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Papers of the Paget Family

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.10379

Scope and Contents

The deposit contains letters, documents, photographs, newspaper cuttings, publications, sketchbooks, notebooks, travel diaries, human hair, plant material, paintings, and a portable writing desk.

The letters, beginning in 1799, include family correspondence and George Edward Paget’s professional correspondence.

There are a number of packets of letters and legal documents assembled by members of the family for particular historical purposes; the earliest document, an indenture of 1648, is part of a collection concerning Clara Paget’s Welsh ancestry.

There is a typed, duplicated, and bound history of the family to 1850 (‘The Pagets of Great Yarmouth 1800 to 1850’, from the memoirs of the Rev. Alfred Tolver Paget, rector of Kirkstead, Norfolk, 1937, by Humphrey Paget) that sheds light on the earlier portion of the deposit.

Many items concern the Paget family’s original home in Great Yarmouth; other locations prominently represented are Penmaenmawr, Conwy, Wales; Cambridge (where George Edward Paget and his family lived); and Cleramendi, in Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire, the home of Hans and Maud Gadow.


  • Creation: 1648
  • Creation: 1799 to 2020, mostly nineteenth century.


Conditions Governing Access

Part restricted. Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room. Some material may be restricted for data protection reasons or because of its fragility.

Conditions Governing Use

Normal copyright restrictions apply.

Biographical / Historical

Samuel Paget was a brewer and ship owner in Great Yarmouth and made a fortune provisioning ships during the Napoleonic wars; however, the family experienced a severe financial crisis in the 1820s and Samuel was forced to sell his house on the quay at Great Yarmouth and his art collection. His wife, Sarah Elizabeth, known as Betsey, was a keen artist, collector, and chronicler of events, and the habit of keeping a family history was passed on, in particular to their son Alfred. Sarah bore seventeen children, of whom nine survived to adulthood. Two of them, George Edward Paget and James Paget, had successful careers in medicine. George Edward Paget, who became Regius Professor of Physic at Cambridge University, married Clara Fardell; they had ten children, three of whom died in infancy. Their daughter Clara Maud (known as Maud) married the German-born ornithologist Hans Gadow; they lived in Great Shelford, near Cambridge. George and Clara Paget’s daughter Rose Elizabeth married the physicist Joseph John Thomson, 1856-1940, Cavendish Professor of Physics at the University of Cambridge; they had two children, George Paget Thomson and Joan Thomson (later Charnock). George and Clara Paget’s daughter Violet (known as Vie), Rose’s twin, married, as her second husband, J. H. Batty, a businessman with interests in African mines and trading. George and Clara Paget’s son George Edmund Paget (known as Edmund), became a stockbroker, and married Stella Salomons (d. 1939). Edmund and Stella’s son Arthur Richard Paget married Ichi Watanabe in 1911 and lived in Japan.


0.38 cubic metre(s) (12 boxes, 3 portfolios)

Language of Materials






The deposit arrived as a collection of single items and labelled or unlabelled packets, as well as three portfolios of paintings, drawings, and large photographs. The single items and packets have been sorted into groups representing small family units or individuals insofar as they seemed chiefly to concern or to have been collected by particular persons. Within these groups, single items have been formed into series according to their format. Packets, which sometimes contain different formats of material and concern multiple people, have for the most part not been disassembled, but have been assigned to persons or family groups based on the identity of the principal collector of the material or their general subject matter.

Custodial History

George Paget Thomson was the executor for his mother Rose and also his aunt Clara Maud Gadow. Material dating back to Great Yarmouth days probably came via Clara Maud Gadow. According to the donor, Sir Adam Thomson (G. P. Thomson’s grandson), G. P. Thomson wrote, in his unpublished autobiography of Maud (pp. 65–66): “She had a great loyalty to the Paget family and kept in touch with distant members. A box containing a variety of family papers was given by her to me shortly before her death for preservation in the family. David and I have sorted and listed these and I hope it will be kept with our family letters, which I have re-read in the course of preparing this book, keeping only those which seemed to have some continuing interest.”

After G. P. Thomson’s death in 1975, most of the Paget material was gathered by his son David Thomson. David and his wife Patience (who also did some documenting of the material) eventually transferred the material to Sir Adam Thomson. A few other Paget papers, predominantly relating to Rose Thomson, passed to Sir Adam Thomson from his father. Papers relating to Rose, her husband J.J. Thomson and George Paget Thomson were passed to Trinity College, Cambridge, and the rest to Cambridge University Library.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Sir Adam Thomson, August 2021.

Existence and Location of Copies

There is a duplicate copy of the typescript ‘The Pagets of Great Yarmouth, 1800-1850’ at the Bodleian Library, MS Eng misc d 1176.

Related Materials

Paget family diaries are held by Cambridge University Library, MS Add.8568.

Papers and correspondence of James Paget are also held by the Royal College of Surgeons of England (Paget papers), the American Philosophical Society Library, the Wellcome Library (MSS.5701-5706 and 7377), British Library Manuscript Collections (Add MSS 45797-808), and the Royal Archives (Add X 1).


M. Jeanne Peterson, Family, Love, and Work in the Lives of Victorian Gentlewomen. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1989.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: from the Earliest Times to the Year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Typescript ‘The Pagets of Great Yarmouth, 1800-1850’ (part of the deposit).

Rose Elizabeth Thomson’s biography of George Edward Paget (part of the deposit).

Samantha Evans
October 2022
Description rules
International Standard for Archival Description - General
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom