Sources by and about the French at home and abroad

This guide is a summary of a publication available from Hampshire Archives and Local Studies priced £2.

Early links between England and France

Hampshire Record Office holds many documents, often title deeds, written in Norman French, such as:

The English in France

Visitors for business

The ports of Southampton and Portsmouth saw much business in that regard. These cities have their own Record Offices, so the material held at Hampshire is consequently sparser, and includes

Visitors for pleasure

We have a fine selection of travel diaries, letters, sketchbooks and photographs which show the impressions the British have received of France over the centuries. Sometimes they provide an outsider’s perspective on its often tumultuous history. Here are a few of them

Wartime visitors

Servicemen on campaign and prisoners of war

Diplomacy and Politics

Hampshire Record Office is fortunate to hold several archives which contain a large quantity of material relating to the diplomacy of Britain and France, owing to the involvement of family members represented in the archives in politics on a national level.

The most significant collections are those of Hans Stanley (10M55); the Earls of Malmesbury (9M73); the Right Honourable William Wickham (38M49) and George Redstone Warner (5M79). The Sloane Stanley papers concern the work of Hans Stanley (c.1720-1780) of Paultons, near Romsey, who was involved in peace negotiations in Paris in 1761. He was a supporter of George Grenville (1712-1770) treasurer of the navy, 1760-2 and secretary of state, 1762. There is not space here to do justice to the Malmesbury and Wickham archives - you are strongly advised to read the publication 'The French Connection' for details.

The Malmesbury archive includes papers of the diplomat, James Harris, 1st Earl of Malmesbury (1746-1820) mainly covering negotiations with France 1768-1800. It also includes papers of James Howard Harris (1807-1889) 3rd Earl of Malmesbury, who was Foreign Secretary of Britain, Mar-Dec 1852 and Mar 1858 - Apr 1859, and Lord Privy Seal, 1866-1868 and 1874-1876. The Right Honourable William Wickham (1761-1840) was a secret agent for the English government, under the foreign secretary Lord Grenville, responsible for setting up a complex communications network during the French wars.His correspondence includes many letters with French agents and politicians, and even French royalty. The collection also contains a wonderful series of maps of places in Europe, mainly produced for military purposes in France, and which have French text or notes, 18th cent, referenced 38M49/A6.

The papers of George Redston Warner, diplomat (b.1879), cover his work from 1903 for the Foreign Office, particularly concerning Prisoners of War in both the First and Second World Wars.

There are also many papers in the records of local government concerning relations between England and France on a smaller scale than the nationally significant collections already mentioned.
These records emphasize cooperation rather than conflict, in contrast to the earlier state of affairs between the two nations, such as in the sphere of assistance to France after the First World War.

In the latter half of the 20th century there has been a move towards “twinning” towns which brings localities even closer together.

Reported News

There is much interesting material in Hampshire Record Office comprising items written in England rather than France, commenting on the situation across the Channel. As might be expected the wars between England and France provide a large proportion of such comments. Although lacking the credibility of eye-witness reports these documents still provide a useful insight into the way the English have viewed their neighbours through the centuries.

The French in England


Hundreds of Huguenots flocked to England at the invitation of King Charles II.They became integrated into British life, sometimes prospering greatly, as was the case for several prominent Hampshire families such as the Portals or the Garniers. A French chapel dedicated to St Julien became used by the Huguenots for their services on Sundays. Although parish registers from 1562 to the early 18th century are held by the Public Record Office and later ones by Southampton Archives Service, there are references to it in some of Hampshire Record Office’s holdings, particularly the diocesan collection of wills and inventories of French people who died in Hampshire. These include:

Prisoners of war

In Winchester, the King’s House was used to house 5000 French prisoners of war during the Seven Years War, 1757-1764, and the American War of Independence, 1778-1785. Later it was used to house exiled French clergy.

Other wartime records

Refugees from the Revolution

Travel for pleasure

The French elsewhere