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Thomas Miller papers

RA Collection: Archive

Archive context

Showing item 43 of 73 in this group

Reference code



Thomas Miller papers





Extent & medium

677 items

Historical Background

Thomas Miller was born into the cotton dynasty of Horrocks, Miller & Co. of Preston. In 1846 he became principal partner in the firm and sole proprietor in 1860. Despite avoiding direct involvement in politics Miller was known locally for his good works, most notably for funding a park and a parish church. He collected art avidly from at least 1847 and was well known as a patron of contemporary British artists, showing a particular preference for Victorian genre subjects and landscape.

Little is presently known of the extent of Miller's involvement in the arts. His collection was ''reviewed' by the Art Journal in 1863 and was certainly regarded as one of the principal private collections of contemporary British painting. He featured as one of the Victorian patrons studied by Dianne Sachko Macleod in "Art and the Victorian Middle Class". Macleod has tracked the history of the collection after Miller's death. Nothing is known of the Archive's provenance prior to its acquisition in 1992.

Content Description

The earliest material dates from 1847; the year following that in which Miller took control of the family firm. It ends primarily at his early death in 1865, although some papers track events relating to the estate thereafter. The letters are concerned with commissioning and purchasing of works of art. There are letters not only from artists, but also from dealers, framers and others associated with the production, marketing and dissemination of art. They are particularly revealing in reference to artist/patron relations in the mid-nineteenth century and artist practice at this time. Sequences of letters from Augustus Leopold Egg and William Powell Frith document the friendships that developed between Miller and the artists benefitting from his patronage. Miller's business dealings are largely absent from the archive. An undated inventory of paintings (236/47) gives the only contemporary statement as to the size of the collection.



Acquisition Details

This group was purchased at auction, 3rd April 1992, Christies South Kensington. It comprised Lot 81. Funding was provided through a donation by William Lese, matched by a grant from the V&A Purchase Grant Fund.


At some point prior to the Christies sale the papers were partially arranged by name of correspondent without alphabetical order, but chronologically at item level. The arrangement breaks down towards the latter part of the archive. This finding aid follows the arrangement as found.

Physical Characteristics

The archive had at some point suffered siginificant water damage. Many letters are affected by staining from this event although it appears that remedial treatment was carried out.


Art and the Victorian Middle Class, Diane Sachko Macleod, Cambridge University Press, 1996