Papers of the Jamison Family

Scope and Content

The archive is a rich family collection which includes diaries and journals; deeds, inventories and legal papers; memoirs; family pedigrees; manuscript lectures and sermons; commonplace books; and manuscript poems. At its heart is a mass of correspondence, extending to around 1,000 letters. This consists of letters sent to family members by friends and acquaintances, as well as extensive correspondence exchanged between members of the Green and Jamison families. Isabella Green is the addressee of many of the letters in the archive, and it seems she ultimately took custody of many letters sent to her parents and unmarried sisters. There is also a long series of letters from Isabella herself to her brother Philip, which may be due to the practice of returning letters to their sender after the recipient’s death. There are also numerous letters sent to Isabella's daughters Evelyn and Catherine during the twentieth century, some dating from as late as the 1960s.

The archive includes 16 letters written by Elizabeth Gaskell - 13 to her friend Mary Green and three to Mary's daughter Isabella. Her letters to Mary (which date from 1852-64 and have been published in Chapple and Shelston's Further letters of Mrs Gaskell) contain news of their respective daughters’ activities, mutual visits, and anxieties about their children's welfare. Gaskell also articulates more serious concerns in relation to the children; in a letter dating from June 1860, for instance, she refers to Philip Green's decision to join the judiciary in Bombay which he has obviously discussed with her in some detail; she attempts to console her friend and reassure her that Philip's prospects are better in India than at home. In addition to family issues, Gaskell also felt able to discuss her work as a writer with Mary. In one of the letters she refers to her punishing schedule when researching The life of Charlotte Brontë. More significantly, two other letters relate to her controversial novel Ruth (1853), including her anger about the book being advertised before she felt ready or satisfied with the work, and subsequently her relief at hearing of the Greens' positive reaction to the book (having feared they would be shocked by its subject matter).

The three letters to Isabella Green have not previously been published. One of these relates to Isabella's work as an amateur artist; in it Gaskell refers to [Edward] Whelan, stonemason and sculptor, who worked alongside the sculptor Thomas Woolner and architect Alfred Waterhouse in the design of the Manchester Assize Courts (constructed during 1859-1864), for which Whelan produced a series of capitals. It seems that Gaskell was acting as an intermediary between Whelan and Isabella Green, who had promised to produce a design for one of these capitals; in her letter Gaskell gives Isabella a gentle reminder that Whelan is expecting to receive her design.

There are also 17 letters written by Gaskell's daughter Florence Crompton, nine by her daughter Julia Gaskell and one by Marianne Holland. Julia's letters (which date from 1866-1873) are the fullest, and touch on a wide range of subjects, including her grief after the death of her mother, her activities and travels, mutual acquaintances, reading matter, charity work, and cultural, social and political events in Manchester, London and elsewhere (including her thoughts on the Jamaican uprising in 1867, the Fenian movement, and lectures by Barbara Bodichon and the pioneering American army surgeon, Mary Walker). The letters from Florence Crompton date from 1864-74; some of them therefore pre-date Elizabeth Gaskell's death and contain references to her activities, including a tea taken with Garibaldi in April 1864. Florence's letters also contain news of other family members and acquaintances (including her sisters), lectures attended, and news of activities, including a description of the Queen's opening of Parliament in February 1867 and the reform demonstration in London the following week.

Aside from these letters written by the Gaskells themselves, the archive contains much additional information about the Gaskell family, the circles in which they moved, the social and cultural life of the day, and the politics of the time. As close friends of the Gaskell daughters, the letters of the Green girls frequently contain references to visits exchanged and mutual acquaintances, as well as commentaries on the activities of the Gaskells - including a letter written by Isabella shortly after the death of Elizabeth Gaskell in which she suggests that Gaskell had had some intimation earlier in 1865 that she may not live to see out the year. Encouraged by her historian daughter Evelyn, Isabella also wrote some memoirs in 1931 when she was ninety, which include some glimpses of her family's early acquaintance with the Gaskells.

Isabella also kept a number of travel diaries, including an account of a holiday to the Mediterranean and Egypt in 1868, and her trip of a lifetime to Cuba and across America in 1872; both diaries are complemented by correspondence written during each journey. The papers generally offer a fascinating insight into the life of a nineteenth-century middle-class family, including family relationships, details of daily life, individual responses to major political events, and thoughts on art, literature and drama; the Greens show themselves to be a family worthy of study in their own right. There is much valuable information about Knutsford society in the late Victorian period, as well as material which may be of interest to historians of Unitarianism. Two further well known nineteenth-century figures are also represented in the collection: there are seven letters from Mary Mohl (salon hostess, author and friend of Elizabeth Gaskell); and three letters from John Ruskin.

