Open main menu

HARDY, Sir WILLIAM (1807–1887), archivist, younger brother of Sir Thomas Duffus Hardy [q. v.], was born in the island of Jamaica on 6 July 1807, and came to England at the same time as his brother. He was educated at Fotheringhay and afterwards at Boulogne. In February 1823 he obtained an appointment at the Tower of London, under Lysons, similar to that which his brother had obtained in 1819. Seven years later he was offered and accepted the post of keeper of the records of the duchy of Lancaster. In 1839 he was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. His salary at the duchy was small, but he was permitted to accept private work connected with antiquarian, legal, and genealogical inquiries, and it was in performing such work that he chiefly made his name. Though consulted in a great number of disputes as to foreshore fishery or common rights, he was perhaps best known in connection with applications made to the House of Lords for the restoration of peerages in abeyance.

While at the duchy of Lancaster he was also busily engaged in bringing the valuable muniments of that department into something like con suitable order. In this work he had made considerable progress, when in 1868 the queen decided to present the duchy records to the nation, and incorporate them with the public archives. He was then transferred to the Record Office and appointed an assistant-keeper in that department. In this, capacity he continued the work of arranging and calendaring the duchy muniments, and the result of his labours appeared in the successive reports issued by the deputy-keeper. In 1878, on the death of his brother, the master of the rolls, Sir George Jessel, offered him the post of deputy-keeper, which he accepted and held for eight years, resigning, on account of failing health, on 27 Jan. 1886. He was placed on the Historical MSS. Commission on 12 July 1878, and knighted at Osborne on 31 Dec. 1883.

During his tenure of office as deputy-keeper he drew up, for the approval of the master of the rolls, a scheme for reorganising the department under his charge. This received the sanction of the treasury and was carried into effect. He was also instrumental in starting on its labours the commission for the destruction of valueless documents, which has already done good work by disposing of a mass of useless parchment, thus affording better and safer accommodation for what is really worthy of preservation.

Besides the calendars to the duchy of Lancaster records, he compiled, in 1845, a volume entitled 'Charters of Duchy of Lan- caster,' in which he published the most important documents relative to the formation of that duchy, and prefixed to it an historical introduction. He edited for the Rolls Series of chronicles and memorials the first volumes of the 'Recueil des Croniques et Anchiennes Istories de la Grant Bretaigne a present nomme Engleterre, par Jehan de Waurin.' In 1840 he married at Lewisham Church, Kent, Eliza Caroline Seymour, daughter of Captain J. E. Lee, by whom he left two sons. He died on 17 March 1887.

[Family correspondence; Reports of the Deputy-keeper of Public Records; personal knowledge.]

W. J. H-y.