Hamper, William (DNB00)

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HAMPER, WILLIAM (1770–1831), antiquary, was descended from a family long resident at West Tarring, Sussex (see pedigree in Cartwright's Sussex, vol. ii. pt. ii. p. 4). His father, Thomas Hamper, married Elizabeth Tyson, and settled in Birmingham, where William, their only child, was born on 12 Dec. 1776. Both parents died in 1811, and were buried in the churchyard of King's Norton, Worcestershire. William was brought up in his father's business as a brassfounder, and to extend it he travelled through many counties, when he fed his antiquarian taste by visiting all the churches in his way. He began his literary career by contributing poems to the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' the lirst being 'The Beggar-Boy,' 1798, p. 794, which was signed 'H. D. B.,' the initial letters of Hamper, Deritend, Birmingham. The best known of these eifusions was 'The Devil's Dike, a Sussex Legend' (ib. 1810, pt. i. 513-614), which was reprinted in the Brighton guide-books. From 1804 to 1812 he furnished the same periodical with views and descriptions of English churches and other buildings of antiquity. About the same time he composed and published, under the name of 'Repmah,' an anagram of Hamper, many songs and airs. Two of these productions, 'Invasion, a Song for 1803,' Salisbury, 1803, fol., Ar hyd y nos,' a favourite Welsh air, with variations for the pianoforte or pedal harp, 1805, are at the British Museum. In 1811 he was appointed a justice of the peace for Warwickshire, and as there was no stipendiary magistrate for Birmingham the office involved much hard work. In 1817 he became a correspondent of the Society of Antiquaries, and was elected a fellow on 5 April 1821. Hamper was well versed in Anglo-Saxon, was thoroughly conversant with mediaeval latinity, and was an accurate facsimilist. Nichols in his 'History of Leicestershire,' Orinerod in 'Cheshire,' Bray in 'Surrey,' Cartwright in ' Sussex' acknowledged help from him, and he gave especial assistance to the anonymous author of ' Kenilworth Illustrated,' 1821. He married at Kingwood, Hampshire, on 7 Nov. 1803, Jane, youngest daughter of William Sharp of Newport, Isle of Wight, a politician and literary student. She died on 6 June 1829, leaving three daughters. He died suddenly at Highgate, near Birmingham, on 3 May 1831, and was buried with his parents. Monuments to their memory are also in King's Norton churchyard.

Hamper published two separate works : 1. 'Observations on certain Ancient Pillars of Memorial called Hoar-Stones, to which is added a conjecture on the Croyland Inscription,' Birmingham, 1820; a thin pamphlet. The materials which he had collected for an enlarged edition of this tract were inserted in the 'Archæologia,' xxv. 24-60. 2. 'The Life, Diary, and Correspondence of Sir William Dugdale' (1827): pt. ii. of the appendix, consisting of an index to the manuscript collections of Dugdale, was issued separately in 1826. This was Hamper's most valuable work. His own copy of Dugdale's life, enlarged to four thick volumes with six hundred extra plates, was acquired for the Birmingham reference library for seventy guineas. For many years Hamper was engaged in preparing a new edition of Dugdale's 'Warwickshire,' and collected vast materials. His copy of that volume, with copious manuscript additions, is now at the British Museum. At the sale of his library the firm of Beilby, Knott, & Beilby acquired his notes for a distinct history of Aston and Birmingham, but they have never been printed. His copy of Mutton's 'Birmingham,' interleaved and covered with annotations, belongs to Alderman Avery of Birmingham, and a mass of his letters and manuscripts was in the Staunton Warwickshire collection, which was purchased and presented to the corporation reference library at Birmingham. These have been burnt, but many of his letters had fortunately been copied and printed in the notes and queries column of the 'Birmingham Weekly Post,' Nos. 132, 134, 153, 159, 164, 175, 180, 185, 195, 200, 203, 200, 235, 249, 265, 278, 313, 393, 404. Hamper edited a volume of 'Masques performed before Queen Elizabeth. From a coeval copy, Chiswick, 1820,' which he wrongly attributed to George Ferrers [q. v.]; and he printed for private circulation in 1822 'Two Copies of Verses on the Meeting of Charles the First and Henrietta Maria, in the Valley of Kineton, below Edge-Hill, July 13, 1643,' which were preserved in manuscript among Dugdale's papers. Many of his communications on rings, seals, and runic inscriptions appeared in the 'Archæologia,' vols. xix-xxv. His name first appears as a contributor to the 'Censura Literaria' of articles on old books in iii. 62-5, but the communication in ii. 171-3, signed 'W. H.,' was probably by him. Notes by him on books are inserted in Dibdin's 'Bibliomania' (1876, ed.) pp. 117, 529, and in his 'Bibliog. Decameron,' iii. 253-4. From 1812 to 1831 he was an intimate friend and correspondent of John Britton [q. v.], whom he aided in compiling the 'Beauties of England and Wales,' and the 'Dictionary of Architecture and Archæology in the Middle Ages.' A list of 140 ways of spelling Birmingham, drawn up by Hamper, appears in Langford's 'Century of Birmingham Life,' i. 502.

[Gent. Mag. 1803 pt. ii. 1085, 1829 pt. i. 574, 1831 pt. i. 566-9 (by Thomas Sharp); Annual Biog. and Obit. xvi. 339-46 (1832); Nichols's Lit. Illustrations, vol. viii. pp. xliii-iv, 661; Britton's Autobiogr. i. 155-9; Notes and Queries, 5th ser. x. 28, 114, 378; Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. p. 326.]

W. P. C.