Samuel Wilderspin papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The papers mostly comprise letters received by Wilderspin, although there are a few in series 6 (Manuscripts) written by him. The rest of the collection comprises material collected by Wilderspin, including notices of his lectures, a few sample lessons and promotional literature on literary, scientific and educational societies, and Wilderspin's and Thomas Young's printed works laying out their theories of education. There are also two theses on Wilderspin. Series 7 (Local Infant Schools), is material collected by Wilderspin's biographers Dr Francis A. Young and Dr Phillip McCann, about schools founded by Wilderspin, in the course of writing their book on him.

Administrative / Biographical History

Samuel Wilderspin was the controversial self-styled founder of the Infant School System. He was born in Hornsey, North London in 1792 and was an apprentice clerk in the City before being introduced to infant education by Buchanan. He trained with Buchanan at a school in Vincent Square, London and then became master of his own school in Quaker Street, Spitalfields. From 1824 he worked for the Infant School Society and as a freelance, teaching others about his system of schooling. He ran an infant school supply depot in Cheltenham for supplying apparatus and in 1839 set up the Central Model School in Dublin which was subsequently run by Sarah Anne and Thomas Young (his daughter and son-in-law). After returning from Dublin he was heavily involved with the Mechanics' Institute movement. In 1848, having founded several hundred schools, he retired to Wakefield on a civil list pension.

Wilderspin's theories on education were mainly a product of his Swedenborgian beliefs. He saw education as a life long training of the child's soul and as such approached education from social, moral and religious aspects.

Publications:

Samuel Wilderspin’s publications include:

'Early discipline illustrated; or, the infant system progressing and successful' (1832)

'The importance of educating the infant poor from the age of eighteen months to seven years' (1824)

'The infant system, for developing the intellectual and moral powers of all children, from one to seven years of age' (1834)

'Manual for the religious and moral instruction of young children' (1845) co-author with Thomas John Terrington

'On the Importance of educating the Infant Children of the Poor ... Containing also an account of the Spitalfields Infant School' (1823)

'A system for the education of the young: applied to all the faculties' (1840)

Arrangement

Particular points of arrangement:

  • Although the material is arranged in classes there are many items that appear to be in the wrong class or which could belong to more than one. Cross-references, especially for the Gaskell letters and material relating to lectures, have been made but it would be advisable to read all the class descriptions when looking for items. References to individuals other than the Gaskells have not been cross-referenced as the class and list descriptions are a guide only to the nature of the papers.
  • Generally the collection within classes is arranged chronologically. Where material in a class was packaged in date sequences which overlapped it was resorted chronologically on arrival at the archive. The exception is 6/Manuscripts which contains three sets of material each with different provenance.
  • Endorsements - Many pieces are endorsed. Some are by Wilderspin, in ink. He tended to write the sender's name on the back of the letter. Others are in pencil and are by Dr. Francis Young who added possible dates, explanations and possible readings of illegible words. He also wrote some explanations in biro on separate sheets of paper. These have been left with the originals and are numbered in the same sequence.
  • Some letters refer to 'enclosed' items. The whereabouts of these are no longer known.
  • For counting purposes note that the previous counting of pieces and items has been confused. The number of items quoted in the class descriptions and recorded on the envelopes containing the papers may not therefore reflect the exact size of the class. For a definition of items and pieces see Cook, M The Manual of Archival Description 2nd edition (1989).
  • For some years there is copious material while for others there is very little.
  • Where possible the main subjects in a class, in terms of quantity, have been identified in the class description. Some classes, however, were too diverse to do this.
  • Many of the dates have been added to the documents in pencil by Dr. Francis Young, brother to John Young, who deposited the papers.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research. Access to individual items in Senate House Library archives collections may be restricted under the Data Protection Act or the Freedom of Information Act. See Archivist for details. 24 hours notice is necessary for research visits.

Other Finding Aids

Handlist available in the Library's Palaeography Room.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be made, subject to the condition of the original. Copying must be undertaken by the Palaeography Room staff, who will need a minimum of 24 hours to process requests.

Custodial History

The papers have been in the custody of the Young family in America who are descendants of Wilderspin's eldest daughter, Sarah Anne, who married Thomas Urry Young. Wilderspin's great-great-grandson John A. Young kindly donated them in 1987. Their transfer to the University of London Library was organised by John's brother, Dr. Francis A. Young and Dr. Phillip McCann after they had used the papers for their own research. The papers arrived in binders between 1987 and 1989 and have now been collected together into nine classes. The classes are those into which the material had already been sorted although it is unknown whether it was Wilderspin or the Youngs who chose this arrangement.