Wood Street Mission Archive

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 WSM
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      18 series, 324 items. Physical condition: the archive is generally in good condition but several items are in a fragile state.
  • Location
      John Rylands Library, Deansgate.

Scope and Content

The archive comprises minute books, annual reports, cuttings books, account books, registers of donors and recipients of charity, wages books and other employment records, visitors books, diaries and photographs. The collection constitutes a vital record of the social history of Manchester and Salford, with particular emphasis on poverty and social deprivation, and on efforts to alleviate them.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Wood Street Mission, known officially as the Manchester and Salford Street Children's Mission, was founded in 1869 by Alfred Alsop, with the support of a few friends. These pioneers began to hold Gospel services and Sunday schools in a rented cottage on Lombard Street. Alfred Alsop's aim was to preach the Gospel in the slum areas of Deansgate, Salford and Hulme, once described as the "the worst haunts of vice'. As a social worker, Alsop realized that his evangelical zeal could not wholly compete with the afflictions of hunger, poverty and destitution which many of the local denizens endured. Hence, along with a number of colleagues, he initiated a charitable movement that resolved to provide the basic necessities of life: food, shelter and clothing to the less fortunate. In short, the Mission strove to ameliorate the miserable living conditions of the poor.

Yet perhaps their most significant endeavour was to grant to children and adults, often labelled as 'down and outs', hope and the opportunity to reform. The rented cottage was soon replaced by a purpose-built Mission Hall, but the construction of Central Station and the continual increase of the Mission's congregation compelled Alsop to seek more extensive premises elsewhere. A site was acquired on Wood Street, off Deansgate, and the new building, constructed at a cost of £3,300, was opened in December 1873. In 1876 the property was conveyed to a board of trustees, who continue to administer the charity, and the Mission remains in Wood Street to this day. The Mission relied solely upon subscriptions and donations to support its activities, yet by 1876 it had established itself as one of the most prominent institutions in Manchester. In response to contemporary demands, the Mission expanded with the purchase of new sites which allowed it to extend its benevolent programme and to administer material and spiritual aid on a wider scale. A Branch Mission was opened in Lower Byrom Street, and an additional home for older boys was established at Clapper Hill, Stretford Road. The practical necessities of life were provided for hundreds of poor children and their families, in the form of shelter for the homeless, free dinners, gifts of clothing and shoes, and the distribution of toys at Christmas. In the severe winter of 1896/7, when large numbers of men were thrown out of work, 18,000 free meals were distributed. The spiritual and recreational needs of the poor were also attended to: church services, prayer meetings and Sunday schools were held, and day-trips to the seaside were organized, Southport being a favourite destination. Reading rooms, recreation rooms, a gymnasium and a free library were established. Concerts and, in later years, film shows were a regular feature. In 1897 a much-needed extension to the original Mission Hall on Wood Street was completed. This included accommodation for 58 "rescued' girls. In the same year a Summer Camp was built at St Anne's on Sea near Blackpool. It was originally designed to take 36 children, but grew to accommodate 120.

By 1919 over 50,000 children had spent a week at the seaside, a vital respite from their grim existence in the city. After a quarter of a century the wooden huts at St Anne's were showing their age. Therefore the Committee of Management decided to build a more permanent seaside holiday home for the children at Squire's Gate, Blackpool, at a cost of some £20,000. The camp opened in 1922, and each year over 3,000 children were accommodated. In 1940 the camp was commandeered over by the Military Authorities to billet troops of the Manchester Regiment, and from 1941 to 1945 it was used by the Ministry of Health to house displaced young children and expectant mothers. In 1963 Squire's Gate was sold and the Mission purchased Birchfield Lodge in the Derbyshire Peak District, which was rented to schools and youth clubs for use as an Outdoor Pursuits Centre. Birchfield Lodge was a valuable source of income for the Mission in a time of increasing financial need. Many children enjoyed the facilities at the Lodge but by 1966 only 170 of the Mission's own children received free holidays. Birchfield Lodge was sold in 1981 to Greater Manchester Youth Association. In subsequent years, taxi companies sponsored day-trips to Blackpool for disadvantaged children. The emphasis of the Wood Street Mission had moved away from holiday provision towards activities in Manchester.

The 1960s saw an increasing emphasis on providing leisure facilities for the youth of Manchester. In 1962 a youth club was set up; this proved extremely successful. Other activities included a drama group, football competitions and the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. These activities aimed to integrate individuals into a society from which they had previously felt excluded. To fulfil this aim, the Wood Street Mission increasingly worked with external schemes to help disadvantaged children. In 1977 a Job Creation Programme, supported by the Government's Manpower Services Commission, enabled the creation of seven new jobs within the charity. The Youth Club was expanded and the focus of the Mission turned to sport. The Sports Council funded the building of a squash court and keep-fit area. These facilities proved immensely popular and formed an important part of the activities of the Wood Street Mission. They gave opportunities for people in deprived areas to participate in sports activities and also helped to fund other aspects of the Mission. The sports centre was closed in 1990 when the Wood Street Mission decided to concentrate its resources on the distribution of much-needed clothing and toys. This practical help has always been at the heart of the Mission's activities. Distribution levels have increased steadily over recent years. The Wood Street Mission is a registered charity which continues to provide services to the community, with particular emphasis on mitigating the effects of poverty and deprivation on children, young people and their families in the Manchester and Salford areas. Throughout its history the Mission has demonstrated its ability to adapt to the needs of an ever-changing society.


There are 18 series:

  • Minute Books, 1885-1966 (WSM/1);
  • Annual Reports, 1899-2000 (WSM/2)
  • Ledgers, 1897-1988 (WSM/3)
  • Cash books, 1911-1993 (WSM/4);
  • Receipt Books, 1981-1993 (WSM/5);
  • Wages Books, 1935-1980 (WSM/6);
  • Other Financial Records, 1967-1991 (WSM/7);
  • Registers of Donations, 1967-1991 (WSM/8);
  • Charity records (WSM/9);
  • Desk Diaries, 1964-1987 (WSM/10);
  • Visitors Books, 1954-1988 (WSM/11);
  • Miscellaneous Administrative Records, 1937-1990 (WSM/12);
  • Promotional Materials, 1919-1971 (WSM/13);
  • Newspaper Cuttings Books, 1905-1966 (WSM/14);
  • Photographic Materials, 1890-1994 (WSM/15);
  • Chapel Records, 1898-1963 (WSM/16);
  • Miscellaneous Material, 1946-1981 (WSM/17);
  • Additional Records, 1971-1995 (WSM/18).

The archive is arranged, as far as possible, according to the original organizational structure and record-keeping practices of the Wood Street Mission. Items have been arranged in chronological order within the majority of series.

Access Information

The archive is open to any accredited reader, although some material is closed under the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998, and confidential material is subject to a 75-year closure from the date of its creation. Closed records are identified at item level in the catalogue. Further material may be subject to closure, and researchers are advised to contact the Library in advance if they wish to see any of the twentieth-century material in the archive.

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

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

The main body of the archive was deposited on permanent loan by the Wood Street Mission in 1998; an additional deposit was made on 18 October 2000; further accruals are anticipated.

Corporate Names

Geographical Names