William Salt, 1808-1863
William Salt was born in 1808 in London, the son of John Stevenson Salt and Sarah Stevenson, and the great-grandson of John Stevenson who, in 1737, founded the first bank in Stafford. The Stevenson family also established a bank in London, of which William Salt became a partner. By his early twenties Salt had developed an interest in collecting topographical and genealogical books and manuscripts. The financial security from the family business enabled him to pursue this passion throughout his life. His family originated in Staffordshire and his collections concentrated on this county. During his life he acquired property in Staffordshire but never lived there.
At the age of 23 Salt acquired the papers of the 18th century Staffordshire antiquary, Rev. Stebbing Shaw. He also acquired items from contemporary local antiquaries such as Edward Thomas, the schoolmaster at Sandon, James Broughton of Shenstone and Handsacre and Capt. Thomas Fernyhough, whose contribution to Salt's library through his transcription work was particularly important. Salt also brought together a significant collection of views of the county, commissioning artists such as John Buckler and Thomas Peploe Wood, as well as collecting earlier engravings and drawings relating to the county. His interest in heraldry led to close working with Thomas William King, York Herald at the College of Arms. He became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1842. In 1857 he married Helen Black and went to live at 23 Park Square East, near Regents Park. Salt died after collapsing on 6th December 1863 and was buried in Highgate cemetery, London.
William Salt left all his collections to his wife. Five years later she had them catalogued for sale. This came to the attention of the Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire and, although Salt's collection of coins, including many Staffordshire tokens and examples from the Stafford mint, was sold, Mrs. Salt eventually agreed to donate his books and manuscripts to the County of Stafford. The Library, always called The William Salt Library, was first established in Market Square, Stafford, in 1872. It moved to its present site in Eastgate Street in 1918. Salt's 'Original Collection' remains the core of the Library's collections.
If you would like to know more about William Salt, "William Salt and His Library" by Randle Knight is available from the Library. For further information about ordering this publication please go to the Online Shop|