C.F. Sixsmith Collection of Miscellanea

Scope and Content

This collection is comprised of papers which reflect many of Sixsmith's interests and activities. There are drafts, news cuttings, and correspondence relating to two regional radio broadcasts he made in the 1930s, on the subject of fabric design in an industrial context and the cotton trade with West Africa. There is also some material relating to a talk by Sixsmith on the English countryside and the dangers posed by developments such as urbanization, increased road building and car use. Also included are papers relating to Sixsmith's involvement in discussions and conferences on industrial relations after the First World War. His Walt Whitman interest is reflected in a small quantity of papers relating to meetings of the Bolton Whitman group, and in the general correspondence, which also embraces other interests, such as the socialist movement and the work of Edward Carpenter. Also of interest is a series of letters (Eng 1330/6) between Sixsmith and Bolton City Librarian, Harold Hamer, dating from the early 1950s. These relate to his book and manuscript collections, which he ultimately decided to leave to the John Rylands Library following a dispute with Bolton Library over the provenance of some Whitman material, and what he perceived as dishonest behaviour on the part of Minnie Whiteside (J.W. Wallace's devoted housekeeper and companion, whom he always referred to as his adopted daughter, and who came into possession of Wallace's Whitman collection after his death).

Administrative / Biographical History

Charles Frederick Sixsmith was one of six brothers from Anderton, near Chorley in Lancashire. He worked at Bentinck Mills, Farnworth, a company engaged in the dyeing and manufacture of woven cotton goods for the West African market; Sixsmith held the post of managing director at the mills for 40 years until his retirement in 1933. He was also active in local government, being a member of Chorley Rural District Council for 37 years, and he played a part in the early socialist movement in Britain. He was involved in various conferences set up to discuss working conditions and industrial relations after the First World War, and he belonged to a number of associations concerned with craft, design and factory made goods.

Sixsmith also had a keen interest in literature, particularly the work of the American poet, Walt Whitman. He was introduced to Whitman by J.W. Wallace, who moved to Anderton from Bolton in 1890 and soon became a close friend of Sixsmith. Wallace was the leader of a small group of friends who held regular meetings to discuss literary works and ideas, with a particular emphasis on the poetry of Whitman. Wallace and his friend, Dr John Johnston, corresponded with Whitman, and both men undertook journeys to America to visit the poet - Johnston in 1890 and Wallace in 1891. A regular event in the group's calendar was the annual 'Whitman Day' celebration held on or near the poet's birthday on 31 May, which often attracted outside visitors to the group.

Originally called the 'Eagle Street College' (after Wallace's original home in Bolton), the group continued in one form or another for many years, even after the death of Wallace in 1926; it eventually came to be known as the Bolton Walt Whitman Fellowship. Sixsmith was invited to join the group in the early 1890s and he remained involved with the annual Whitman birthday celebrations until at least the late 1930s. He continued to promote Whitman's work in the North-West of England for the rest of his life.

Whitman was admired by many early socialists in Britain, who were attracted by his ideas on love and comradeship, democracy and nature. J.W. Wallace had a wide circle of acquaintances among the leading figures of the socialist movement, and through him Sixsmith came into contact with many people who shared his political beliefs, the most important probably being Edward Carpenter who became a lifelong friend and correspondent.

Sixsmith married in 1908 and he and his wife, Lucy, had two sons and a daughter. He died in February 1954 at the age of 83.


The other manuscript collections left to the Library by Sixsmith were allocated numbers in the English MS sequence (Eng MSS 1170-1172), but the material in the present collection remained unlisted and was labelled as miscellanea. These divisions in the material may reflect the way in which the collections came to the Library and therefore illustrate Sixsmith's own arrangement of his papers. This material has therefore been catalogued as a separate collection and allocated a new English MS number.

Some of the material was already arranged into bundles of related papers - letters from one individual, or papers relating to a specific subject or event - and these groupings have been retained. The remainder of the material which had no obvious order has been arranged into series according to physical form.

The arrangement is as follows:

  • Eng 1330/1 Papers relating to Sixsmith's radio broadcast on furnishing fabrics
  • Eng 1330/2 Papers relating to Sixsmith's radio broadcast on the West African cotton trade
  • Eng 1330/3 Papers relating to Sixsmith's talk on the English countryside
  • Eng 1330/4 Papers relating to industrial relations
  • Eng 1330/5 Papers relating to the Bolton Whitman group
  • Eng 1330/6 Papers relating to the Whitman collection at Bolton Central Library
  • Eng 1330/7 General correspondence
  • Eng 1330/8 Miscellaneous manuscript notes
  • Eng 1330/9 Typescript drafts
  • Eng 1330/10 Portraits

Access Information

Open to any accredited reader.

This finding aid may contain personal or sensitive personal data about living individuals. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The John Rylands University Library (JRUL) has the right to process such personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the JRUL to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the JRUL has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately, according to the Data Protection Principles.

Individuals have the right to make a request to see data relating to them held by the JRUL which falls under the provisions of the DPA. Access requests must be made formally in accordance with the provisions set out in the DPA and all enquiries should be directed to the University's Data Protection Officer.

Other Finding Aids


Conditions Governing Use

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

A number 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 Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PP.

Custodial History

These papers were amassed by Charles F. Sixsmith in the course of his various activities, and bequeathed to the John Rylands Library along with other manuscripts and a large collection of Whitman- and Carpenter-related books. The collections came to the Library after Sixsmith's death in 1954.

Related Material

The John Rylands University Library holds three other manuscript collections bequeathed by Charles Sixsmith: Eng Ms 1170 consists of papers relating to the Bolton Whitman group and Whitman in general, including a bundle of autograph letters sent to Whitman by various individuals during 1880; Eng Ms 1171 contains papers and photographs relating to Sixsmith's friend, the writer and socialist, Edward Carpenter; Eng Ms 1172 is Sixsmith's collection of letters from Horace Traubel to Sixsmith himself, J.W. Wallace, and Dr John Johnston; and Eng Ms 1331 contains news cuttings, other printed matter and photographs relating principally to Whitman and Carpenter.

In addition, there is a collection of papers relating to J.W. Wallace and the Bolton Whitman Fellowship, donated by Wallace's companion and adopted daughter, Minnie Whiteside (Eng Ms 1186).

A larger collection of material relating to the Bolton Whitman Fellowship and their contacts in America is held by Bolton Archive Service, based at the Central Library, Bolton, Lancashire ZWN .

Geographical Names