Historic archive of the prominent Hutchinson family acquired for the nation

Items from the archive

The archive of Jeremy Hutchinson, Baron Hutchinson of Lullington QC (1915–2017), has been acquired for the nation through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme and allocated to the University of Sussex.
Hutchinson was a celebrated barrister, considered by many of his generation to be the finest silk in practice at the criminal bar. He famously served on the team defending Penguin Books over their publication of Lady Chatterley’s Lover; defended the director Michael Bogdanov of the National Theatre when Mary Whitehouse complained about The Romans in Britain; defended Christine Keeler when she was tried for perjury; and represented the drug-smuggler Howard Marks, the art forger Thomas Keating and the spies George Blake and John Vassall. Hutchinson is said to have been the model for John Mortimer’s Rumpole.
Married to Peggy Ashcroft (later Dame Peggy Ashcroft) from 1940 to 1965, Hutchinson was well-known to many writers, artists and public figures of his era. He stood as a Labour candidate in the 1945 general election and was made a life peer in 1978. He also served as a Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve during the Second World War, and his letters to his wife and parents from overseas are included in this archive.
Also of great interest are the letters to his parents, St John Hutchinson KC, eminent criminal barrister and Liberal politician and Mary Barnes, socialites, artistic patrons and writers, from their wide circle of friends which included significant members of the Bloomsbury Group and other writers, artists and public figures. Letters represented here include those in the hand of Henri Matisse, Virginia Woolf, Stanley Spencer, T. S. Eliot, Roger Fry, Duncan Grant, Vita Sackville-West and Edith and Osbert Sitwell. Among the other famous figures with letters in the archive are Edward VIII and Wallace Simpson, Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes, Compton Mackenzie and George Moore. Five letters from D. H. Lawrence to St John Hutchinson detail the seizure of his manuscripts, a curious foreshadowing to Jeremy Hutchinson’s later representation of Penguin at the Chatterley trial.
The archive spans a century and covers two generations. It is wonderfully capacious, containing a constant flow of letters from leading figures within the nation’s history. What is surprising is that there is no sudden break between the papers stemming from Jeremy’s parents and those related to his own life: the interests, in literature, art and theatre, continue and many of the friendships remain in place, Jeremy, for instance, picking up on his mother’s close association with Bloomsbury and remaining a welcome visitor at Charleston. Both father and son became leading criminal barristers, Trustees of the Tate, and were actively involved in public service to the arts and law. These unexpected social, cultural and legal continuities give this archive additional interest and depth.
Dr Helen Tyson, Lecturer in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century British Literature at the University of Sussex, said: “Alongside annotated court papers, lists of witnesses, and correspondence on the Chatterley trial from figures including John Betjeman, Stephen Spender and Leonard Woolf, the archive also includes a signed first edition of Lady Chatterley, gifted to Hutchinson by his mother, the Bloomsbury socialite Mary Hutchinson, and inscribed ‘In remembrance and honour of the great victory’. At the 60-year anniversary of the trial of Lady Chatterley this archive will surely add to our existing knowledge of this ‘great victory’ in British publishing and literary history.”
Jane Harvell, Director of Library Services and University Librarian at the University of Sussex, said: "The University Special Collections will be wonderfully enhanced by the addition of Lord Hutchinson's archive. Whether through his significant legal work, or in roles such as a trustee of the Tate, Jeremy Hutchinson so often found himself at the heart the country's cultural life. It will be a pleasure to make his archive accessible to our students and researchers."
Professor Donald McGillivray, Head of the Sussex Law School, said: “The archive of Jeremy Hutchison is of considerable interest to legal scholars at Sussex, and to our wider networks. Sussex Law School has longstanding expertise in, amongst other areas of relevance, legal history, constitutional law, freedom of expression, media law, law and art, immigration law and the legal profession, all areas which Jeremy Hutchison contributed to.”

Edward Harley OBE, Chairman of the Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) Panel, said: “I am delighted to announce the allocation of the archive of Jeremy Hutchinson QC, Baron Hutchinson of Lullington, to the University of Sussex through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme.

"As a barrister, Hutchinson is perhaps best remembered for his defence of the publishing house Penguin Books during the landmark Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial of the 1960s. In addition, the archive includes the papers and letters of Hutchinson’s parents, important patrons of the Bloomsbury Group.

"This is a fantastic example of the breadth of the AIL Scheme, with its remit to bring important cultural and historical documents into our public collections, as well as great art.”


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By: Tom Walters
Last updated: Friday, 13 November 2020

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