Papers of Colonel Rupert Alec-Smith and family, of Winestead

14th cent.-1983


Admin History:

Rupert Alexander Alec-Smith was born at Elloughton, near Kingston upon Hull, in 1913. He was the grandson of Alexander Smith, a founding partner of Horsley Smith and Company, a timber importing firm whose small collection of papers dating from 1864 to 1968 is also held at the Hull University Archives (U DHS; see separate entry). Rupert Alec-Smith's parents were Alexander Alec-Smith and Adelaide Horsley.

Rupert Alec-Smith was a man with an abiding interest in local and family history and he spent his life fighting to preserve both. In 1936, the demolition of the Georgian Red Hall in Winestead (originally built by the Hildyard family) left a profound impression on him and he founded the Georgian Society for East Yorkshire in 1937 (papers for Lord Derwent and the society are at U DAS/24/13; see also U DX99). He served with the Green Howards during the war and was in Cyprus and the Middle East making the rank of lieutenant colonel by 1944. On leave during the war he rescued fittings from the Georgian residences of Hull's old High Street as this was almost entirely destroyed by German bombs. After the war the Council showed no desire to restore what was left and Alec-Smith continued to salvage what he could from buildings as they were demolished (The Georgian Society for East Yorkshire).

In 1946 he bought the Old Rectory at Winestead, which had been built in 1728 for the Hildyard family, probably on the site of the rectory in which Andrew Marvell was born, a fact that pleased Alec-Smith [see U DAS/20/1]. An inventory at U DAS/20/3 indicates that this house was fitted with a chimney piece from the demolished Etherington Buildings at 50 High Street, Hull, and the library had doors rescued from the Red Hall. Other inventories and sale catalogues in the papers indicate that Alec-Smith devoted himself to this operation of recovery and restoration of Georgian fittings. In an account of the Old Rectory written by Alec-Smith at U DAS/20/1 the following is recorded: 'Lovers of houses so often seek permanence for the things they love'. Alec-Smith sought permanence for Georgian fittings in the Old Rectory, but he also was responsible for the continued existence of two of Hull's few remaining Georgian buildings, the Maister House at 160 High Street, which was handed over to the National Trust in 1968, and Blaydes House at 6 High Street which was given to the Georgian Society of East Yorkshire in 1971.

The Maister House was of particular significance for Alec-Smith. The Old Rectory stood in the grounds of one of the Maister country houses at Winestead, the White Hall, and he spent his life tracing furniture belonging to the family by writing to contemporary descendants and purchasing portraits of the family dispersed after their fall from fortune in the nineteenth century (U DAS/26/9-10, 38, 40; U DAS/27/64, 69). The source of his fascination with this family seems to have been his 'enchantment' with Winestead (note in a file U DAS/26/40), though Alec-Smith liked to describe himself as 'merchant of Kingston upon Hull' and it may have been his sense of affinity with the mercantile history of Hull that drew him to the greatest of Hull's merchant families.

Alec-Smith was an important member of the Hull and Holderness establishment. He was lord lieutenant of Humberside and he spent a year as lord mayor of Hull from 1970. He was an honorary brother of the closed society Hull Trinity House and he held an honorary doctorate from Hull University. He died in 1983.


Most of U DAS comprises the family papers of Colonel Rupert Alexander Alec-Smith, though embedded within these is a collection of papers belonging to the Maister family (U DAS/26).

The collection includes title deeds, settlements, rentals, maps and plans for a number of places in East Yorkshire, and also includes papers on the medieval church history and civic history of Hedon, papers regarding the White Hall and Old Rectory of Winestead, a programme of entertainment by the Beverley Coons, manorial records for Elstronwick, papers regarding a gift of houses to All Souls in Oxford (U DAS/22), and enclosure acts (U DAS/23), sale catalogues, and a collection of papers regarding the Maister family embedded within the family papers of Rupert Alec-Smith can be found at U DAS/26.

Also included in the collection are the papers and correspondence of Rupert Alexander Alec-Smith (1913-1983) and his family (U DAS/24-25). These include the correspondence of his parents, Alexander Alec-Smith and Adelaide Alec-Smith (nee Horsley) and some miscellaneous papers of his father's including his birth certificate and papers from the First World War. The family correspondence is largely of a personal nature, including letters from Adelaide Horsley to her future husband written between 1904 and 1905 and letters from Alexander Alec-Smith to Adelaide Horsley during three periods of separation from 1903 to 1906, during the First World War from 1915 to 1918 and briefly in 1934. Adelaide Alec-Smith also received letters from her three brothers (Arthur Clive Horsley, Cecil Horsley and Wilfred Horsley) whilst they were away on active service. There are also letters from Rupert Alexander Alec-Smith to and from his parents and sister, Diana Tarleton. There is some military correspondence from his time as staff captain in Cyprus. The latter covers the period 1939 to 1967 as he later sat on their regimental council. There are some miscellaneous items from his war service such as a photograph taken in 1941 in front of a pyramid, a 1941 diary of a Cypriot and material related to entertainment for the troops in Cyprus and the Middle East.