Born 2 July 1792 at 32 Cannon Street, Manchester, son of Thomas Phillipps, member of a family long settled at Broadway, Worcestershire, and Hanna Walton.
Educated at Rugby and University College, Oxford (B.A. 1815, M.A. 1820), Thomas Phillipps succeeded, in 1818, to the whole of his father's property, which included the Middle Hill estate, Worcestershire.
A collector from boyhood he developed what can only be described as a voracious appetite for manuscripts and documents, emulating, as he himself says, the examples of Sir Robert Cotton and Sir Robert Harley.
Details of Sir Thomas Phillipps's career and of his numerous and varied acquisitions, made on the Continent and in Britain (including Ireland) (he also collected printed books), are given in the D.N.B.; the present note must confine itself to the Welsh content of what was destined to become the largest private collection (particularly on the manuscripts and records side; the total has been estimated at 60,000) in Britain at the time and, possibly in western Europe also. Periodical auction sales, which began about 1886, continued.
In the 1895 sale a good collection of Welsh manuscripts was acquired by the Cardiff Public Library; for details see J. Gwenogfryn Evans, Repts. on MSS. in the Welsh Language, Cardiff, and the annual reports of that period of the Cardiff Public Libraries Committee. One of the most famous early Welsh manuscripts, viz., the ' Book of Aneirin ' (now in Cardiff), had found its way to the Phillipps collection, via Thomas Price (Carnhuanawc) and others (Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, xi, 109-12), this manuscript having 'strayed' from the Hengwrt collection (see Robert Vaughan, Hengwrt). The Sir John Williams collection of manuscripts in the National Library contains 108 Phillipps manuscripts, this group including the Edward Jones (Bardd y Brenin) manuscripts (details in J. H. Davies, Catalogue of Additional MSS. in the Sir John Williams Collection); at least thirty other Phillipps manuscripts have reached the National Library afterwards.
With a view to making the contents of his manuscripts more generally accessible, Sir Thomas Phillipps established, c. 1822, a private printing press in Broadway Tower on the Middle Hill estate; in 1862 the library and printing press were removed to Thirlestaine House, Cheltenham. From this press issued a large number of publications, including several of Welsh interest - genealogies and visitations, lists of sheriffs and magistrates, charters, rolls, etc. Examples are Barddoniaeth gan hen awdwyr or Ancient Welsh poetry ; A Catalogue of the Manuscripts in Llannerch Library, taken June 21st 1787 ; a Manuscripts at Porkington, the seat of William Ormsby Gore Esq. near Oswestry, co. Salop , and Will of Sir Richard Philipps, Bart., Baron Milford . It has been said that Sir Thomas Phillipps claimed a connection with some of the Phillippses of Pembrokeshire. At one time he wished to house his collections in Wales; he consulted the civic authorities of Swansea on the point, and conceived the notion of reroofing Manorbier castle, Pembrokeshire as a library.
Sir Thomas Phillipps died at Thirlestaine House on 6 February 1872, having bequeathed Thirlestaine House and its library, etc., to his third daughter by his first wife. He was buried at the old church, Broadway. See also under Rowland, John (Giraldus).
Published date: 1959
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