Peterborough Literary Society

Scope and Content

The minute books cover committee meetings and general meetings of the Peterborough branch of the English Association 1923-1928 and the PLS 1928-1972 and are the fullest source of information about the PLS in the collection. They include a record of works read or discussed at meetings and the subject of lectures, as well as summaries of income and expenditure and membership registers.

Financial and business papers consist chiefly of invoices and receipts relating to the hire of premises, advertising meetings, and printing.

The files of correspondence deal chiefly with guest speakers and prospective speakers and are fullest for the 1940s and 1950s, when the Society appears to have been able to attract the interest of a number of contemporary writers and critics. There is some evidence that this may have been due in part to the Society's links with L.P. Hartley. Leslie Hartley himself addressed the Society more than once.

Programmes relate chiefly to those meetings addressed by guest speakers, and to which the public was admitted. Speakers included: Sir Osbert Sitwell, Pamela Hansford Johnson, Clifford Bax, E.M. Delafield, and Louis Macneice.

The majority of documents relating to Peterborough Arts Council, of which PLS was a member, date from the period 1949-1953. They include copies of the draft constitution, agenda and minutes of meetings, accounts, and papers relating to a proposed Arts Centre,1949, Peterborough Arts Week, 1951, and Peterborough Arts Festival, 1953.

Administrative / Biographical History

This has been reconstructed from a study of the minute books.

The Peterborough Literary Society (PLS) had its origins in a branch of the English Association formed in Peterborough on February 13th, 1923, with Mr H.B. Hartley, father of the novelist L.P. (Leslie) Hartley, as its President.

In early 1928 the Association proposed the formation of a literary society, and on February 15th, 1928, the inaugural meeting of the PLS was held. The Society met monthly during the winter, usually on the second Wednesday, from the beginning of September to the end of the following March. Mr Hartley was elected President, his daughter Norah (A.N.) Hartley Secretary and Treasurer, and Miss D.M. Grierson, Chairman of the Society's managing committee. In October 1956 Norah Hartley succeeded her father in the presidency.

Early meetings of the Society consisted of readings by members. The earliest guest speaker appears to have been St John Ervine, who lectured to a general meeting on the subject of Books, Plays and People on March 21st 1930.

The PLS was a member of Peterborough Arts Council.


  • PLS/1 Minute Books, 1923-1972
  • PLS/2 Financial and Business, 1928-1973 [in four sub-files]
  • PLS/3 Membership - miscellaneous, 1947-1960
  • PLS/4 Correspondence, 1941-1973 [in 57 sub-files]
  • PLS/5 Lists of speakers and prospective speakers, n.d.
  • PLS/6 Programmes etc., 1945-1972
  • PLS/7 Promotional material, n.d.
  • PLS/8 Miscellaneous publications, lists, and other items, 194?, 1952, 1973
  • PLS/9 Peterborough Arts Council, 1948-1965, 1971

Conditions Governing Access

Other than where a specific access restriction is noted, the collection is open for consultation in the Archives Department during its advertised opening hours.

Acquisition Information

The collection was found in an attach case discovered in 1996 while clearing out an office in the University Library formerly occupied by a subject librarian. It has since been stored in the Library Archives.



Conditions Governing Use

Reproductions can be supplied in hard copy or digital format subject to physical condition and the terms of deposit. A charge is made for this service. Copyright restrictions may apply and the advice of the Archives department should be sought for any use of reproductions other than personal research.