Stanley Family Papers

Scope and Content

The collection comprises the papers of the Stanley family of Alderley, English MSS 716-722, 1089-1090, 1092-1097: 

  • Notes and extracts, including pedigrees and coats of arms of various notable families, on Cheshire and Lancashire, dating from the early 19th century (English MSS 716-720);
  • The personal letters of Maria Josepha Stanley (Eng MS 721);
  • Extracts from the journals and recollections of John Thomas Stanley, 1st Baron Stanley of Alderley (Eng MS 722);
  • Personal letters and boyhood diary of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (Eng MSS 1089-1090);
  • Family letters to Edward Lyulph Stanley, 4th Baron Stanley of Alderley (Eng MSS 1092-1093);
  • Miscellaneous letter (Eng MS 1095) and letters from the American novelist, Sarah Anne Ellis (Eng MS 1094) to Edward Lyulph Stanley;
  • Stanley household account book, 1784-1785 (Eng MS 1096);
  • Cheshire rental of John Thomas Stanley, 6th Baron of Alderley (Eng MS 1097).

Administrative / Biographical History

Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (1815-1881), dean of Westminster, was born on 13 December 1815 at Alderley rectory, Cheshire, the third of five children of the rector, Edward Stanley (1779-1849), later bishop of Norwich. In September 1824 he was sent to a small private boarding-school at Seaforth and in 1829 he entered Rugby School. In 1833 he gained a scholarship at Balliol College, and in the following October went into residence at Oxford. In 1837 he was awarded a first-class degree in classics and in 1838 he was elected to a fellowship at University College, Oxford. In 1843 he was ordained a priest and appointed college tutor. The sermons which he preached before the university were published with additions and appendices in November 1847 under the title Sermons on the Apostolical Age. He also published The Life and Correspondence of Thomas Arnold in 1844.

On the death of his father in 1849, Stanley succeeded to a small estate and was obliged to resign his fellowship. In 1851 he accepted a canonry at Canterbury and in 1852 he undertook an extensive tour of Egypt and the Holy Land, which resulted in the publication of Sinai and Palestine in March 1856. He also published a series of essays on the history of Canterbury Cathedral, Historical Memorials of Canterbury(1854). In 1856 Stanley was appointed regius professor of ecclesiastical history at Oxford, the chair being attached to a canonry at Christ Church, though he was not installed as canon until March 1858. He lectured frequently, his lectures forming the basis of his books Three Introductory Lectures on the Study of Ecclesiastical History (1857), Lectures on the History of the Eastern Church (1861), and Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church (3 pts, 1863-76).

In January 1862 Stanley accompanied the Prince of Wales on a tour of the Middle East, during which he preached his Sermons in the East(1863). In 1863 he married Lady Augusta Bruce (1822-1876), fifth daughter of the seventh earl of Elgin. On 9 January 1864 Stanley was installed as dean of Westminster. In Scotland he was elected rector of the University of St Andrews; publishing Lectures on the Church of Scotland(1872) and Addresses and Sermons Delivered at St Andrews (1877). In 1879 he published Addresses and Sermons Delivered in the United States and Canada and in 1881Christian Institutions. He died on 18 July at the deanery, Westminster, and was buried in the King Henry VII Chapel of Westminster Abbey.

Source: P.C. Hammond, 'Stanley, Arthur Penrhyn (1815-1881)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Edward Lyulph Stanley (1839-1925), 4th Baron Sheffield, 4th Baron Stanley of Alderley, and 3rd Baron Eddisbury, educationist, was born at Grosvenor Court, London, on 16 May 1839. He was the third son of Edward John Stanley, 2nd Baron Stanley of Alderley (1802-1869). He succeeded his eldest brother, Henry Edward John Stanley, 3rd Baron Stanley of Alderley, in 1903, and by special remainder succeeded to the barony of Sheffield in 1909. He was educated at Eton and at Balliol College, Oxford, from where he obtained a second class in classical moderations (1859) and a first class in literae humaniores (1861). He was elected a fellow of Balliol in 1862 and was called to the bar by the Inner Temple in 1865.

