Richard Monckton Milnes was born on 19 June 1809, son of Robert Pemberton Milnes, MP for Pontefract, and his wife Henrietta Maria Monckton, daughter of the 4th Viscount Galway. Milnes was admitted to Trinity College Cambridge in 1827 and graduated MA in 1831. While at Cambridge he was one of the founding members of the Cambridge Conversazione Society (The Apostles) and was a friend of Tennyson, Hallam and Thackeray. He was to pursue and active literary life, both by publishing in prose and verse and maintaining an active correspondence with many of the prominent writers of the age. His regular breakfast parties also played a part in bringing many figures of note from all walks of life together
Milnes was son and grandson of Members of Parliament and in 1837 Milnes was elected to the Commons to represent his father's old constituency of Pontefract. Initially a follower of Peel he moved towards the Liberal side of the House, and became a supporter of Lord John Russell. Though never rising to high office, he was prominent in legislation concerning copyright, the Deceased Wife's Sister Marriage Bill and the abolition of capital punishment. In 1845 he succeeded in getting a pension paid to Tennyson
Having courted Florence Nightingale, Milnes married Annabella, daughter of the 2nd Baron Crewe. He was created Baron Houghton in 1863. He held the posts of President of the Statistical Society from 1865 to 1867 and Secretary for Foreign Correspondence of the Royal Academy from 1878 to 1885. Amongst the academic honours he received were DCL (Oxford) 1855, FRS 1868, FSA 1876 and LLD (Edinburgh) 1877. He died in Vichy in 1885.
Houghton's archive includes Cambridge papers 1827-30, a voluminous correspondence, literary papers, publications 1834-73, political papers 1837-80s, business papers, papers relating to travels 1828-85, papers relating to clubs and societies, commonplace books 1838-65, press cuttings 1801-78, diaries of Lady Houghton 1855-72, papers of R P Milnes, other family papers.
The first accession of Houghton papers was donated by Lady Crewe in October 1959 and a second subsequently
The two accessions are arranged very differently. The first, containing the majority of the correspondence is essentially a box-by-box item list. The second accession is arranged hierarchically.