The twentieth-century correspondence of Evelyn Jamison also contains interesting information about life as an early female student and academic at Oxford, women's work during the early twentieth century, home life during the First World War, and the influenza epidemic of 1918 among other topics.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Jamisons were descended on one side from the Green family of Knutsford in Cheshire. Henry Green (1801-1873) was the son of a paper-maker based at Hayle Mill in Kent; instead of entering the family business, he was strongly influenced by the Unitarian minister George Harris and went to Glasgow University to train for the ministry. After taking his MA degree in 1825, he went on to serve as a supply minister in Staffordshire and Norfolk, then in 1827 he became minister of Brook Street Unitarian Chapel in Knutsford, Cheshire. In the same year he married Mary Brandreth (1803-1871) of Bolton in Lancashire, and the couple were to have six children: Emily (1828-1915), John Philip (known as Philip, 1831-1883), Anne (known as Annie, 1833-1899, whose twin brother was stillborn), Mary Ellen (known as Ellen, 1835-1921), Alice (who died in 1842 aged four or five), and Isabella (also known as Isabel, 1841-1937).

Whilst at Glasgow University, Henry Green befriended the Reverend William Gaskell (1805-1884); later his wife Mary also became a close friend of William Gaskell's wife, the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865), who had grown up in Knutsford. The Gaskells married in 1832, and had six children: Marianne (1834-1920), a son born sometime after Marianne who died while a baby, Margaret Emily (known as Meta, 1837-1913), Florence Elizabeth (or Flossie, 1842-1881), William (or Willie, 1844-1845), and Julia Bradford (1846-1908); in 1833 Gaskell had also given birth to a stillborn daughter. The four surviving Gaskell daughters were of similar ages to the four Green girls and all became good friends and correspondents; visits were often exchanged between the Green home in Knutsford and the Gaskell house in Manchester. Many years later Isabella Jamison (née Green) recalled her sister Ellen staying with the Gaskells at their home in Plymouth Grove and using their piano for practice; the piano was in the room that Elizabeth Gaskell also used for writing, and Ellen would wonder what her hostess was engaged in writing, later reflecting on how kind Gaskell was in allowing her to practice piano in the same room. Isabella also reported that the whole Gaskell family once came to stay with the Greens in Knutsford for Christmas, being entertained by Mr Gaskell reading Dickens's A Christmas carol aloud to them when it had just come out (which would place the visit in 1843).

In addition to his work as a minister, Henry Green ran a small private school for boys from Heathfield, the family home in Knutsford (which was taken over by his daughters in 1857 and turned into a school for young ladies). Green had an interest in the history of Unitarianism and dissent in the north of England, and wrote a number of articles on the subject. Local history was another of his interests, and in 1859 he published Knutsford, its traditions and history: with reminiscences, anecdotes and notices of the neighbourhood, with which Elizabeth Gaskell provided some assistance. He also wrote a number of handbooks to Euclid, edited six volumes of the Holbein Society's facsimile reprints, and published writings on emblems and emblem books.

Philip Green was educated at his father's school and, as the son of the family, subsequently went on to higher education; he attended the newly established London University from 1846 (Oxford and Cambridge being closed to nonconformists), and obtained his BA in 1849. He then trained as a barrister in London, spent a brief period teaching in his father's school during 1852-1853, and was called to the Bar in 1855. He worked as a barrister in London until 1860, when - after struggling to find sufficient work in England - he made the decision to move to Bombay; he pursued a distinguished career at the Bar in India, ultimately becoming a judge. Sometime before departing for India he converted to Catholicism, and in 1868 he married Theresa Herbert, second daughter of the painter John Rogers Herbert, another Catholic convert. The couple had no children and Theresa died in 1872 aged only 33. Two years later Philip married Cecilia Pacca, who came from an ancient Neapolitan family and with whom he had three sons. He was forced to retire from his job as Judge of Her Majesty's Court in Bombay due to ill health in 1879, and he spent the last few years of his life living in southern Italy. He was killed in an earthquake on the volcanic island of Ischia in the Gulf of Naples in July 1883.

