Sid Chaplin Papers

Scope and Content

Papers relating to Sid Chaplin's writing career and other involvements throughout his life. Typescripts of published novels, short stories, poetry, plays and articles; typescripts of unpublished novels, short stories, poetry, plays and articles; working drafts of typescripts, published typeset copies; television and radio dramatisations; diaries 1930-1985, notebooks 1930-1984; newspaper cuttings; correspondence 1939-1990, in particular correspondence with David Higham Associates 1949-1989, BBC 1947-1987, various publishers: Phoenix House 1946-1962, Eyre and Spottiswoode 1959-1978, Pergamon Press and Ben Owen 1950-1984, Alan Plater 1963-1985, Alex Glasgow 1970-1982, Stan Barstow 1961-1984, Basil Bunting 1983-1984, Norman Nicholson 1950-[1982], John Bate 1944-1985, various Russian and French correspondence, particularly with Professor Valentina Ivashova 1964-1985; material relating to the English Speaking Union of America trip to USA, 1955 and subsequent correspondence with Dorothy Goodfellow 1960-1985.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sidney (or Sid as he was known) Chaplin was born on 20 September 1916 in Shildon, Co. Durham and died on 10 January 1986. In 1930 he started work in a bakery, but by 1931 was working at the Dean and Chapter Colliery in Ferryhill, becoming an apprentice to a colliery blacksmith in 1932, and then a belt fitter underground. In 1939 he won a scholarship to Fircroft Working Men's College, Birmingham, but within the year had to return to mining on the outbreak of war. He was married in 1941 to Irene (Rene) Rutherford, living in Ferryhill, Co. Durham until in 1948 he was offered a post as a writer on the National Coal Board's publication Coal , and the family moved to Essex. In 1957 he was offered a new post as Public Relations Officer for the National Coal Board, based in Newcastle upon Tyne, where he lived until his death, retiring in 1972. In 1975 he had a heart bypass operation at Shotley Bridge Hospital, Co. Durham. His early writing career was established by publication during the Second World War of poems and stories in contemporary literary magazines, principally Penguin New Writing, whose editor John Lehman was an enthusiastic if not uncritical patron. Sid Chaplin's first book was a collection of short stories, The Leaping Lad (1946), which won an Atlantic Award for Literature in 1946. This was shortly followed by Chaplin's first novels My Fate Cries Out (1949) and The Thin Seam (1950). In 1957 the Chaplin family returned to the North-East, settling in Newcastle where Chaplin became a Public Relations Office for the NCB in Newcastle. In 1960 he published the novel The Big Room , followed by two critically acclaimed novels about working class life in the city by the Tyne, The Day Of The Sardine (1961) and The Watchers And The Watched (1962). The novels Sam In The Morning (1965) and The Mines Of Alabaster (1972) followed, and in the early 70's two books of essays based on weekly columns written for The Guardian in the 1960's, The Smell Of Sunday Dinner and A Tree With Rosy Apples . Towards the end of his life, Sid Chaplin returned to the milieu of his youth, the mining villages of south-west Durham, for two final books of short stories, On Christmas Day In The Morning (1978) and The Bachelor Uncle (1980). In the 1970's he contributed to the successful BBC drama When The Boat Comes In and the series Funny Man for Thames Television and The Paper Lads for Tyne Tees Television. Sid Chaplin was a regular and accomplished broadcaster and was a contributor to local and national newspapers and other publications throughout his life. Involvements: Methodist local preacher, 1938-c.1948 (ordained Kirk Merrington, May 1939); Branch secretary, Miners' Federation of Great Britain, 1941-5; North Regional Advisory Council, BBC, 1963-8, 1976; board member of Northern Opera, 1968- ; Northern Arts: Editorial, Literature, Arts and Management committees/panels 1961-1975 and vice-president of Northern Arts, 1975-1986; president of Mid-Northumberland Arts Group 1974-1984; President of the People's Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1970-1986 and vice-president of the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society, 1976. Received an Honorary Master of Arts from the University of Newcastle, 1978, an Honorary Fellowship from Sunderland University, 1977 and an OBE in 1977 for services to the arts and especially for his work at Northern Arts.


The papers have been left in the main in the order received. The material was randomly arranged and although its original order has been retained for the most part, files of the same series have been placed together.

  • SC 1/1-1/5 Published novels, short stories, articles and poetry 1939-1987
  • SC 2/1-2/3 Unpublished novels, short stories, articles and plays 1938-1986
  • SC 3/1-3/3 Radio, television and theatre dramatisations 1946-1981
  • SC 4 Newspaper cuttings, research material and miscellaneous files [19461-1987
  • SC 5 Personal and miscellaneous files 1946-1990
  • SC 6/1-6/2 Diaries and notebooks [1930s]-1985
  • SC 7/1-7/3 Correspondence 1939-1990
  • SC 8 Extraneous miscellaneous 1948-1975

The correspondence (SC 7/1-7/3) was generally loose and unfiled to any significant extent, although kept in some chronological order. It has now been rearranged by the archivist to reflect its chronological order. There had been some attempt to extract letters from particular persons and this system has been continued. Thus the series of correspondence arranged by individuals (SC 7/2) now follows the series of general correspondence (SC 7/1).

Access Information

Open to bona fide researchers. Two working days' notice and photographic identification is required from non-members of Newcastle University. Material must be requested in advance of visit using the online request form available on the Special Collections web pages.

Acquisition Information

Mainly deposited by the family of Sid Chaplin, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1997- 1999.

Other items deposited: SC 8/1: Newcastle University Library purchased from Cohn Huggett, Gwynedd in Feb 1995; SC 8/2: Obtained from the collection at the Scottish Mining Museum Trust, Lady Victoria Colliery, Midlothian and deposited by Mrs Rene Chaplin, Oct 1998; SC 7/3/7: Mr T Kelly, Blaydon, Aug 1999; SC 8/3: Mr K Pope, Newcastle upon Tyne, Sep 1999


National Coal Board material

Material relating to Sid Chaplin's position as writer and later Public Relations Officer at the National Coal Board is represented by some original magazine articles within the first deposit and photocopies of the articles, deposited in 1998. Little correspondence is extant, except from personal acquaintances.

Other Finding Aids

An online finding aid as available via the Special Collections webpages. A hard-copy finding aid is available in the Special Collections Reading Room on Level 1 of the Robinson Library and at the main counter on Level 2 of the Robinson Library.

Archivist's Note

This catalogue was created by Sally Cholewa, Archivist and at Newcastle University Special Collections in 2014.

Conditions Governing Use

Ownership and copyright of most of the papers remains with the Chaplin family and permission will need to be sought for reproduction of significant amounts of material and for any publication. However, Newcastle University will allow the reproduction of up to ten folios at its discretion.

Related Material

Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne

  • The Day of the Sardine [play-prompt copy of the first performance]
  • The Thin Seam [revised typescript]
  • Close the Coathouse Door [revised typescript with reworked proofs, working papers of Alan Plater and correspondence with Sid Chaplin and Alex Glasgow] in the Northern Arts Manuscript Collection;
  • Letters from Sid Chaplin to Tom Pickard and to Connie Pickard, 1965-1970 in the Morden Tower correspondence.


  • The Making of a Working-class Writer: an Interview with Sid Chaplin , in The British Working Class Novel in the Twentieth Century , edited by Jeremy Hawthorne (London: Arnold, 1984)
  • Stephenson, George, Sid Chaplin , Newcastle Life , January 1969.
  • Standen, Michael, Prodigal Sons , Stand , x, 3.

Geographical Names