), the future Prime Minister of Great Britain. William Moore bequeathed his estates to Frederick North, but the necessity of selling them to pay debts is documented in the correspondence of Francis North as Moore’s executor.


11.5 Linear Feet (26 document cases + 6 oversize boxes, 3 oversize folders, 1 volume)

Scope and Contents

The letters and personal and business documents in this collection tell the story of the rise and fall of Arthur Moore (1666?-1730) and his immediate family. Coming from obscure, likely humble, origins in Ireland, he found success in England after about 1680, first rising as a government bureaucrat and later engaging in related business ventures and serving as a Member of Parliament. Those activities enabled him to buy and improve his estate, Fetcham Park (purchased in 1705) in Surrey.

Left a widower by his first wife’s death, Moore's second marriage in 1696 brought him three sons, often mentioned in the collection's correspondence. He also acquired the Surrey estate of Polesden Lacey but sold it to his brother, Colonel Thomas Moore, in 1723. The temptation to live beyond their means and associated legal and financial difficulties led both Arthur and Thomas Moore into a downward spiral of accumulating mortgages and other debts. Near the end of his life in 1730, Arthur Moore was forced to offer Fetcham Park for let, give up his coach, and move with his wife into lodgings.

Moore's two younger sons, Atty and Jemmy, fell into dissolute ways that led to debt and illness before their deaths in 1734. Neither Colonel Thomas Moore before his death in 1735 nor Arthur Moore’s eldest son, William, who died in 1746, was able to halt the decline of the Moore family fortunes. The correspondence of William’s friend and executor, Francis North, 1st Earl of Guilford, documents the unfortunate end of Arthur Moore’s aspirations for himself and his family.

This finding aid typically uses the name of a correspondent or author for folder/item title and provides dating (when possible) and a brief summary of item contents, as well as information about from where the letter was written. The first person who processed the collection at Spencer Library typically followed the spellings and grammar used by the correspondents, so spellings of peoples' names, geographic locations and place names, and other items will vary widely within the finding aid. Most of this finding aid was transcribed in 2020 from paper-based finding aids, rather than the original documents, so transcription errors may have been transferred. Terms and language used in the documents themselves are representative of the times and people involved; Spencer staff have attempted not to use some of those terms particularly relating to enslaved persons in this finding aid and have instead replaced them with terms, such as "captive Africans," in [brackets].

Oversize materials, which have been physically separated for their preservation, are described separately at the end of each series or sub-series, as appropriate.


This collection has been organized into 8 major series:

  1. Official and semi-official records
  2. Companies and projected companies
  3. Correspondence: Letters to Arthur Moore
  4. Arthur Moore acting as estate agent for the Beringer and Albemarle families
  5. Administration of Moore family estates
  6. Letters from or concerning Moore family members
  7. Moore’s legal and business documents
  8. Miscellaneous papers

Series A documents Arthur Moore’s bureaucratic career in the Aulnage Office, election to Parliament, negotiations and correspondence about the Treaty of Utrecht, the Board of Trade (including the long-running negotiations about Anglo-Spanish Asiento), and Army accounts. Records in this and the B series of records related to companies particularly show Great Britain's involvement in the African slave trade and include documentation about the South Sea Bubble.

Series B contains papers about Moore’s involvement in companies and projected commercial ventures, including the East India Company, the South Sea Company, the Convex Lights Company, African Gold Mines, American Fisheries, etc.

In Series C there are many letters written to Arthur Moore by friends, relatives, employees, and associates, organized alphabetically by correspondent's name, with sub-series for voluminous correspondents that include Berkeley, Chandos, James Craggs, Fairborne, Harcourt, James Hayes, Rev. Henry Moore, Thomas Parr, William Robinson (of Dublin), Robert Shee, Charles Vere, and Henry Vincent.

Series D documents the administration of Moore family estates. Information of a more personal nature is provided about Moore family members by correspondence in Series F. The legal side of Moore family affairs is documented in Series G. Miscellaneous items more or less related to the Moore family are included in Series H.

Physical Location

MS 143

Physical Location

MS Q32, MS Q96

Physical Location

MS C245

Physical Location

MS Qa39

Physical Location

MS R30

Custodial History

The role played by Francis North as William Moore’s executor meant that the papers of Arthur Moore and his family became part of the North family archives. When portions of North papers were marketed in England in the 1960s and 1970s, the Arthur Moore family papers came to the University of Kansas Libraries through several purchases.

The bulk of the Arthur Moore family papers was purchased as a group from Dillons Booksellers through an intermediary, Hoffman-Freeman Antiquarian Booksellers, in 1976. A somewhat smaller quantity of Arthur Moore material came from the North family papers acquired from Hoffman-Freeman about the same time. Another large collection also purchased from Hoffman-Freeman, a Miscellany of largely legal documents and other papers, yielded a small additional number of Arthur Moore papers. Despite the different sources, the provenance trail in each case leads back to the Arthur Moore family by way of William Moore’s executor, Francis North, 1st Earl of Guilford.

Related Materials

Separated materials purchased at the same time as this collection include

  1. MS 239, Miscellany of Deeds and Manorial, Estate, Probate, and Family documents
  2. MS 240A, North family papers
  3. MS 83, Royal Fisheries Company records


Guide to the Arthur Moore Collection
Arthur Moore collection
Finding aid prepared by alh, ksc. Finding aid encoded by mwh.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States