Samuel Rush Meyrick, English (1783 - 1848)

Samuel Rush Meyrick

Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick (16 August 1783–1848) was an English collector. He lived at Goodrich Court, Goodrich, Herefordshire, England, and introduced the systematic study of arms and armour.

He was born in 1783 to John and Hannah Meyrick. His father had been an officer in the Honourable Artillery Company and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He was educated at Queens College, Oxford, graduating with a BA in 1804, with a MA/Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) in 1810 and finally with a Doctor in Civil Law (DCL) in 1811. He practiced as an advocate in ecclesiastical and admiralty courts.

In 1803 Samuel eloped to Wales with Mary Parry against the wishes of his parents and was cut out of his father’s will and forced to live on a small allowance. When his father died in 1805 he left his estate to Samuel’s son Llewellyn.

Samuel did inherit from his father his passion for collecting antiquities including arms and armour and was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquities in 1810. During this same year he published History and Antiquities of the County of Cardigan. After the death of his wife in 1818 he concentrated on building the Meyrick collection by a series of acquisitions of other collections.

In 1824 he published his great work, the 3 volume A critical enquiry into antient armour as it existed in Europe, but particularly in England, from the Norman conquest to the reign of King Charles II, with a glossary of military terms of the middle ages. The book was illustrated in colour with Samuel’s paintings, was beautifully gilded, and solidified his reputation as an authority in the study of arms and armour. With the publication of this book Samuel hoped to rectify some historical inaccuracies that found their way to the displays of armour in the Tower of London and other collections.

In 1828 he built Goodrich Court, having failed to acquire nearby Goodrich Castle. There the Meyrick collection was housed in a huge armoury. After helping to reorganise the collections at the Tower of London and Windsor Castle he was knighted in 1832. In 1834 he was appointed High Sheriff of Herefordshire. In 1837 Llewellyn died and Samuel inherited his estate, providing the funds for yet more collection building.

After Meyrick's death in 1848, Goodrich Court and the Meyrick collection passed to his cousin Augustus Meyrick, who exhibited the collection in 1869 at what is now the Victoria and Albert museum. He disposed of the collection to a number of private purchasers after first offering it to the British Government, as well as donating some objects to the British Museum. Many of the important items in Meyrick's collection were purchased by the antiquarian, Augustus Wollaston Franks, who later also donated them to the British Museum. Some of the best pieces of his collection can also be found in the Wallace Collection in London.

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