Uplands Farm Society Papers

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 UFS
  • Dates of Creation
      1918 - 1941
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      0.5 linear metres 18 items
  • Location
      Collection available at University Archive and Records Centre, main John Rylands University Library.

Scope and Content

The archive contains the minute books, correspondence, financial correspondence, account books and subscription lists of the UFS, in addition to some promotional literature which the Society produced. These provide full details of the decisions made by the UFS and their financial standing across the entire period. The promotional literature is useful for explaining the educational vision behind the centre. However, there is little information regarding the actual visitors to the farm and their activities whilst there. The correspondence of Professor Findlay contains some information regarding his wider activities, although most is focused on the work of the UFS. The collection will be of use for the study of educational ideas and experiments in the first half of the twentieth century, as well as for those interested in the career of Professor Joseph John Findlay.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Uplands Farm Society (originally named The Open Air Trust but changed to the Uplands Farm Society in 1920) was the business element of the Uplands Association, an organization established in 1918 to promote discussion of progressive educational ideas, and the implementation of such ideas, particularly in relation to open-air education and manual training. The aim of the UFS was to establish a centre at Uplands Farm, Werneth Low, Cheshire, where study could be combined with practical occupations, giving practical shape to the ideas of the Association.

The educational objectives of UFS were for both teachers and children to pursue practical activities as part of their education. It promoted open air schooling, based around communal activity to nurture a sense of the domestic, civic and industrial dependence on the community. It was not just agricultural activity that was to be followed, but also handicraft, arts and domestic tasks. The Society was particularly interested in studying the possible connections between technical skills of urban workers and the crafts of the countryside in order to discover if they could be mutually beneficial. Additionally, the farm was to be used for conferences and meetings, provided the persons involved spent time engaged in work on the farm.

Uplands Farm, then derelict, was purchased in 1918 by Professor Joseph Findlay at a cost of £1450; it cost a further £700 to repair. Originally called Edmunds Farm, its was situated six miles from Stockport and ten miles from Manchester, in the north eastern corner of Cheshire. It comprised 70 acres, stretching from the top of Werneth Low half way down a slope towards Compstall Church, the farmhouse itself being an eighteenth century building. The farm was managed by the UFS; at the first meeting Professor Findlay was elected chairman (although he was to have less involvement in the Society for the remainder of 1918 and in 1919 as he was in Salonika), with Mr Elliott as secretary and Mr Phillips as Farm secretary. In 1920 Julius Lunt and William Hirst were appointed as secretaries. Shares in the farm were issued to subscribers at £5 each.

Joseph John Findlay (1860-1940) was the main founder of the Association. Findlay was a leading figure in progressive education circles; educated at Wadham College, Oxford, Leipzig and Jena, he was a teacher before becoming Sarah Fielden professor of Education at the University of Manchester in 1902, a position he was persuaded to accept rather than the more prestigious Bell professorship at Edinburgh University. He retired from this post in 1926, whereupon he became professor emeritus. Findlay reformed the curriculum for trainee teachers at the University, paying particular attention to their practical training. He helped establish the Fielden Demonstration Schools in 1906, which provided students with the opportunity to test the theories they learnt in the lecture hall in the real-world situation of the classroom. The range of the work carried out in this school is set out in the two volumes of The Demonstration School Record (1908, 1913).

A political radical, Findlay expounded his theories on progressive child-centred education in a number of publications, such as The Young Wage-Earner (1918), Principles of Class Teaching (1902), and the Foundations of Education(2 volumes, 1925-1927). Findlay did not believe in the traditional learning techniques of "practice makes perfect", rather, influenced by the American philosopher and educationist, John Dewey (1859-1952), he promoted a view of education as a form of active learning which could help individuals to think critically about the world around them.

The UFS appears to have been influenced by the Manual Training Movement, an American school of thought which emphasized the development of intellectual and social skills alongside manual training, where the focus was on doing things rather than just talking and writing about them. Following the ideas of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827), a Swiss educator who believed that a sound education needed to include both vocational and general education, the aim of the Manual Training Movement was to enhance the traditional humanist curriculum rather than being a replacement for it; it was not concerned with the teaching of a specific trade. Findlay and his UFS colleagues, in common with other progressive educationists, also believed that nature study should form part of the well-rounded curriculum. This had been encouraged at the Fielden Schools and the UFS appears to have been an ambitious step to develop such ideas.

The history of the Society is largely one of disappointment, caused by a perennial shortage of funds. The farm did not receive many visitors; the Uplands Association met there each August and there were parties of Guides and Scouts, but apart from these groups the farm was little used. Already by 1920 they had to stop receiving visitors and a sale of the farm stock took place. The property was divided in 1921 and let to different parties in order to increase income. The farmhouse itself was let fully furnished. A plan to lease a further 30 acres and a cottage to a local education authority for educational purposes came to nothing. In 1922 a local golf club leased some of the land and built a clubhouse. It was now clear that further educational initiatives were unlikely, and the UFS's priority was to pay off as much of the overdraft as possible. A vote was taken amongst the original subscribers in 1930 in favour of the Society being disbanded and a Trust formed, which would manage the property until it was offered to the National Trust as soon as this was financially possible. This was also to relieve Findlay of the pressure of being the sole trustee. The property was ultimately offered to the National Trust in 1932, but was declined on the grounds that it was not of significant importance. The main tenant, Ernest Daniels, surrendered his lease from Easter 1934, after this point the only sources of income were rents from Werneth Low Golf Club, two bungalows and the leasing of 22 acres of land. In 1936 the land was taken on by the Land Settlement Association for development in the interests of the unemployed - the last meeting of the Uplands Farm Association was held on 27 January 1936.


The records had been placed in rough chronological order and divided into 'correspondence' and 'financial correspondence' before being placed into labelled files, suggesting that at some point someone had tried to put them into an order. It is unclear whether this was done by members of the Society or after the material had been given to the Department of Education. Promotional literature has been removed from these files, and is treated as a separate series in the archives. The folders had been sorted into date order, which has been checked and a few errors rectified.

The archive is divided into series as follows: 

  • UFS/1 Minute Books
  • UFS/2 Administration Papers
  • UFS/3 Financial Records
  • UFS/4 Subscription Lists
  • UFS/5 Promotional and Related Literature

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The archive was given to the Library by the School of Education of the University of Manchester on 28 October 2005 as part of accession 2005/034. This was a large collection of material relating mainly to the Faculty, School and Department of Education. The UFS archive was also included, although of different provenance from the rest of the material.

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.

Appraisal Information

The archive has not been appraised.

Custodial History

The custodial history of the archive is not known in its entirety, although it is strongly suspected that the collection was deposited in the Department of Education by Joseph John Findlay. The minutes of the UFS state that the Society's records would be given to Findlay so it seems likely that the archive was placed in the Department by him. The Department has moved locations on several occasions, moving to its present location in the early 1960s.


No further accruals expected.

Related Material

The John Rylands University Library holds the archive of the Faculty and Department of Education and related bodies 1869 - 2001 (FED), which contains material relating to professor Findlay.


Robertson, A., A century of change: the study of education in the University of Manchester (University of Manchester, 1990) ; Robertson, A., "'Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea': ambiguities in the development of professorships of education, 1899 to 1932", British Journal of educational Studies Vol XXXVIII No 2 May 1990 ; Findlay, J. J., The young wage earner (London, 1918) ; Findlay, J. J., The Demonstration School, Manchester(1913) .

Geographical Names