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Key People

William Barrett

1733   - Oct 13, 1789

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William Barrett, at 31.

By Jan van Rymsdyk. 

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Barrett's History of Bristol, 1789.

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Barrett's House

William Barrett, along with George Symes Catcott, played a central role in the Chatterton - Rowley story. 

Chatterton was a regular visitor to Barrett's house. He would have ambled through the front door and on into the inner sanctum to assist Barrett with his History of Bristol. In return Barrett assisted Chatterton with his own works, as is shown by Barrett's annotations on some of Chatterton's manuscripts, where he 'corrected' some of Chatterton's writings. Yet when Chatterton was in London and asked Barrett for a reference he refused - surely this tells us that Barrett did not trust Chatterton!  

William Barrett

The History and Antiquities of the City of Bristol

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Barrett's life's work, or rather, the work that consumed much of his leisure time, 'The  History and Antiquities of the City of Bristol...', is a highly important Chatterton source. The images above, are facsimiles of  Chatterton manuscripts. They appear facing pages 196 & 637.

Barrett's book also contains insights into the thinking of both Barrett and, perhaps, the development of Chatterton. The book has 704 pages, of which around 123 contain either the first printing of one of Chatterton's works, or some reference to Chatterton. have extracted the contents of these 123 pages and added additional interesting and illuminating information to a Control Page.  The following photograph is a sample of the Control Page - to view the real thing, containing all 123 pages, and complete with clickable links, click :  View 

Sample of Control Page

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William Barrett Memorial

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William Barrett is buried in St Andrew's church, High Ham, Gloucestershire.


Did they meet his wishes as declared in his Will?  

"Lastly I desire that wherever I shall happen to die that my corps may be roll'd up in an old Blanket and put in a common shell or coffin and that it be buried in any churchyard nearest and adjoining and carried to the grave by six of the poor men of the parish who shall receive five shillings each and a crape hatband each for their trouble and a large flat stone only put over ye grave inscrib'd with my name."

I guess not!  In addition it does look as if he was not overly concerned about his name living in 'after times,' unlike his friend, George Symes Catcott.

William Barrett

Works : Publications

The  History and Antiquities of the City of Bristol :    View the Chatterton pages

 Barrett's book is a highly important source, which contains the first printings of a number of Chatterton's works.  It has 704 pages, of which around 123 contain either Chatterton's works or references to Chatterton.  The above link gives you the choice to view the 123 pages with my analysis, complete with additional interesting and illuminating information; or to go directly to Barrett's 704 pages online. 

A Calendar of Bristol Deeds (Chiefly Relating to Bristol) by Francis B. Bickley View 

The following is from Meyerstein p. 116n : '...certain thirteenth century Indulgences' deeds 14, 34, and 36, found in Canynges Coffer by William Barrett.  No. 14  [p.6] has been treated with galls, as we know    Barrett to have treated some of Chatterton's "originals." ' 

Biography of William Barrett  :  View

In Dictionary of National Biography.

The First Historians of Bristol : View

A small pamphlet from The Bristol Branch of the Historical Association. Barrett is included thanks to his 'The History & Antiquities of Bristol'.

Biographies & Works of Thomas Chatterton : View

A link to multiple editions of biographies of Chatterton, which contain a wealth of detail about   William Barrett.

Barrett's Correspondence

Correspondence with George Catcott. 

Correspondence with Chatterton. 

  • Letter from Chatterton to Barrett : The Clayfield Letter  View

Working on populating this page 16/11/2023  onwards

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