Seeing Ignatius’ Name in the Flesh at Boughton House Archives
29 April 2022
Written by: Ellen Valente
Starting off the research project, the idea of Ignatius Sancho that we had from the letters was an almost fictional Sancho – we heard his voice in exclamation points and dashes, we had an idea where he was visiting, but his impact and his world was still a work of the imagination.*
However, upon being invited to Boughton House by the Buccleuch archivist Crispin Powell we saw first-hand the prodigious physical spaces that Ignatius Sancho would have occupied and known. There was a collective excitement at the repercussions of the vast evidence of Sancho’s position within such a grand house. Most importantly, it consolidated, what once was an inkling, of Sancho’s centrality in eighteenth-century society.
Much of the evidence we had encountered so far was through various digital sources and a recent edition of Vincent Caretta’s letters. Yet, all this changed upon arriving at the archives in Kettering. As we entered the archival room, laid out on the table, like a portal into the previous centuries, was original documentation. But this wasn’t just any documentation – it was Sancho’s name spelled various ways across the years. Powell talked us through the archives where there were not only bills, but proof the Montague clan had brought ‘Sancho’s music’, an annuity in the will of his employer, the bills for the furnishings of his room in Boughton House and Windsor Castle.
The significance of this, seeing his presence occupying the archival evidence, answered questions about the significance of Sancho’s role in the Boughton house. We could now argue that he was not simply a valet, but a well established and received employer, perhaps even a friend. This is because the Montagu family furnished Sancho comfortably and supported him in his musical endeavours. Therefore, what started off as letters and locations, slowly began to offer us new ways of looking at Sancho. From the beginning, we were aware of the importance of ‘miscellaneous data’ in connecting fragments of a much bigger narrative.
Sancho’s role, and the attitude the family had towards him, brang up questions: what exactly did eighteenth-century London look like? Specifically, what did it look like for the Black Londoner? The answer that Sancho is offering us is a society of integration and comradery – with the potential for more stories lurking around ready to be told (perhaps in the very same Boughton House archives.)
*Note: Mapping Black London’s trip to Boughton House had a definite impact on our maps of Ignatius Sancho’s frequented locations and hangouts! Click the button below to explore all Maps and Exhibits.
An Inside Look at the Boughton House Archives.
|| Within the Archives…
The Canaletto (pictured above) shows a slice of the Montague House which was owned by the same family that owned Boughton House. The slither of a Chinese Pavilion is currently in collection at Boughton House.
… ARE Glimpses from Ignatius Sancho’s pasT.
The Boughton House, dating from the 17th century, is often referred to as “The English Versaille.”