The letters were discovered in a Tudor mansion Knole House, West Kent, south-eastern United Kingdom. They date to 1603, 1622 and 1633 and tell how the mansion was run in the 17th century.
Three 400-year-old letters have been uncovered under floorboards during restoration works at the historic estate. Two letters, dated May 1603 and October 1633, were discovered in one of the attics in the South Barracks. The third one from February 1622, was found in the debris in a ceiling void close to the Upper King’s Room. It might have fallen through over the centuries from the attic above to its final resting place. All the letters were written on rag paper, a high quality parchment popular during the 17th century.
Two of the letters have now undergone careful cleaning and conservation, after which they are completely legible, and the third one is scheduled next. One of them, dated to 1633, includes a historic shopping list, requesting that household items – such as green fish and pewter spoons – be sent to Copt Hall, a stately home in Essex, from an unnamed house in London. Records show that many large items, including trunks of linen and furniture, were moved from Copt Hall to Knole around the time the letter was written. he rare documents will now go on display in the visitor centre at Knole for the public to see for themselves.
The letters state:
“Mr Bilby, I pray p[ro]vide to be sent too morrow in ye Cart some Greenfish , The Lights from my Lady Cranfeild[es] Cham[ber] 2 dozen of Pewter spoon[es]: one greate fireshovell for ye nursery; and ye o[t]hers which were sent to be exchanged for some of a better fashion, a new frying pan together with a note of ye prises of such Commoditie for ye rest.
Your loving friend
“The xviijth of February 1622
[Received] by us the poore prisoners in [ILLEGIBLE] the [ILLEGIBLE]
[from the] right honourable the Earle of Middlesex our worthy [ILLEGIBLE]
[by the hands] of Mr Ayers the some of three Shillings [ILLEGIBLE]
[ILLEGIBLE] for our releefe & succour for which wee give [good]
[ILLEGIBLE] for all our good benefactors.
Richard Roger [ILLEGIBLE]”
(after Daily Star, Daily Mirror, Ferrari Press Agency & National Trust)