Alison Uttley Papers

Scope and Content

The collection includes a good deal of very important information, not least the 40 personal diaries dating from 1932- 1971, which are as yet unpublished, and may provide a detailed insight into the author's mind and daily life. There are also numerous notebooks, a few of which were transcribed by a friend of Alison Uttley during her lifetime, which contain rough drafts of stories, jottings of dreams, memories, experiences and quotations which were used to inspire her writings, and details of Flemish art and artists which interested her and from which she built up her small collection.

Also of importance are several scrapbooks containing press cuttings and reviews of Alison Uttley's work, which were also created during her lifetime by a friend, especially for the University Library, and are an invaluable overview of her career. Added to the above, there are numerous copies of her works, in various forms, such as handwritten notes, rough typescripts with annotations, final typewritten versions and proof copies; there are also many copies of illustrations from those works, by artists such as Tunnicliffe, Tempest and Wigglesworth.

Finally, there are miscellaneous items, such as the cuttings, postcards and letters removed from her private library, which was left to the University in her will; the drawings and letters sent to her by children who loved her books; photographs of herself, her family, and places of interest to her writing; the results of research for her books, especially concerning the Babington Family; and her framed Litt.D certificate.

The collection is thus a wide and varied source of information for those interested both in Alison Uttley herself, and children's writing in general, and can be linked with the large personal library which is also housed in the John Rylands (a list of which will is attached to the hard copy version of this list). Also intended for inclusion is a large amount of correspondence between Alison Uttley herself (and later her son) and Dr Ratcliffe, then Librarian of Manchester University Library, concerning the acquisition of her papers for the Library both before and after her death.

Administrative / Biographical History

Alice Jane Uttley (1884-1976) was born Alice Taylor in Cromford, Derbyshire, and was educated at the Lea School in Holloway and the Lady Manners School in Bakewell, where she developed a love for science which culminated in a scholarship to Manchester University to read physics graduating in 1906.

Having trained as a teacher in Cambridge, she took up the post of physics teacher at the Fulham Secondary School for Girls in 1908. In 1911, she met and married James Arthur Uttley, by whom she had one son, John Corin Taylor (born 1915). James Uttley's health was permanently impaired by his service in the first World War, and he died in 1930, leaving Alice with the need to support herself and her son, which she did by becoming the author of a series of tales about animals, including little Grey Rabbit, the little Red Fox, Tom Pig and Hare. Her writing career blossomed, and she continued to write stories for children, whilst expanding her range by writing for older children and adults. Her `country' books, beginning with The Country Child and continuing with series of essays on country themes, such as Country Hoard were extremely popular, due to her uncanny ability to remember the smallest details of her Derbyshire childhood and express them with beautiful poeticism. She remained fascinated by dreams and fantasy, and this is shown most clearly in her book A Traveller in Time which blended dreams and historical fact, although she also wrote a factual work The Stuff of Dreams. Eventually settling in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, in a house named Thackers after the manor house in A Traveller in Time, Alison Uttley wrote over 100 books and was given an honourary Litt.D by Manchester University in 1970 in recognition of her literary achievements. She died in hospital on 7th May 1976.


In the case of manuscripts, typescripts and notebooks, material has usually been listed under the name of the book from which it came, as Alison Uttley tended to write separate essays which were then collected into groups and published. Thus, even single chapters have been listed in this way to make searching easier for the reader. Those essays and stories which cannot be identified with any published work are placed at the end of the list.

Many of the drafts have been dated according to the publication of the finished book where there is no other criteria available, and so should be taken as guidelines rather than definitive dates.

The collection is arranged into four subgroups as follows:

  • AJU/1: Material given during the lifetime of Alison Uttley.
  • AJU/2: Material given following the death of Alison Uttley.
  • AJU/3: Items acquired by the library.
  • AJU/4: Correspondence relating to the collection.

Access Information

The archive is open to any accredited reader.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 2018. Under the Data Protection Act, The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the UML to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 2018, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of most material within the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, subject to copyright restrictions and the condition of the documents.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The collection is made up of several acquisitions, but the lack of correspondence remaining concerning events after the death of Alison Uttley has made exact calculations a little difficult.

As far as may be ascertained, there were three accessions, although this is probably a little simplistic, as Alison Uttley seemed to be constantly sending items to the University Library, and after her death her son sent two parcels of material to add to the personal library she had already left. However, as both processes were inadequately recorded, it may be assumed that the items given by Alison Uttley during her lifetime were those listed by the Keeper of Special Collections (a list which the library still retains), that is most of the original manuscript, typed and proof versions of her work, the scrapbooks and illustrations, and some miscellaneous material.

The second accession must be classed as material obtained following the death of Alison Uttley, and this includes her books and the items found inside them (left in her will), the numerous notebooks, albums, photographs and letters, and the remaining numbers of original manuscripts and typescripts, including several different versions of A Traveller in Timeand a complete copy of Recipes from an Old Farmhouse(given by her son?).

Lastly, the third accession was in 1994, when the library acquired the 40 diaries of Alison Uttley by private treaty from Sothebys and added them to existing holdings: they had previously been in the hands of Peter de Sautoy, to whom they were left in Alison Uttley's will. These were purchased with assistance from the MGC/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. To this is added material sent to the library by Collins Publishers, although this amounts to very little.

Related Material

The Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies, Aylesbury, holds letters from Alison Uttley to Miss Dunn of West Hagley, c.1970-76; ref: D-X 1784.

The Silk Museum, Macclesfield, holds correspondence between Alison Uttley and Charles Tunnicliffe concerning the latter's illustrations of Uttley's books, original artwork for Tunnicliffe's book illustrations, and other papers within the Charles Tunnicliffe archive.

Additional material relating to Alison Uttley can be found in the papers of Ashburne Hall, where Uttley resided as a student at Owens College, Manchester. Please contact the the John Rylands Library for further information.


Denis Judd, Alison Uttley: the life of a country child, 1884-1976: the authorised biography ( London: Michael Joseph, 1986).

Denis Judd, The private diaries of Alison Uttley: author of Little Grey Rabbit and Sam Pig (Barnsley: Remember When, 2009).

Elizabeth Saintsbury, The world of Alison Uttley: a biography : the life and times of one of the best loved country writers of our century ( London: Howard Baker, [1980]).