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NAME : Villiers-Stuart Collection           Collection Listings             Back to list of Collections


Reference Code:



Level of description:            

GB MIC464, T3131, IE BL/EP/VS

Villiers-Stuart Collection

[1215] - 1953

Sub-fonds & Item description

181 boxes & 214 outsize items


Creator: The Fitzgerald, Villiers, Mason, Aland and Villiers-Stuart Families of Dromana, Co. Waterford.

Biographical/Administrative History:

GB MIC464, T3131, IE BL/EP/VS are the estate, family and political papers of the Fitzgerald, Villiers, Mason, Aland and Villiers-Stuart families of Dromana, Co. Waterford, Viscounts and Earls Grandison and Barons Stuart de Decies.

The Villiers Stuart family, which descends directly from the Fitzgeralds of the Decies and of Dromana, has been in unbroken, though not undisturbed, possession of the Dromana estate, near Cappoquin, in West Waterford, since mediaeval times. Although the descent has been unbroken, it has on three occasions during the period 1664-1824 been through the female line. As a result, the family name changed from Fitzgerald, to Fitzgerald Villiers, to Mason Villiers, to Villiers-Stuart, and the family has held a succession of titles, each extinct or dormant in their turn - a viscountcy of Decies, viscountcies and earldoms of Grandison, and a barony of Stuart de Decies.

They descend from Thomas FitzAnthony, Seneschal of Leinster, who in 1215 obtained from King John a grant of the custody of the territories of Decies and Desmond. Thomas's daughter Margery married John FitzThomas, ancestor of the Earls of Desmond. Their descendant James, 6th Earl of Desmond, who died in 1462, granted to his younger son Gerald the territory of Decies, an area extending roughly between the rivers Blackwater and Mahon in Co. Waterford. Gerald established his headquarters at the castle of Dromana in a virtually impregnable position on a cliff above the Blackwater to the south of Cappoquin.

James and Emily Villiers-Stuart sold Dromana and moved to Co. Galway in 1958. They took most of the archive with them. They did leave some material with Sir John Ainsworth (Business Records Surveyor for the Irish Manuscripts Commission) for examination, whose office was in the National Library of Ireland. James and Emily Villiers-Stuart bought Ballynaparka, Aglish, near Villierstown, near Dromana, in 1967, bringing their archive with them. Dr. Anthony Malcomson (PRONI) visited in 1970 and over a number of visits sorted and listed this material.

Sir John Ainsworth passed away in the early 1980s and James Villiers-Stuart approached the NLI asking after the archival material he had left with Sir John. It was located and Dr. Malcomson arranged and listed this material. He was asked to use the numbering system of the NLI and he was able to cross-reference the material to the already listed records under the PRONI system. After this listing was completed the Villiers-Stuarts brought the material back to Ballynaparka.

In 1985 James and Emily Villiers-Stuart bought back Dromana and moved everything back to this property.

A further 14 boxes of papers came to light in 1996. This material was not integrated with the rest of the archive, as this would have thrown the microfilming that had been completed on the collection by this time. Dr. Malcomson re-visited Dromana to sort and list this material. It was added on as “Section P”, arranged where possible according to the categorization of Sections A-N, and cross-referenced accordingly.

In 2003 James and Emily Villiers-Stuart transferred ownership of their family papers to University College Cork.


Scope and Content:

The Villiers-Stuart collection contains c.12,000 documents and volumes. The papers are listed chronologically according to estate ownership, document type, and collection acquisition.

