Amherst, William Amhurst Tyssen-, first Baron Amherst of Hackney 1835-1909, born at Narford Hall, Norfolk, on 25 April 1835, was eldest son of William George Daniel-Tyssen (1801-1855), whose surname was originally Daniel, by Mary, eldest daughter of Andrew Fountaine of Narford Hall, Norfolk. Together with his father, who represented a branch of the old Kentish family of Amherst and had inherited the Tyssen property in Hackney through his mother, he took by royal licence, 6 Aug. 1852, the name of Tyssen-Amhurst, for which he substituted, again by royal licence, that of Tyssen-Amherst on 16 Aug. 1877. He was educated at Eton and matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, 19 May 1853. Inheriting large property in Norfolk and in Hackney, he was high sheriff for Norfolk in 1866. He was M.P. for West Norfolk in the conservative interest from 1880 to 1885, afterwards representing south-west Norfolk from 1885 to 1892. He was created Baron Amherst of Hackney on 26 Aug. 1892
For more than fifty years Lord Amherst collected rare books and MSS., tapestries, antique furniture, and other works of art. One object was to illustrate the history of printing and bookbinding from the earliest times down to modern days. Another was to illustrate the history of the Reformation at home and abroad and of the Church of England by means of bibles, liturgies, and controversial tracts. A Handlist of the Books and MSS. belonging to Lord Amherst of Hackney was compiled by Seymour de Ricci (privately printed, 1906). The compiler had also prepared an exhaustive catalogue raisonné of Lord Amherst's whole library. Owing to the dishonesty of a solicitor entrusted with the administration of estate and trust funds, Lord Amherst found himself in 1906 obliged to announce the sale of the finer portion of the magnificent library at Didlington Hall. A series of splendid Caxtons, eleven out of the seventeen being perfect examples, were sold privately to Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan, and the other portions of the library, including many extremely rare printed books and fine Italian, Flemish, French, and English illuminated MSS., were disposed of by auction by Messrs. Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge in a sale which began on 3 Dec. 1908. The second portion of the library was sold 24 to 27 March 1909, and the total realised by both sales was 32,592l., which does not include the 25,000l. understood to have been paid for the Caxtons. Messrs. Christie disposed (11 Dec. 1908) of some fine examples of old Gobelins and other tapestry, old French and English furniture, Limoges enamels and old Italian majolica. The amount realised was 38,796l. The pictures sold for 1561l.; the engravings for about 2000l.
Lord Amherst travelled much in the East, and his collection of Egyptian curiosities was almost as well known as his books and china. Some of these were described in The Amherst Papyri, being an Account of the Egyptian Papyri in the Collection of Lord Amherst, by P. E. Newberry (1899, 4to), and The Amherst Papyri, being an Account of the Greek Papyri in the Collection of Lord Amherst of Hackney, by B. P. Grenfell and A. S. Hunt (1900, 4to).
He died after a few hours' illness at 23 Queen's Gate Gardens, London, S.W., on 16 Jan. 1909, in his seventy-fourth year, and was buried in the family vault in Didlington churchyard, Norfolk.
His portrait by the Hon. John Collier is now in the possession of Baroness Amherst of Hackney. It has been engraved. He married on 4 June 1856, at Hunmanby, co. York, Margaret Susan (b. 8 Jan. 1835), only child of Admiral Robert Mitford of Mitford Castle, Northumberland, and Hunmanby, Yorkshire. His widow and six daughters survived him. The eldest daughter, Mary Rothes Margaret, who married in 1885 Lord William Cecil, succeeded to the peerage by special limitation in default of male heirs. He bore the undifferenced arms of the family of Amherst, quartering Daniel and Tyssen. He was of middle height and sturdy appearance, of genial and unassuming manners, much interested in his literary, artistic, and antiquarian collections and the pursuance of the duties of country life in Norfolk, where he farmed on a large scale and was known as a breeder of Norfolk polled cattle. He was an excellent shot and fond of yachting. He presented a volume to the Roxburgh Club, of which he was a member, and one to the Scottish Text Society. He wrote: 1. (with Hamon Lestrange) History of Union Lodge, Norwich, No. 52, privately printed, Norwich, 1898. 2. (with Basil Home Thomson) The Discovery of the Solomon Islands, by Alvaro de Mendaña, in 1568, translated from the original Spanish MSS., edited with introduction and notes, 1901, 2 vols. small 4to, 100 copies on large paper (the translation was made by Amherst from the MSS. in his own collection; it was also issued by Hakluyt Soc.).
Complete Peerage, by G. E. C., new edit. by Vicary Gibbs, 1910
The Times, 18 and 21 Jan. 1909
Alfred Austin's Autobiog. 1911, ii. 269-73.
Contributor: H. R. T. [Henry Richard Tedder]