Record

CodeNA9887
Dates1764-1845
Person NameIllingworth; William (1764-1845); archivist
SurnameIllingworth
ForenamesWilliam
Epithetarchivist
ActivityBorn in 1764, was the third son of William Illingworth, tradesman, of Nottingham. After attending Nottingham and Manchester grammar schools, he was articled to a Nottingham attorney. By 1788 he had established himself in practice in London as an attorney of the king's bench (Browne, General Law Lists). In 1800 he published a learned ‘Inquiry into the Laws, Antient and Modern, respecting Forestalling, Regrating, and Ingrossing.’ His skill in deciphering manuscripts led to his being appointed in the same year a sub-commissioner on public records. He transcribed and collated the ‘Statutes of the Realm’ from Magna Charta to nearly the end of the reign of Henry VIII; transcribed and printed the ‘Quo Warranto Pleadings’ (1818) and the ‘Hundred Rolls’ (1812-18), and wrote the preface and compiled in Latin the index rerum to the ‘Abbreviatio Placitorum’ (1811). With John Caley he edited the ‘Testa de Nevill’ (1807), and assisted in the preparation of vol. i. of the ‘Rotuli Scotiæ’ (1814). He made a general arrangement of the records in the chapter-house at Westminster, and in 1808 drew up a press catalogue of their contents. His ‘Index Cartarum de Scotia’ in the chapter-house was privately printed in folio by Sir Thomas Phillipps about 1840. He went with T. E. Tomlins to all the cathedrals in England and Ireland to search for original statutes. In Ireland he also inspected the state of the records.
About 1805 he was chosen deputy-keeper of the records in the Tower under Samuel Lysons. When Henry Petrie succeeded Lysons as keeper in August 1819, he refused to continue Illingworth as ‘deputy-keeper,’ though he offered to allow him to remain as his ‘clerk.’ Illingworth objected to that denomination and resigned. He then set up as a record agent and translator. On 25 June 1825 he entered himself at Gray's Inn, but was not called to the bar (Register). In expectation of becoming a sub-commissioner under the new record commission in Christmas, 1832, he drew up for the private use of the commissioners, in May 1831, ‘Observations on the Public Records of the Four Courts at Westminster, and on the measures recommended by the Committee of the House of Commons in 1800 for rendering them more accessible to the public,’ of which fifty copies were printed by the board. He advised the secretary, C. P. Cooper, on numerous points, but never received the expected appointment, and Cooper made extensive use of Illingworth's notes and suggestions without acknowledgment. Illingworth was examined by the second committee of the House of Commons respecting the record commissioners on 2 March 1836, and gave most interesting evidence.
Before his death he became blind and fell into poverty. A subscription was made for him at the Incorporated Law Society in Chancery Lane. He died at 13 Brooksby Street, South Islington, on 21 Feb. 1845 (Somerset House Register). Illingworth became F.S.A. in 1805.
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