They include: Fitzgerald of the Decies deeds and documents, 1215-1598; Fitzgerald deeds and documents, 1602-1670; deeds and documents relating to Katherine Fitzgerald Villiers, Viscountess Grandison, 1674-1701; Mason title deeds, 1560-1745; wills and testamentary papers, 1658-1662, 1693 and 1714-1875; Grandison and Villiers-Stuart deeds of settlement, 1708-1920; leasebooks and leases, 1680-1902; 19th century legal case papers, 1822-1883; correspondence of the 1st Earl Grandison, 1708-1767; Mason correspondence, 1708-1759; Grandison correspondence, 1766-1802; Stuart and Villiers-Stuart estate and financial correspondence, 1800-1907; letters and papers, 1824-1874, of Henry Villiers-Stuart, 1st Lord Stuart de Decies, concerning general politics, Co. Waterford politics and administration, and family matters; similar letters and papers, 1857-1893, of Henry Windsor Villiers-Stuart, MP for Co. Waterford, 1873-1874 and 1880-1885; formal documents, 1664-1839 and 1908; inventories, 1694-1695, 1726-1762, [1820s] and 1882-1957; maps, plans, surveys and valuations, 1640, 1652, c.1655 and 1693-1892; rentals and rent accounts, 1708-1945; and bills, receipts, accounts and account books, 1709-1927.

The earliest original document among the Villiers-Stuart collection is dated 1400: the c.22 documents of 1215-1292 are only present in the form of 19th-century copies. Even so, the archive is unusually early by Irish standards.

Further detailed family history can be found from the PRONI website http://www.proni.gov.uk/villiers-stuart_papers_summary.pdf

System of Arrangement:

The Villiers-Stuart collection has a referencing system from the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), the National Library of Ireland and UCC Library Archives Service. During the 1970s PRONI undertook the selective photocopying of the collection (T/3131) and almost comprehensively microfilmed it (MIC/464).

The collection as housed in UCC comprises 4 strands, all of which have to a certain extent been recorded in a variety of systems:

  • Material previously listed by Dr. Anthony Malcomson of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) in situ at Dromana House in 1970 - Strand 1
  • Material previously housed in the National Library of Ireland (NLI) – Strand 2
  • Material classified as “Section P” by PRONI – Strand 3
  • Material transferred directly from Dromana in 2003 – Strand 4

The majority of the listing of this collection was carried out in the 1970s and therefore is not in compliance with current ISAD(G) standards. The NLI material has been grouped in bundles to correspond with the PRONI categories and added to their listing; however they are not sub-numbered and individual documents are not described. This listing of strands 1 to 3 created a summary calendar (SC), and a detailed calendar (DC) of certain items, which is the current working index to the archive, available for use to UCC Library by kind permission of The Deputy Keeper of the Records, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. It is also available on the PRONI website via their e-catalogue http://www.proni.gov.uk

PRONI has microfilmed the more significant parts of it, but not all, and given copies of the reels to the participants in the previous microfilming exercise. This listing of Section P is available on the PRONI e-catalogue. Access to the microfilm version of the collection is available at Special Collections UCC Library, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), the National Library of Ireland (NLI), and Waterford City Library.

Summary list of the Section Heading Content of Strands 1-3

UCC Library completed the listing of Strand 4 (IE BL/EP/VS) of the Villiers-Stuart collection to ISAD(G) IRELAND standards in 2010. This is material that was transferred directly from Dromana in 2003 (strand 4, IE BL/EP/VS) and was previously unlisted. It is now open to the public.

In the past the Villiers-Stuart collection was only available via the microfilm/photocopying by PRONI. From March 2010, original material from strands 1-3 is open and available for public research. From February 2011, previously unlisted material is now fully listed and available for public research.


Access: Available by appointment with the Archives Service to holders of UCC Readers tickets.

Language: English

Finding Aids: Please read the Content and Structure section above for explanation of the Collection into ‘Strands’

Section Heading Content of Strands 1-3 (PDF 57KB)
Strand 1
Summary Calendar (PDF 386KB)
Strand 1 Detailed Calendar (PDF 770KB)
Strand 2 Summary & Detailed Calendar (PDF 198KB)
Strand 3 Summary Calendar (PDF 129KB)
Strand 4 Descriptive List (PDF 1.55 MB)




Emer Twomey, Archivist, UCC Library, February 2011

Update: An updated account on the history behind the various strands of the collection was added here with information kindly provided by Emily Villiers-Stuart, Barbara Grubb and Dr. Anthony Malcomson in 2014.

Emer Twomey, Archivist, UCC Library, April 2015

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Author: Emer Twomey, Archivist, UCC Library, University College Cork


Last updated: 08 March 2016

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