Atkinson & Marshall Papers and the Highland Clearances in Scotland

Material of trans-national interest has been discovered amongst documents relating to 19th century Northumberland farmers, Atkinson and Marshall. From 1805, Atkinson & Marshall began to lease land on the Sutherland Estate eventually leasing more than 100,000 acres.

Introduction of large-scale sheep farming resulted in the mass eviction of tenants, a movement that became known as The Highland Clearances. At the heart of this policy were William Young and Patrick Sellar, agents to the Countess of Sutherland. The Atkinson & Marshall papers contain correspondence with both agents and other interesting material relating to the clearances.

The papers held at Northumberland Archives include several hundred letters relating to Atkinson & Marshall’s Scottish estates. Correspondents include James Loch, commissioner of the Sutherland estates as well as Young and Sellar. Approximate dates are 1806 – papers relating to the offer for the Sutherland farms – through to the 1840s and the death of Anthony Marshall.

There are several direct references to the removal of families from the sheep lands – a letter from James Lock to Anthony Marshall dated 2 October 1817 refers to ‘… steps are taking to remove the people of Grubmore(?) and Tyne with those of Langdale to the coast …’.

The collection is name rich with references to many local families. Other papers include a description of the sheep runs or tenements; details of the Sutherland shepherds’ wages; papers relating to the Sutherland Committee of Association Against Felons (one of the main objectives of which was to prevent retaliatory acts of sheep stealing); accounts for the driving and sale of ewes; enquiries about the methods of sheep farming used by Atkinson & Marshall; papers regarding the 1816 trial of Patrick Sellar for culpable homicide and arson; and much correspondence about the general management of the Atkinson & Marshall estates.

The Trust is supporting efforts to obtain funding to catalogue the collection. If these are successful:

  • An archivist would establish a classification scheme for the collection
  • A Cataloguing Assistant, under the supervision of an Archivist, would item list the collection adding descriptions to our online catalogue.
  • We would apply for a six month PG Research placement via the AHRC Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership Placement scheme to assist us with the research outputs and dissemination arising from this project.
  • Further research would be undertaken on the Atkinson & Marshall families and their business.
  • We would produce published blogs promoting the project and the collection.
  • The Northern Bridge placement would present a virtual talk about the project.

A grant of £5,000 was generously donated by the Strathmartine Trust in St Andrews.

Letter from James Loch, Dunrobin Castle, Sutherland, Scotland, to A[nthony] Marshall - 27 August, 1829
Part of a letter from James Loch, Dunrobin Castle, Sutherland, Scotland, to A[nthony] Marshall – 27 August, 1829