A HAMPSHIRE archivist has told of her fear that the four-centuries-old Broadlands archives could be broken up or sold abroad.

Janet Smith, county archivist at the Hampshire Record Office, said that breaking up the material would be “dreadful”.

She added that many of the researchers who use its database often go on to the University of Southampton to follow up their findings with the Broadlands archive.

The special collection has been kept by the university for more than 20 years.

Daily Echo: Click below to see a video of today's headlines in sixty seconds

The archives are worth about £2.85m and the university has first refusal for the purchase, as revealed in yesterday’s Daily Echo.

Should the collection be put out to the open market, Janet fears that with such a large and important collection, overseas education establishments could also be interested.

“That’s always a possibility,” she said. “With outstanding collections, where there is a national and international interest, that’s a real danger. If it did end up going on the open market they are available for anyone to bid for. American universities, for example, may choose to bid for them.”

The county archivist said that the 4,500 boxes contained lists of paintings and sculptures owned by the families that had lived there, and key information about the history of the house.

Collections within the archives have detailed accounts of the improvements to the house and in particular records of changes made to the house in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The National Archives also confirmed to the Daily Echo that they were acting as an adviser to Lord Brabourne, who owns the collection, in any possible purchase.

Janet believed that the proposed solution to sell the documents to the university would be the best idea.

She said: “We all hope that the university purchasing the collection will be the outcome.”