Yates Papers (MS ADD 71)

Scope and Content

Volume containing manuscript notes, correspondence, sketches of archaeological material, and pressed foliage, and a copy of 'On Phoenician Inscriptions' from the 'Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society'.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Yates was born at Toxteth Park, near Liverpool, on 30 April 1789, the son of a minister. He went in 1805 to Glasgow University and in 1808 to Manchester College, followed by York College, to study Divinity. In 1810 he attended Edinburgh University, followed by Glasgow University again in 1811. He became the unordained minister of a Unitarian congregation in October 1811 and graduated MA from Glasgow in 1812. With Thomas Southwood Smith, he founded the Scottish Unitarian Association in 1813. He published his 'Vindication of Unitarianism' in 1815. In 1817 he succeeded Joshua Toulmin as colleague to John Kentish at the new meeting, Birmingham, a post which he resigned at the end of 1825, and for a time left the ministry. In 1827 he spent a semester at the University of Berlin, as a student of classical philology. He was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society, 1819; Linnean Society, 1822; Royal Society, 1831; and appointed secretary to the Council of the British Association, 1831. In the same year he was elected a trustee of Dr Williams's foundations (resigned 1861). In 1832 he succeeded John Scott Porter as minister of Carter Lane Chapel, Doctors' Commons, London. He issued in 1833 proposals for an organisation of the Unitarian congregations of Great Britain on the Presbyterian model: the plan did not come to fruition. Soon after 1836 he left the ministry and, being unordained, became a lay minister. His interest in denominational history and controversy was unabated. Yates contributed much material to Sir William Smith's 'Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities', published in 1842, and numerous papers on archaeological subjects to the learned societies of London and Liverpool. He died at Lauderdale House, Highgate, on 7 May 1871, and was buried at Highgate cemetery. In his will he left endowments for Chairs at University College London.

Access Information


The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Acquisition Information

Presented in 1898.

Other Finding Aids

Collection level description

Conditions Governing Use

Normal copyright restrictions apply.

Related Material

University College London Special Collections also holds other papers and correspondence of Yates, 1833-1842 (Ref: MS ADD 74); notes on Sir William Smith's 'Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities' and related letters, 1838-1860 (Ref: MS ADD 244); a copy of Sir William Smith's 'Dictionary ... ' (London, 1842) annotated by Yates (Ref: 206 A 2 SMI); 14 letters to Henry Peter Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux, 1838, 1850, 1854-1864, on University College London, weights and measures, and the metric system, and two letters from Brougham to Yates, 1839, 1851 (Ref: BROUGHAM); letters relating to University College London business, 1827-1849 (Ref: COLLEGE CORRESPONDENCE); a letter from Yates to Henry Crabb Robinson, 1851 (Ref: MS MISC 3R); a letter from R Keppel Craven to Yates, 1839 (Ref: MS MISC 2C); a letter from William Tooke to Yates, 1850 (Ref: MS MISC 3T); a letter from George Young to Yates, 1854 (Ref: R 790 [Quartos] JJ 610 YOU).

London University Library holds miscellaneous correspondence of Yates, 1861-1871. The British Library, Manuscript Collections, holds letters to Charles Babbage, 1833-1859 (Ref: Add MSS 37187-201 passim). The Linnean Society of London holds correspondence with Sir James Smith, 1819-1826 (Ref: Smith papers). The Natural History Museum holds botanical drawings by Yates, 1839-1866. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Library and Archives, holds miscellaneous correspondence.