Wadsworth Manuscripts

Scope and Content

In addition to A.P. Wadsworth's own notebooks and papers concerning his researches into the textile industry, Manchester Sunday schools and the history of Rochdale, there are significant original materials collected by him. These include letters from Mrs Linnæus Banks, author of The Manchester Man, 1882-95 (Eng MS 1202); correspondence of Isaac Hawkins Browne the younger, 1788-1802 (Eng MS 1195); miscellaneous letters and papers of Rev. William Robert Hay, vicar of Rochdale and prebendary of York, 1781-c 1836 (Eng MS 1196); a collection of papers relating to the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, including original placards and notices collected by Hay who was chairman of Salford Hundred Quarter Sessions and a leading figure on the magistrates' side (Eng MS 1197); a minute book of William Hough of Chorley, Lancashire, attorney, 1783-1836 (Eng MS 1198); and ledgers, stock books and inventories of Lancashire cotton manufacturers, Messrs Cardwell, Birley & Hornby of Blackburn, 1768-1858, Nathaniel Dugdale & Bros of Padiham, 1807-51, and the Ashworth Cotton Mills at Eagley near Bolton, 1831-79 (Eng MSS 1199-1201).

There are 51 notebooks made by Wadsworth from various manuscripts, printed sources and early newspapers concerning economic and social history, partly in shorthand (one notebook is missing); and 19 notebooks relating specifically to the cotton industry from the mid 18th to the early 19th centuries in various hands. The collection also includes papers, extracts and cuttings relating to the textile industry and used for The Cotton Trade and Industrial Lancashire.

Administrative / Biographical History

Alfred Powell Wadsworth was born in Rochdale on 26 May 1891. In 1915 he became a copy holder in the reading room of the Rochdale Observer, being promoted to junior reporter in 1917. He specialised in local industrial affairs and contributed a notes and queries column which dealt with local antiquarian lore. Wadsworth also became an enthusiastic student of the Workers' Educational Association, which was organised in Rochdale by the historian, R.H. Tawney. Here Wadsworth developed a great interest in the history of the Industrial Revolution.

In 1917 he joined the staff of the Manchester Guardian, and was sent to Ireland. Shortly afterwards he was promoted to labour correspondent, and wrote leaders on industrial subjects. In 1932 he became a general political and economic leader-writer. In 1940 he was made assistant editor and in 1944 succeeded W.P. Crozier as editor.

In the immediate post-war period the Manchester Guardian suffered from restrictions on newsprint. Wadsworth aimed to maintain the paper's sales and standing by producing high quality reporting on national and international affairs. Politically he was sympathetic to, though not uncritically of, the Labour Party, and he moved the paper away from its traditional formal support for the Liberals. The Guardian endorsed Labour in 1945.

Wadsworth maintained an interest in social and economic history, being particularly interested in the social effects of early industrialisation in Lancashire. He collaborated with Julia Mann, Principal of St Hilda's College, Oxford, to produce a major work on the cotton industry, The Cotton Trade and Industrial Lancashire, 1600-1790 (1931), and with R.S. Fitton he wrote The Strutts and the Arkwrights (1958). He was awarded an honorary MA in 1932 and a doctorate in 1955 bythe University of Manchester. He died on 4 November 1956.

Source: Linton Andrews, 'Wadsworth, Alfred Powell (1891-1956)', rev. Mark Pottle, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press - http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/36673.

Access Information

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The historical collections of Dr Alfred Powell Wadsworth, former editor of the Manchester Guardian and a governor of the John Rylands Library, were presented to the Library by his daughter, Miss Janet Wadsworth, in 1957 and 1961.


Description compiled by Jo Klett, project archivist, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Alfred Powell Wadsworth.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1952-1970 (English MSS 1195-1207).

Related Material

The JRUL holds papers relating to A.P. Wadsworth's editorship of the Manchester Guardian within the Guardian archive, which also includes his editorial correspondence (ref.: GB 133 MGN).