Philip's parents remained at Heathfield after their son left England, along with the unmarried Green daughters and Anne Brandreth, Mary Green's mother. Annie Green left the family home in 1863 when she married Charles Falcon, with whom she had three children - although the couple's first child, Maxwell, died young in 1865. Elizabeth Gaskell died on 12 November in the same year, and Henry Green read her burial service at Brook Street Chapel on 17 November. He continued in his role as minister until 1872, the year after the deaths of both his wife and her mother, who had been suffering from dementia for some time. Henry Green himself died in 1873, and after his death the three Green daughters left Heathfield. However, they all stayed in close contact with each other, and continued to visit and correspond with the Gaskell daughters.

Emily and Ellen Green never married, but in 1875 Isabella married Arthur Andrew Jamison (1844-1900), a doctor. Jamison had received his medical degree at the University of Glasgow in 1865, and the following year he moved to St Helens in Lancashire, initially practising in partnership with a Dr Edward Twyford. Isabella and Arthur settled in St Helens after their marriage, and their three children were born in the town - Evelyn in 1877, Reginald in 1878, and Catherine in 1881. The Jamisons remained in St Helens until the mid 1880s, when they moved to Lowndes Street, Knightsbridge in London. Isabella Jamison was a talented amateur artist, and she continued to exhibit regularly at the Royal Academy of Arts after her marriage and move to London. She outlived her husband by 37 years, dying in London in 1937 at the age of 96.

Neither of the Jamison daughters married, but both of them went on to achieve academic distinction, and Evelyn made her career in academia. After attending art school in Paris, she went to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and in 1901 she became the only woman student at Oxford University to gain a first in the Honours School of Modern History. Later, she secured a research fellowship from Somerville College which enabled her to travel in Italy, and to write on Italian art history. On returning to Oxford in 1907, she became Librarian and Bursar at Lady Margaret Hall, ultimately becoming Tutor and Vice-Principal in 1921; she was also a University Lecturer in History from 1928 to 1935. At the age of 60 she retired to London, but continued to undertake historical research until her death in 1972.

Evelyn's brother Reginald Jamison had four children - Peter, Antony, Robin and Ivor; his son Robin also had four children, one of whom - Jean Jamison - became the ultimate custodian of the family's archive.


The archive has not yet been subject to archival arrangement and remains in its original order.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader, although some of the twentieth-century material may be subject to Data Protection closures or access restrictions. Readers are advised to contact the Library in advance if they wish to see any of this material.

Acquisition Information

The archive was sold to the John Rylands University Library by Jean Jamison, on behalf of the Jamison family, in 2008. External funding towards the purchase came from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Friends of the National Libraries, and the Friends of the John Rylands.

A further accrual of the archive was received in October 2009 on a deposit basis.

Other Finding Aids

A hard copy box list of the archive is available on request.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

Most of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Keeper of Manuscripts and Archives, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

Isabella Green was the original custodian of the archive: her own papers were augmented by the correspondence and papers of other members of the Green family, and she also retained letters sent between members of the Jamison family. The family papers presumably passed to Robin Jamison because Evelyn and Catherine had no children. The archive ultimately came into the possession of Jean Jamison, Robin's daughter.

Related Material

The John Rylands University Library holds the Papers of Elizabeth Gaskell (which include literary manuscripts, in-letters and Gaskell's autograph collection), numerous individual letters written by Gaskell, and the Papers of J.G. Sharps which include further letters written by Gaskell as well as Gaskell-related research material.

The Warburg Institute in London holds nine boxes of papers of Evelyn Jamison, including notes and material on the Catalogus Baronum and photographs and transcripts of documents from archives in southern Italy. Cheshire Record Office holds a series of notebooks by Henry Green containing transcripts of early documentary sources and short biographies of seventeenth and early eighteenth-century ministers.


Information about the Greens and Gaskells has been taken from: the Dictionary of National Biography entries for Elizabeth Gaskell and Henry Green; Jenny Uglow's Elizabeth Gaskell: a habit of stories (London: Faber and Faber, 1993); the archive itself; and the private research notes of Sarah Tanner who worked on the collection for a number of years before it came to the JRUL. The 13 letters in the archive from Elizabeth Gaskell to Mary Green have been published in Further letters of Mrs Gaskell, ed. J.A.V. Chapple and Alan Shelston (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000).

Geographical Names