Samuel Hird Papers

Scope and Content

Personal papers of factory inspector Samuel Hird. This is an unusual archive of documents relating to the work of a senior factory inspector in the first half of the twentieth century.

The existence of the collection owes much to the fact that Samuel Hird was an enthusiastic writer, who wrote about his life and work experiences on many different occasions. Most importantly, towards the end of his life, he wrote a memoir, intended for publication, which is an extremely detailed and informed account of the work of the factory inspectorate (HIR/1/1). It is interspersed with more general observations about life in industrial Lancashire and the West Midlands (where Samuel held his first post). It is as such a unique document in providing a non-official but expert account of the factory's inspector's work in the first decades of the twentieth century.

Hird's papers include copies of his various writings, including some substantial essays as well as briefer occasional pieces. Many of his writings were responses to viewpoints found in books, newspapers, radio broadcasts and public lectures (HIR/1/2-5). There are also diaries and journals, many of which record his thoughts and opinions in a manner similar to his essays (HIR/2); a series of notes and notebooks, miscellaneous in nature, but which were used for his writings (HIR/3). Correspondence in the collection is mostly confined to routine correspondence with friends and family, and largely excludes work related matters, with the exception of his appointment to the Inspectorate, and letters of congratulation on his promotion to superintending inspector in 1935, and on his O.B.E. in 1942 (HIR/4).

The archive includes some work-related documents (HIR/5), which Samuel seems to have retained. This includes several of his notebooks, compiled during inspection work, some papers relating to investigating trading with the enemy during the First World War, papers concerning his involvement with civil service staff associations, as well as documents which cover his long-standing interest in issues of industrial health.

The Hird family retained a large and diverse collection of family documents (HIR/6). This includes Samuel Hird's identity cards, driving licence, passport etc. There are also documents for his wife, Mary, and for her family (the Bardsleys and Hiltons). These documents date back to the mid-19th century.

Administrative / Biographical History

Samuel Hird was born in Chadderton, near Oldham in 1878. He was the son of Joseph Hird, a forgeman, and Esther Hird (née Hilton). At the age of 10 he became a little piecer at Vale Mills, Oldham; little piecers were the most junior members of a mule spinning team, undertaking menial tasks, such as cleaning and mending broken threads. As a half-timer, he spent half his time working, and half in school. Disliking this work, Hird continued his studies at evening school at Oldham Municipal Technical School, and was eventually accepted to study at Owens College, Manchester. He graduated with a B.Sc. in mechanical engineering in 1900, followed by a M.Sc. in 1903. On graduation, Hird applied to join HM Factory Inspectorate, but was unsuccessful. He then taught engineering for several years at Portsmouth Technical School. In 1906 he was successful in his second attempt to become a factory inspector, and he worked initially in the Black Country (West Midlands).

In 1908 Hird was appointed a junior inspector in the North West Division, which covered at the time Lancashire, Cheshire, Westmorland and Cumberland. He was to spent the rest of his career in the Greater Manchester region (the boundaries of the Division changed on several occasions during the course of his career). Hird worked in most of the main textile towns of south-east Lancashire and north-east Cheshire, and became an acknowledged expert on the cotton industry.

As a factory inspector, Hird was responsible for enforcing legislation on working times and health and safety (including prosecuting offenders), advising employers on good practices, as well as undertaking investigations into industrial health and safety issues. Hird had a particular interest in industrial health, and he carried out studies of industrial ventilation and effects of cardroom dust. Hird achieved periodic promotions to division inspector and deputy superintending superintendent for the East Lancs Division. In 1936 he became superintending inspector for the East Lancashire Division, and retired in 1941 (although he was retained in part-time advisory capacity until 1944). He was awarded the OBE for his work in 1942.

During the First World War, Hird was seconded to another branch of the Home Office, to investigate British firms believed to be trading with enemy countries. In this role, he managed to bring several successful prosecutions against offenders.

Outside of his work, Hird was an active churchman, and in his retirement he ruminated and wrote extensively on the state of spiritual life in Britain. He was also interested in politics, and helped run the Offerton parliament in the 1940s (these local parliaments conducted debates on major issues in a format similar to the Westminster parliament). In later life, Hird took to writing essays and commentaries on many different aspects of contemporary life; these dealt with religious, ethical and political issues. These essays became increasingly pessimistic in tone, as Hird feared an irreversible movement against Christian belief amidst growing materialism.

Hird married Mary Elizabeth Bardsley in 1907 and they had two children. He lived in Offerton, Stockport until his death in 1956.


The archive had no discernible internal arrangement, although it appears that Hird had collected together his writings before his death. It has been arranged in to the following series: 

  • HIR/1 - Samuel Hird's writings
  • HIR/1/1 - Memoirs
  • HIR/1/2 - Writings relating to factory inspection and industrial work
  • HIR/1/3 - Writings relating to political, religious and social matters
  • HIR/1/4 - Fiction writings
  • HIR/1/5 - Sigma and Omicron correspondence
  • HIR/2 - Diaries and journals
  • HIR/3 - Notes
  • HIR/4 - Correspondence
  • HIR/5 - Factory Inspectorate and related documents.
  • HIR/6 - Personal and family documents
  • HIR/7 - Miscellaneous

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 2018. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the UML to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Open parts of this collection, and the catalogue descriptions, may contain personal data about living individuals. Some items in this collection may be closed to public inspection in line with the requirements of the DPA. Restrictions/closures of specific items will be indicated in the catalogue.

Acquisition Information

The archive was donated to the Library by Barbara Day and Alison Hird-Beecroft, Samuel Hird's granddaughters, in 2017.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

Samuel Hird's papers were passed to his son after his death in 1956. The papers were retained by the family at their residence in Orpington, Kent until 2017.


None expected.

Related Material

Official government records relating to the Factory Inspectorate are held by the National Archives (particularly LAB 15 and LAB 67).