The collection largely comprises fourteen large albums compiled by Alfred Darbyshire, in which are mounted autograph letters, cuttings from newspapers and periodicals, playbills, theatre programmes, printed ephemera, watercolour sketches, and photographs. The bulk of the correspondence, cuttings and printed items relates to Darbyshire’s interests in theatrical matters (such as his organisation of the Charles Calvert Memorial Performance in Manchester in 1879) and his membership of social and professional organisations in Manchester.
Notable correspondents include Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Ford Madox Brown, Charles and Adelaide Calvert, Walter Crane, Charles Dickens junior, Emily Faithfull, Annie Ireland, Henry Irving, George Du Maurier, Val Prinsep, George Gilbert Scott, Frederic James Shields, Ellen Terry, Ellen Lancaster Wallis, Genevieve Ward, Hon. Lewis Strange Wingfield, and W. B. Yeats.
The nine photograph albums in ADC/3 contain photographs of: buildings, predominantly in Manchester and the North West of England, designed or restored by Alfred Darbyshire and his partnership, Darbyshire and Smith; other buildings and street scenes in Manchester and Salford; cathedrals, abbeys, castles and historic houses in Britain, Ireland, Italy and other European countries, Egypt and the United States.
The additional materials in ADC/5 include a manuscript catalogue of books, autograph letters and artworks owned by Alfred Darbyshire; an album of photographs of members of Alfred Darbyshire’s family, as well as of his friends and associates, members of the professional and gentry classes from Manchester and its environs, and figures from the wider worlds of the theatre, art and literature; and an album of sketches and drawings by Alfred Darbyshire.
The collection is relevant to studies of architecture, the theatre, literature, the social and cultural history of Manchester, the history of photography, and the history of popular culture in the second half of the 19th century.