The Bailey Collection

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Miscellaneous notes, transcripts, and original documents compiled and collected by John Eglington Bailey (1840-1888) FSA. Some of the notes are in shorthand.

Administrative / Biographical History

The antiquary, John Eglington Bailey, was born at Edgbaston, Birmingham, on 13 February 1840, the son of Charles Bailey and Mary Elizabeth Bailey, daughter of John Eglington of Ashbourne. His family removed to Lancashire during his childhood, and he was educated at Boteler’s Grammar School, Warrington, and at Owen's College, Manchester. He was employed at the counting-house of the Ralli Brothers, Manchester, where he remained until 1886.

Bailey was a prolific author: he published 420 articles, and also a number of books covering a range of subjects from Lancashire and Cheshire topography to the lives of seventeenth-century divines. He learned Pitman’s shorthand, and contributed articles to shorthand, manuscript, or lithograph magazines and bibliographical journals, such as Shorthand (1882), Retrospective Review (1874), and The Bibliographer (1882). Bailey contributed articles to newspapers and magazines such as Owen’s College Magazine (1868, 1870-1, 1878, 1880); the Manchester Guardian Local Notes and Queries (1874-7); the Manchester City News Notes and Queries (1879, 1884-6); the Preston Guardian Sketches in Local History (1875-7, 1879); and the Leigh Chronicle (1878-9), amongst others. Bailey was a frequent contributor to the journals of the Manchester Literary Club (1875-9, 1881-5) and Manchester Field Naturalists’ Society (1878-9, 1882) as well as to various other journals, such as Notes and Queries (1864, 1869, 1873, 1874-86); Gloucestershire Notes and Queries (1879, 1881-4, 1886-8); and also The Western Antiquary (1883), and the quarterly review concerned with Pagan and early-Christian antiquities, The Reliquary (1884).

His interest in the antiquities of Lancashire and Cheshire led to his contributions to a number of publications: Local Gleanings (1875, 1877-80); Cheshire Sheaf (1878-83); Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Notes (1884); the Journal of the Chester Archaeological and Historic Society (1887); and the Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society (1886-7). His Inventories of goods in the churches and chapels of Lancashire, taken in the year A.D. 1552, was published in two parts by the Chetham Society (1879, 1888), and the final part was completed and edited by Henry Fishwick (1902). In 1881, he became the founder and editor of the monthly antiquarian magazine, The Palatine Note-Book (1881-5). He also contributed to the Encyclopaedia Britannica with articles on ‘Cryptography’ (1877) and ‘Thomas Fuller’ (1879), and also to the Dictionary of National Biography (1885) with articles on a number of divines and antiquaries. Bailey also edited Henry Clarke’s The School Candidates: A Prosaic Burlesque (Manchester, 1877), and the Diary for the years 1595-1601 of Dr John Dee, Warden of Manchester from 1595-1608 (1880). He also wrote Manchester al Mondo: A Contemplation of Death and Immortality (London: Pickering, 1880), and co-authored (with C.E. Banks) a biography of Colonel Alexander Rigby (Portland, Maine, USA, 1885).

However, Bailey’s life-long interest was the work of the ecclesiastical historian, Thomas Fuller (1608-61). His lecture on Fuller to the Manchester Phonographic Union, was printed in the Popular Lecturer (1864). He devoted his holidays to visiting Fuller’s places of residence, and Bailey’s most important contribution was his Life of Thomas Fuller (Manchester: T. J. Day, 1874). His scholarship was recognised by his election as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. Bailey had intended to issue a two-volume edition of Fuller’s sermons, but this project was never completed, and Bailey edited only one of Fuller’s sermons: A Sermon of Reformation (Manchester: T.J. Day, 1875). Bailey’s intended project was later completed and edited by W.E.A. Axon (1891). Bailey amassed a large library of antiquarian and general literature, and also collected numerous works on stenography with a view to writing a history and bibliography of English stenography, but this was another project that was never realised.

He delivered lectures to various literary and local history societies, including the Manchester Literary Club, Urmston and Flixton Literary and Scientific Society, and the Leigh Literary Society. He was also a member of the Chetham Society, serving as a councillor (1876-88) and Honorary Secretary (1882-8), as well as a councillor of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society (1884-9). A member of the Chorlton Road Congregational Church, he also compiled a Manual of the Chorlton Road Congregational Church, Manchester (Manchester: James Andrew, 1877). From 1886, illness impaired Bailey’s research and studies, and he died, aged 48, at Etchells, Stockport, Cheshire, on 23 August 1888. He was buried at Stretford Church, Manchester, on 27 August 1888. In 1866, he had married Emma Mills, the second daughter of Samuel Mills of Ardwick, and they had four children.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on access to this collection. Viewing is by prior appointment. Please contact archivist@chethams.org.uk

Acquisition Information

John Eglington Bailey’s personal library was sold by auction at Capes, Dunn & Pilcher, Manchester, from 24 to 30 June 1889, and it is not entirely clear how Chetham’s Library acquired the collection. In June 1889 the Library’s General Purposes Committee authorised the Librarian to spend up to £60 on the purchase of the Bailey manuscripts at the forthcoming sale; however, in a note in the catalogue, John Cree noted, ‘Catalogue of the Manuscripts of the late J. E. Bailey presented to the Chetham Library by R. C. Christie, Chancellor of the Diocese of Manchester’. Presumably, this note refers to Cree’s catalogue and not to the entire Bailey collection, and since there are no details of Christie's donation in the Library records, it thus appears that the Library purchased the Bailey manuscripts but was given Cree’s catalogue in the following year.