Papers of Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876)

Scope and Content

The material is composed of: a letter of Wesley 'To Catholic choirs and organists' about ecclesiastical modes, addressed to Vincent Novello, 1811, with a musical illustration; a brief verse epistle relating to Cooper, undated, and some fragments of letters and music with annotations by Dr. G. Spink the donor; and, letters to R. A. Atkins, organist of St. Asaph Cathedral, Wales, 1843-1867.

Administrative / Biographical History

Samuel Sebastian Wesley was born on 14 August 1810. At the age of nine he became a choirboy at the Chapel Royal, St. James's Palace, London, singing to George IV in Brighton at the Royal Pavilion. At the age of fifteen in 1826 he was appointed organist of St. James's Chapel, Hampstead Road, and in 1829 organist of St. Giles's Church, Camberwell. In 1832 he became the organist at Hereford Cathedral where he stayed until 1835 when he became organist and sub-chanter of Exeter Cathedral. At Exeter his fame as a composer of church music and as an organist became established. Then, after receiving the degrees of Bachelor of Music and Doctor in Music from Oxford University, an academic career seemed possible, but instead in 1842 he was appointed organist at Leeds Parish Church though he did do some illustrated lecturing at the then Liverpool Collegiate Institution. In 1849 he accepted the post of organist at Winchester Cathedral and he stayed there until 1865 when he was appointed to Gloucester Cathedral. His music production included the anthem The wilderness (1831) and the hymn tune Aurelia as well as many other anthems and collects, pianoforte music, glees and songs. Samuel Sebastian Wesley died at his home on Palace Yard, Gloucester, on 19 April 1876.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Novello and Cooper material, Accession no. E66.42. Letters to Atkins, Accession no. E67.1


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol.20. Ubaldini-Whewell. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1909.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Local lists.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes several locations of Wesley related material: compositions, British Library, Music Collections, Ref. Add MS 40636; musical MSS, Hereford Cathedral Library; letters to Benjamin Jacob relating to J. S. Bach, 1808-1816, British Library, Music Collections, Ref. Add MS 62928; and letters to Vincent Novello, 1811-1825, Ref. Add MS 11729.