Neild Family Papers

  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 868, 872
  • Dates of Creation
      1831-[c 1902]
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      2 subfonds
  • Location
      Collection available at John Rylands Library, Deansgate.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of eight original letters to William Neild (English MS 868) and the memoirs of Alfred Neild (English MS 872). Both manuscripts contain significant information on the social, political, economic and cultural life of Manchester in the 19th century.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Neild (1789-1864) combined a successful business career with a prominent role in the civic life of Manchester. In 1816 he married Mary Hoyle, the daughter of Thomas Hoyle. By 1830, William Neild was running the Mayfield Printing Works in Ardwick, east Manchester, which specialised in calico printing. The works had been founded by his wife's grandfather in 1782. The firm later became known as Thomas Hoyle and Sons. Neild also became Chairman of the Manchester and Salford Savings Bank. He was a member of the Society of Friends, although he resigned from the Society in 1836. He was an intimate friend and disciple of a fellow Quaker, the scientist John Dalton. Neild was an active member of the Commissioners of Police in Manchester, and when the city was incorporated in 1838, he was one of the first aldermen to be elected. He served as mayor in 1841-2, and remained active on the Corporation until his death. In the late 1830s, in common with many wealthy Mancunians, Neild moved out of the polluted city and took up residence in the wealthy suburb of Bowdon, near Altrincham. His wife Mary died in 1859. Neild then married Elizabeth Thistlethwaite in 1861, but died not long after on 4 April 1864.

Alfred Neild (1822-1906) was the son of William Neild. He was born in Ardwick on 1 October 1822, and was sent to the Friends' Grove House School in Tottenham. In 1838-9 he studied chemistry at University College London, and then returned to Manchester to join his father's calico-printing business. He married Mary Ann Hunton in 1847 but she died ten years later. He remarried in 1859, to Lucy Reynell Wreford, and they had five children. In 1854 Neild moved to Bowdon near Altrincham, where his father already resided. In 1883 he was made a magistrate for Cheshire, and for a time he was a director of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

Alfred Neild had a keen interest in education, and he read widely in the fields of mathematics, classics and theology. He was a very close friend of J.G. Greenwood, the first principal of Owens College, Manchester. In 1858 he was made a trustee of the college, and he was appointed Chairman of the Council of Owens College in 1864. He continued to serve the college, and later the Victoria University of Manchester, in various capacities until his death on 6 March 1906.

Access Information

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

English MS 868 was donated to the John Rylands Library by Mrs W.M. Neild, in memory of William Maxwell Neild (1861-1933), in November 1935. English MS 872 was given to the Library by Mrs Neild, of Forest Row, in March 1937.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan, project archivist, and Elizabeth Gow with reference to:

  • Unpublished recollections of Alfred Neild (see below);

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Supplementary Hand-List of Western Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1937 (English MSS 868 and 872).

Custodial History

Both manuscripts probably belonged to William Morell Neild (1861-1933), the son of Alfred Neild.

Geographical Names