Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kerslake, Thomas

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KERSLAKE, THOMAS (1812–1891), bookseller, born in Exeter in July 1812, proceeded in 1828 to Bristol, and soon afterwards commenced business as a second-hand bookseller in Barton Alley, together with his brother-in-law, Samuel Cornish. In 1830 the partnership was dissolved, and Kerslake removed to a shop at the bottom of Park Street. A disastrous fire occurred here in 1860, Kerslake continued on the same site however, until 1870, when be removed to Queen's Road, and shortly afterwards retired. For over twenty years after his retirement he devoted himself to antiquarian controversy. Kerslake died at his private residence, Wynfred, Clevedon, on 5 Jan, 1891. His wife, Catherine Morgan, a native of Bath, predeceased him in 1887. He had no issue.

Previous to the fire, in which many works of great value and scarcity were destroyed, Kerslake had amassed a collection especially valuable in its antiquarian and archæological departments. He was also distinguished as an antiquary. Though self-taught, he had a good command of Latin and of modern languages, and his series of articles and pamphlets on antiquarian subjects is remarkable alike for shrewdness and originality. Kerslake's individuality is well exemplified in his sturdy defence of the historic phrase 'Anglo-Saxon ' (see infra). 'His pamphlets were usually published at his own expense' (cf. Proc. Somerset Archæolg. Assoc. 1892).

The following are Kerslake's chief works:

  1. 'A Vindication of the Autographs of Sir Roger de Coverley's "Perverse Widow " and her "Malicious Confident" from a disparaging statement thrown out in the "Athenæum,' Bristol [1855], 8vo.
  2. 'Saint Ewen, Bristol and the Welsh Border, circiter {{smaller|A.D.) 577–926,' Bristol, 1875, 8vo.
  3. 'A Primeval British Metropolis, with some Notes on the Ancient Topography of the South-Western Peninsula of Britain,' Bristol, 1877, 8vo, Revised and re-edited, with additions, under the title of 'Caer Pensaualcoit, a long-lost Unromanized British Metropolis,' London, 1882, 8vo.
  4. 'Traces of the Ancient Kingdom of Damnonia, outside Cornwall, in remains of Celtic Hagiology,' London, 1878, 8vo.
  5. 'Vestiges of the Supremacy of Mercia in the South of England during the Eighth Century,' Bristol, 1879, 8vo.
  6. 'The Word "Metropolis."' 'The Ancient Word "Anglo-Saxon."' 'Anglo-Saxon Bristol and Fossil Taunton.' Three essays, Bristol, 1880, 8vo.
  7. 'The Celtic Substratum of England,' London, 1883, 8vo.
  8. 'The Liberty of Independent Historical Research,' London, 1885, 8vo. This is a somewhat caustic attack upon the office of her majesty's inspector of ancient monuments and on a preliminary report entitled ' Excavations in the Fen Pits, Penselwood, Somerset,' issued by the first holder of the office General A. Pitts-Rivers. General A. Pitts-Rivers.
  1. 'Gyfla, the Scir or Pagis of the Ivel Valley,' Somerset, 1887, 8vo.
  2. 'Saint Richard the king of Englishmen and his territory, A.D. 700-720' (privately printed), 1890.

[Information kindly supplied by Mr. William George. Bristol; Athenæeum, 10 Jan. 1891; Kerslake's Works (for a full list of which see Index Catalogue of the Somerset Archæological Society Library. Taunton. 1889, p. 90).]

T. S.