He was an agnostic, like many of his free-thinking family, and was driven by a fervent anti-clericalism, expressed in the pamphlet Oxford University Reform (1869), which attacked clerical restrictions in the university. A member of the Liberation Society and a strong advocate of secular control of education, he was backed by the National Education League when he stood for parliament at a by-election at Oldham in 1872, but was defeated. In 1876 Stanley was elected a member of the London school board, for the Marylebone division, retaining his seat (with one break) until 1904. He was elected Liberal MP for Oldham in 1880 but lost his seat in November 1885.

In 1884 Stanley was appointed a member of the royal commission on the housing of the poor, and in 1886 a member of the royal commission to inquire into the working of the Elementary Education Acts (the Cross commission). He became a founder member of the National Education Association. In November 1888 he was re-elected to the London school board and published Our National Education in 1899.

On his succession to the peerage in 1903 Stanley inherited estates in Cheshire and Anglesey, becoming chairman of the Anglesey education committee (1904-19). From 1895 to 1917 he contributed articles on education to the Nineteenth Century, and to the Fortnightly Review, English Review, and Contemporary Review. Lord Sheffield, as he was styled after 1909, died at Alderley Park, Cheshire, on 18 March 1925, and was buried there.

Source: M.C. Curthoys, 'Stanley, Edward Lyulph, fourth Baron Sheffield, fourth Baron Stanley of Alderley, and third Baron Eddisbury (1839-1925)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

John Thomas Stanley (1766-1850), 7th Baronet and 1st Baron Stanley of Alderley was born on 26 November 1766, the son of Sir John Thomas Stanley, bart (d. 1807), of Alderley Park, Cheshire, and Margaret Owen (1742-1816). He benefited from an enlightened upbringing and in his twenties he undertook learned expeditions to the cultural centres of Europe, becoming one of the first English explorers of Iceland. On 11 October 1796 he married Maria Josepha Holroyd (1771-1863), daughter of John Baker Holroyd, 1st Earl of Sheffield; they had eleven children of whom nine survived to adulthood. Stanley was a staunch whig and served as MP for Wootton Bassett from 1790 to 1796; he subsequently focused upon local affairs in Cheshire. He died on 2 October 1850 at age 83.

Access Information

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

English MSS 716-722 were purchased by the John Rylands Library from the Manchester booksellers Sherratt & Hughes in November 1932.

English MSS 1089-1090 were purchased from James Fairhurst in February 1941.

English MSS 1092-1097 were purchased from Mrs Lowndes of Knutsford in January 1941.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan and Jo Klett, project archivists, with reference to:

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928-35 (English MSS 716-722, 1089-1090 and 1092-1097).

Related Material

Almost 250 deeds relating to Cheshire were presented to the John Rylands Library by Lord Stanley of Alderley in April 1927 (ref.: Rylands Charters 776–913).

The Grey (Stamford) of Dunham Massey Papers at the JRUL include a notebook of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, containing quotations from classical and modern authors, notes on ecclesiastical and secular history, philosophy, and drafts of essays, 1840-48 (ref.: EGR13/37).

Papers of the Stanley family of Alderley are held at the following other institutions:

  • Cheshire and Chester Archives and Local Studies: deeds, estate management papers, family settlements and related deeds, family correspondence and personal papers, 1650-20th cent (ref.: DSA ); miscellaneous papers relating to Alderley, 1557-78 (ref.: CR63/2/41,44);
  • Manchester Archives and Local Studies: estate book, 1775-1810 (ref.: C7 );
  • National Library of Wales, Department of Collection Services: papers relating to estates and settlements including Anglesey, 1682-1846;
  • Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts: family papers, 1820-1830 (ref.: MSS Eng misc e 52; Eng poet e 21-22 ).


  • Nancy Mitford (ed.), The ladies of Alderley: being the letters between Maria Josepha, lady Stanley of Alderley, and her daughter-in-law, Henrietta Maria Stanley, during the years 1841-1850 (London: Chapman & Hall, [1938]) .
  • Nancy Mitford (ed.), The Stanleys of Alderley: their letters between the years 1851-1865 (London: Chapman & Hall, [1939]) .
  • Rowland E. Prothero, The life and correspondence of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley: late Dean of Westminster (London: J. Murray, 1893) .
  • Andrew Wawm, 'James Six and the Court of Brunswick, 1781-82: unpublished translations, poems and letters', Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen, vol. 220 Band 135 (1983), pp. 241-67 .

Geographical Names