Papers of Thomas Coglan Horsfall

Scope and Content

The archive represents Thomas Coglan Horsfall's wide-range interests in social reform and education, and is relevant to anyone researching the various reform movements that sought to mitigate the deleterious effects of the Industrial Revolution, particularly in Manchester.

Horsfall's correspondence includes a numerous letters to and from notable politicians, senior clergy and other supporters, who wrote to him in response to the pamphlets and letters he sent to them, or to public addresses or newspaper articles written by him. Papers, pamphlets and newspaper articles are all included within this collection covering: the teaching of religion in schools; the benefits of an art education to the working-class poor; the introduction of outdoor games, military training and outdoor playing facilities for school children; the temperance movement; and improvements to housing conditions and town planning.

A subsection relating to the Horsfall Art Museum and the use of art works in schools includes letters from both teachers and pupils expressing their appreciation for the loan of artworks to schools and for visits to the Art Museum.

The archive is also potentially valuable for researchers interested in German models of reform before World War I, particularly in respect of town planning.

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Coglan Horsfall (1841-1932) was born in Manchester on 23 May 1841, the only son (of four children) of William Horsfall (1806-1871), a Manchester cotton mill owner, and Maria née Coglan. His paternal grandfather was George Horsfall (d. 1846), a descendant of Yorkshire woollen industry cardmakers who ran Horsfall & Son in Halifax. His maternal grandfather was Thomas Coglan (d. 1841), a Unitarian and Liberal born in Dublin, who established a prosperous stocks and share brokering business in Liverpool. Thomas Coglan Horsfall was educated at small private schools in Bowdon and Manchester. On 3 January 1878 he married Frances Emma Reeves (d. 1927), daughter of Henry Reeves, formerly of the Indian Civil Service.

Horsfall went into business in the cotton industry as a patent card manufacturer with his brother-in-law, Spencer H. Bickham, and his father's former manager, James Naylor. He is described as being almost a silent partner, never in the best of health, who formally retired in 1886. He was a follower of John Ruskin, the art and social critic, and dedicated much of his time to advocating for educational and social reform. Although the two met and corresponded, none of their correspondence is present within this archive. Horsfall took an active role in many committees involved in campaigning for reform and papers associated with some of these can be found in TCH/1/3.

Horsfall was a leading founder of the Manchester Art Museum (later called the Horsfall Art Museum) which aimed to put into practice John Ruskin's teachings. The ambition was to develop the characters of the working classes, particularly children, by stimulating them through the enjoyment and study of art and nature (Harrison, 1993). It was first located in two rooms within Queen's Park, Harpurhey, before relocating to Ancoats Hall in 1886. The works were displayed with descriptive labels containing extracts of information from the writings of William Morris, John Ruskin and other eminent art commentators.


The archive is divided in two parts, or subfonds. The first subfonds (TCH/1) includes papers accumulated by Thomas Coglan Horsfall between 1881 and 1926, giving a detailed insight into his interests and work dedicated to improving the lives of the poor. The second subfonds (TCH/2) includes material collected and created by Josephine Preston Reynolds (predominantly 1947-1953), an academic working in the field of town planning from the University of Liverpool, in connection with her 1953 MA thesis on Horsfall's ideas of town planning influenced by German ideas.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The archive was donated to The University of Manchester Library on 16 November 2017 by Andrew Simon, great-grandson of Thomas Coglan Horsfall. The papers of Henry Simon, another great-grandfather of Andrew Simon, were donated at the same time but have been treated as a separate archive.

Archivist's Note

There are a few published items in this collection that were created during the lifetime of T. C. Horsfall but may have belonged to Josephine P. Reynolds. Those items that are thought to have been collected by Reynolds (and so possibly never belonging to Horsfall) have been arranged within TCH/2. Reynolds had access to Horsfall's library so she may have been familiar with all of the published material relating to her town planning interests, much of which can be found within TCH/1/1/6, Housing and town planning (and some of these could have been collected by Reynolds rather than Horsfall).

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.

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.

Related Material

Manchester Archives and Local Studies holds 424 letters to T. C. Horsfield, 1878-1928, ref.: GB127. Autograph Letters: Letters to T.C. Horsfall.

The Ruskin Library, University of Lancaster, holds 50 letters from John Ruskin to T. C. Horsfall, 1877-84, ref.: MSL 5/14.

The Heinz Archive and Library, National Portrait Gallery, holds typescript copies of 8 letters from the artist George Frederic Watts to T. C. Horsfall, 1880-99, and 2 typescript letters from Horsfall to Mary Watts, 1905, ref.: Watts Collection, Album 12, pp. 140-152.


Stuart Eagles, 'Horsfall, Thomas Coglan (1841–1932), philanthropist', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn, May 2009, [accessed 11 March 2018].

Michael Harrison, 'Art and Philanthropy: T. C. Horsfall and the Manchester Art Museum', in City, Class, and Culture: Studies of Social Policy and Cultural Production in Victorian Manchester, ed. by Alan J. Kidd and K. W. Roberts (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985), pp. 120–47.

Michael Harrison, 'Art and Social Regeneration: The Ancoats Art Museum', in Manchester Region History Review. Special Issue. Ancoats: The First Industrial Suburb (Manchester: Manchester Centre for Regional History, 1993), ed. by Alan J. Kidd and Terry Wyke, pp. 63-72.

Geographical Names