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Sparke family papers

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/RCMS 261

Scope and Contents

All documents relate to the Sparke family and are chiefly bonds, receipts and accounts. 42 have been briefly calendared on slips of paper. 41 of these date from 1638-79 and the other from 1754. There are also 12 uncalendared papers, chiefly accounts and lists of debts, of which five are dated between 1669 and 1672; the remainder are undated, but from their appearance can be assigned to the same period. Of especial interest are the first eleven items relating to the West Indies, eight of which have been transcribed on quarto sheets of plain paper in the same hand as the calendaring of the collection as a whole:

1. Bill of freight from Arthur Sparke in England for a trunk sent to Gabriel Sparke in Barbados, 5 January 1649
2. Letter from Charles Sparke, Barbados, to his brother Arthur, 29 March 1655
3. Letter from Charles Sparke, Barbados, to his mother Mary Sparke in London [March 1655?]
4. Letter from Charles Sparke, Jamaica, to his brother Arthur, 4 June 1655
5. Letter from Charles Sparke, Jamaica, to his kinsman Henry Williamson, 16 March 1658
6. Letter from Charles Sparke, Jamaica, to his brother Arthur, 20 February 1659
7. Letter from Charles Sparke, Jamaica, to his brother Arthur, 6 April 1660
8. Bill of exchange from Charles Sparke, Jamaica, to his brother Arthur, 1660
9-10. Two bonds for £200 by Charles Sparke to Arthur, 18 and 26 April 1662
11. I.O.U. for £3 from Charles (presumably in Jamaica) to Arthur Sparke, 9 May 1662

RCMS 261/53 is missing.


  • Creation: 1638 - 1754


Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Biographical / Historical

This collection relates to the family of Rev. Thomas Sparke, who died just before the English Civil War. His son Arthur Sparke (1628-77), became the town clerk of Hertford in 1651, a barrister of the Middle Temple and MP for Hertford in 1660. Arthur developed commercial interests in the Caribbean during the late 1640s, which were managed in Barbados by his brother Gabriel. Matters were sufficiently promising for Arthur to send out another brother, Charles, ‘citizen and fishmonger of London’, in the early 1650s, and the collection holds six letters written by Charles to his relatives describing his affairs. A fourth brother, Christopher, remained in England, and also joined the legal profession. Charles and Gabriel fell out, and Charles blamed his failing commercial ventures upon his brother. In desperation he joined the army raised to attack Spain’s Caribbean colonies and participated in the conquest of Jamaica in 1655. Charles remained on the island, sharing the privation of the garrison which was ravaged by disease and starvation, and attempted new trading activities. In 1658 and 1659 he wrote to his family reporting his great distress. He sought their aid in obtaining permission to return to England if possible, otherwise to send goods he might sell in Jamaica. Charles’s final letter from Jamaica is dated 1660 and suggests that his fortunes had improved. There are several commercial documents relating to him from the early 1660s, indicating that he resumed contact with his family, but his ultimate fate is unknown.


1 archive box(es) (1 box) : paper

Language of Materials


Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

good condition

Former / Other Reference


Other Finding Aids

Donald H. Simpson, ed., 'The manuscript catalogue of the library of the Royal Commonwealth Society' (London, 1975), p. 143.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Provenance not known.

Existence and Location of Copies

One letter from this collection was digitised for the online exhibition, 'Celebrating 150 years of the Royal Commonwealth Society (1868-2018)'. Click on the digital object link to view the image on Cambridge Digital Library.


‘The misadventures of Charles Sparke’ in the 'Royal Commonwealth Society library notes', no. 124, April 1967, p. 1-3, describes the collection.


This collection level description was created by MJC.


Sparke Family

Includes index.
2006-11-22 11:12:06+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
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Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom