David Winstanley's notebook contains a great deal of information about social conditions and social relations in a particular area of Manchester during the 1830s and 1840s. It is a valuable source of information about living conditions of sections of the working classes and the various attempts to ameliorate their conditions. Winstanley's notebook is of interest because it describes how Benjamin Heywood's concept of landlord paternalism attempted to deal with urban poverty and social dislocation. The notebook provides another perspective on these issues, described most famously by Engels in his Condition of the working class in England (1845).
David Winstanley seems to have copied his most importance correspondence and reports into this volume as a record of his work. The original documents have been lost, but Winstanley was a diligent compiler, so it is assumed that the most important documents relating to the Miles Platting settlement in this period have survived. Most of Winstanley's correspondence is with his employer, Benjamin Heywood, and he also collected financial and social data for Heywood on the management of his properties. Heywood appears to have valued Winstanley not only for his practical management skills, but because of his knowledge of the moral and material conditions of his tenants, many of whom came from similar backgrounds to Winstanley.
Winstanley's notebook is also important for describing Winstanley's own views on assisting the poor; he took the view that the moral improvement (especially self-improvement) of the poor was a precondition of their future material well-being, and a failure to recognise this by their social superiors could have deleterious political, economic and religious effects. Indeed, he seems to have been stronger in this viewpoint than Heywood, and constantly cautioned the latter about issuing indiscriminate or hasty distributions of alms. On the other hand, Winstanley did recognise the problems of the estate's tenants and was energetic in running the educational institutions, and improving housing conditions ; he also co-operated the new Manchester Corporation when it began to tackle these problems in the 1840s. Winstanley was wary of radical political nostrums, especially those of chartists, and religious sectarians, and his periodic exhortations to the tenants stressed the benefits of education, frugality, temperance and self-improvement.
The notebook comprises transcripts of the following documents:
ff. 1-12, Copy letter to Benjamin Heywood, , describes the development to date of the Day School, Sunday School and the Mutual Improvement Society (which evolved into the Mechanics' Institution in 1836); makes some interesting comments on his methods of educating (influenced by Scottish schools). Winstanley also records the discussions of the Mutual Improvement Society, where papers on diverse subjects have been presented and expresses wariness of including theological subjects.
ff.13-23, An address to the tenants (June 1840), in which Winstanley describes the work of the Mechanics' Institution, and its origins in the Mutual Improvement Society.
ff. 24-27, Details of the rents collected at Miles Platting estate between 1837 and 1840, including arrears, and arrears forgiven (with statistical table). Winstanley recommends in difficult times a general reduction of rent, rather than provision of alms. He also comments "After three and a half years of practical experience as collector of rents, and a great deal of thought as to how the Property and the Tenant may be improved, I come to this conclusion: That for a collector of rents to assume the duties of a visitor of the poor among his tenants, any further than by encouraging those who already show a disposition to do right is injudicious, and that the only plan for collecting rents successfully is this, Be determined to have it."
ff. 28-41, A detailed statistical table concerning the tenants (named), employment, age, ethnicity, address and rents paid (1840).
ff. 42-43, Winstanley describes the management of the Mechanics' Institution (1841).
ff. 44-52, Winstanley describes the management of the Day School in a questionnaire, which has been provided by John Kennedy, a sub-commissioner on the Royal Commissioner on Children's Employment in Mines and Manufactures, which was investigating the schooling of working children, dated 5 March 1841.
ff. 53-57, Copies of correspondence with Sarah Buckland, Aug-Sep 1841 concerning her possible emigration to Australia with her family; Winstanley indicates he has "a strong inclination to emigrate", but too much uncertainty at present.
ff.57-60 Winstanley's address to the tenants, September 1841, concerning subsidised goods provided by Heywood, urges economy on tenants,"Wages are sadly to [sic.] low and many causes have contributed to make them so, but frugality on the part of the operative is not one of those causes, the steady workman who takes care of what he earns can stand up for his wages much better than a spendthrift."
ff.61-65, Copy letter to Benjamin Heywood, 16 Oct 1841, concerning the scheme to distribute subsidised goods (cloth and food).
ff.66-75, Copy letter from John Bromiley 2 July 1842. Bromiley describes his life and social conditions in Philadelphia, which is in the middle of an economic slump. Remarks on poverty in the town and the growing demands for tariffs. Also refers to Winstanley's uncle and brother in law, who are residing in the States.
ff.76-78, Correspondence concerning new houses at Elm Road, a scheme supervised by Winstanley (1842).
ff 78-89, Copy letter from Robert Doodson to Winstanley, written 29 Dec 1841 and received 16 November 1842, describes his family's life in life in Australia since emigrating including details of cost of living. [Doodson was a former silk weaver on the Miles Platting estate].
ff.90-93, Letter to Rev Philip Carter 23 December 1842 [Carter 1819-1877 was a local Unitarian minister] discussing saving schemes for the poor.
ff. 93-94, Copy letter to Benjamin Heywood, 2 Jan 1842, responding to a request from Heywood about whether "the simple communication of certain truths" to local children was effective without corresponding material improvements. Winstanley replies "I know that children sometimes become good citizens and good subjects after being brought up in poverty and vice, but these are exceptions. As a general rule we may pronounce it impossible to give a high moral character to either children or grown people unless they have a sufficiency of the common necessaries of life."
ff. 94-97, reports on rents for 1842.
ff. 98-100, Copy letter to Benjamin Heywood ; does not believe he should do any more for tenants at present, and opposes giving prizes to families who keep their houses in good order. However, believes the subsidised drapery and food scheme of 1841 and 1842 did "much good" and "some harm"; believes poor respond when it is clear that someone is taking an interest in their welfare.
ff. 101-103, Details of tender for painting cottages in Elm St., April 29 1843.
ff. 104-110,  Winstanley's address to the tenants; warns against demagogues, and being led astray by simplistic arguments.
ff. 111-115, Abstract of rents for 1840-1843, includes details of arrears and a covering letter to Benjamin Heywood, 4 November 1843 discusses the arrears; Winstanley notes some improvement for the handloom weavers but wages still very low, and advises against holding a meeting of tenants. Winstanley proposes some increase in charity to the deserving and the sick but should not publicise it in advance as it might lead to "competition for charitable aid".
ff. 116-117, Correspondence concerning the debts of one James Chadwick, 7-9 November 1843.
ff. 117-119, Copy of letter from John Layhe, 6 May 1844, concerning arrangements for Whitweek excursions for school children.
ff.119-130, Copy correspondence and reports relating to a dispute with Rev. John Layhe over competing demands for rooms for the Sunday School and Mechanics Institution [1844-1845].
ff. 132-138, Copy correspondence relating to the removal of a boiler 
ff.139-142, Copy letter to Benjamin Heywood, 10 Sep 1845 advises on positioning of a watering trough on the estate and discusses the provision of a privies and ash pits for 17 houses (Manchester Corporation was now requiring all new houses to have these).
ff. 143-149, Copy letter to Benjamin Heywood [1845-1846]; Winstanley describes intention to keep a journal and provides some autobiographical details. He also discusses charity and stresses that the poor will be most receptive to such actions, if they are persuaded donors are acting from the right motives, and have their best interests at heart.
f.151, An account for paving streets on the estate as well as sewering [prob late 1846.
ff 152-157, Copy letter to Benjamin Heywood 27 Jan 1847, discusses provision of free soup to tenants during difficult times; doubts this would be beneficial: "Charitable aid injudiciously administered, is a more fertile source of moral degeneracy than distress itself"; Winstanley argues that any aid to the poor must be carefully targeted and distributed, "Give relief to persons in such a way as to make them understand that we regard them as fit and proper objects for charitable aid, before they have begun to look upon themselves in that light, and depression of spirits will ensure. Give them the same relief out of personal regard, in consideration of some good feature of their characters, and we keep their spirits up". Also a copy letter to Lady Heywood 21 Feb 1848 and her reply, Lady Heywood concerning provision of pease puddings and rice. Winstanley approves the act but warns against offering any instruction in "domestic management" to the poor as this is likely to cause resentment.
ff. 157-161, 166-174, Correspondence and memorials (1848) which relate to a dispute over the expulsion of William Hilton, from the Miles Platting Sunday School, over remarks he made in a paper. Winstanley accepts Hilton acted wrongly, but is strongly critical of John Layhe's decision to remove him from the School, which he considered to be unjust and excessive. Includes a memorial from the Sunday school teachers criticising the decision to expel William Hilton
ff.162-165, Winstanley's address to the annual soirée of the Mechanics Institution, 20 March 1848; urges self-help as preferable to submitting to the tests of the poor law guardians. Indicates that the Mechanics' Institution may be going through a difficult time.
ff.175-179, Copy letter to Benjamin Heywood, 26 May 1848, received pamphlets from Benjamin Heywood with gratitude, political ones have proved useful in speaking to those who hold the "most extravagant opinions"; he dislikes pamphlets by Libertas [ Letters to the Mob London 1848] , particularly the language in which it was expressed. Discusses the political views of the Miles Platting tenants: "The political creed which prevails among them is chartism," but does not believe they will be involved in disorder or are against Heywood. Does not believe discussion with radicals is helpful: "the spirit of mob chartism is uncompromising. The whole or nothing is their motto and in its spirit they read". Advises a judicious distribution of alms before not after trouble [this letter was composed after the mass Chartist meeting at Kennington Common, London in April 1848]
ff.177-179, Copy letter to Benjamin Heywood, 26 May 1848 providing details on the Schools and Mechanics Institution, mentions the dispute with Layhe (see ff. 157-161, 166-174) and the establishment of a cricket club.
ff. 180-186, relates to the specification and detail of public bathhouses and washhouses a questionnaire issued to the establishment at Goulsdon Square Whitechapel (1848). [Miles Platting's bathhouses opened in 1850].
ff. 187-188, biographical information about Winstanley (composed c.1855).
Loose papers (7 folded sheets) at end of volume: Winstanley's farewell address to the Mechanics' Institution; two versions, given by DW when he resigned as honorary secretary. Stresses the importance for working class of having the right sort of leaders, challenges they face dangers of being misled, and the dangers of sectarianism.