Papers relating to William Shepherd

Scope and Content

Most of the collection consists of twentieth-century handwritten copies of the correspondence of William Shepherd, although it does contain a small number of originals. It is not known who made the copies, although likely contenders are Francis Nicholson and Ernest Axon, as the copies were probably made in order to produce the Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society Volume II, Number 4, which was devoted to William Shepherd.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Shepherd was born on the 11th of October 1768 in Liverpool, the son of William Shepherd and his wife Elizabeth (née Mather). William's father died when he was four years of age and from that point on his education was supervised by his uncle, Tatlock Mather, who took on the impoverished family. He attended Holden's Academy near Rainford (1776-1782), was personally tutored by the Rev. Philip Holland in Bolton (1782-5), later attending the dissenting Daventry Academy (1785-88) and at New College in Hackney (1788-90). After the completion of his education, Shepherd became a tutor to the sons of Rev. John Yates and a year later became minister of the Unitarian Chapel at Gateacre where he also opened a successful school. In 1792 Shepherd married Frances Nicholson. There were no children. In 1796 Shepherd became a Liverpool Burgess by inheritance and his eloquence as a speaker was renowned, although in later years his political interests overshadowed those of the pulpit and he wrote fewer sermons as a result. His notable publications include, 'Systematic Education' published in 1815 and his 'Life of Poggio Bracciolini' (1803) which was translated into three languages such was its success. Notable acquaintances include Thomas de Quincey, who became rather critical of Shepherd in later years, and Lord Brougham (a founder of the Edinburgh Review), whom he regarded as a close friend. Shepherd died on the 21st July 1847 at Gateacre, near Liverpool.


These documents were sorted in the Unitarian College Library into bundles labelled 'Shepherd MSS I', 'Shepherd MSS II' etc. This system has been retained.


Albert Nicholson, 'Shepherd, William (1768-1847)', rev. R. K. WebbOxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) .