A selection of documents from 
the Stevens Cox Collection
A unique collection of documents and manuscripts shedding remarkable light on the history of Ilchester has been acquired by the Somerset Record Office.

Collected by the late James Stevens Cox (1910-1997), the ‘Ilchester Collection’ consists of more than 300 items, including manuscripts, books and ephemera relating to the social and economic life of the town dating back as far as the 13th century.

The Somerset Record Office, with the help of grants from organisations including the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, Friends of British Libraries and the Friends of Somerset Archives, bought it at auction for 40,000. The seller, Dr. Gregory Stevens Cox, James Cox’s son, considerably reduced the original asking price as a gift to make sure the archive stays in Somerset.

The late Mr. Cox spent his school holidays at his aunt’s house in Ilchester. He became interested in the Roman pottery and coins he found in the garden of her cottage and began to research the history of the town. This schoolboy hobby turned into an obsession and he spent the rest of his life investigating the history of Ilchester and further afield in Somerset.


He published a book and approximately 100 papers on the Ilchester history, and the collection includes early Medieval deeds, correspondence and court documents relating to towns, villages and estates across Somerset. It was his wish that his collection should be kept intact and serve future researchers.


Map of Ilchester, 1723

18th century recipe book, showing recipes for Almond Pudding and Bath Caraway Cakes


Dr. Janet Tall, Head of Archives, said: “This collection is truly remarkable and gives a wonderful insight into the colourful history of Ilchester, its residents and life elsewhere in Somerset. We are very grateful to the many bodies that have helped make this purchase possible, and Dr Cox for his generosity, which has allowed his father’s archive to remain in Somerset.”


Councillor Justin Robinson, Somerset County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community services, said: “In many ways, collections like this are priceless – for today’s scholars and for future generations. It is a real achievement to have kept them in this county, where I am sure they will get the attention they deserve.”

The collection's reference code is A\CTP. Record Office staff will be cataloguing the collection over the coming months, and the finished list will be made available on the online catalogue. There has already been significant interest in the collection, and it is expected to be very popular with researchers.


To see detailed versions of the images shown here, please use the following links: selection of documents, map of Ilchester, recipe book