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Rare letters of Weston Park aristocrat donated to public records.

Letters revealing rare information about the private life of a 17th century Midland aristocrat have been unearthed and donated to a public records office.

Notes written by Lady Elizabeth Wilbraham, the 17th century owner of Weston Park stately home, near Shifnal in Shropshire, were discovered in a private collection in County Durham and reported to Gareth Williams, curator at the Weston Park Foundation which manages the estate.

The communications were passed to Staffordshire County Records Office where the Weston Park Collection is held. They are addressed to a family friend and detail Lady Elizabeth's efforts to find candidates worthy of wedding her daughters Grace and Margaret.

Little is known of Lady Elizabeth's private life; these documents offer clues about her. Andrea Webster, marketing executive of the Weston Park Foundation, said: "We don't know a great deal about Lady Elizabeth so this sheds a lot of light on her approach to the marriages of her children. The letters explain the importance of a suitable match within the aristocracy of the day. She was certainly a very strong lady and knew what she wanted and how to get it."

Lady Elizabeth was responsible for building Weston Park in 1671 and her heavily-annotated copy of Palladio's book of architecture is on display at Staffordshire County Records Office along with her imposing portrait by Sir Peter Lely. The letters show how she sent agents to check on the prospects and possessions of her daughter's potential husbands. Thanks to their family's affluence and stature Richard, 2nd Earl of Bradford, and Lionel Tollemache, Earl of Dysart, met with her approval. Mr Williams said: "We have no idea how the letters came to be in County Durham but they really do help us understand a little more about Lady Elizabeth."

The Weston Park Foundation is transforming the estate's 18th century Granary building into an exhibition gallery and food shop. Trustees from the Foundation want to hear from people whose ancestors had links to Weston Park.

Contact Gareth Williams on 01952 852131.

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Gareth Williams, curator at the Weston Park Foundation, and county archivist Thea Randall with the letters of the late Lady Wilbraham (in background portrait)
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 26, 2008
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