Birrell Collection

Scope and Content

The Birrell Collection comprises of: Various correspondence between Augustine Birrell and members of his family dating from the late 19th century - 1960. Three albums of letters from miscellaneous notables addressed mainly to Augustine Birrell dating from 1861-1912 , the correspondence are indexed. There are nine letters to Birrells' publishers dating from 1893-1894 , various family photographs and a bound volume of memoranda concerning the Education Bill of 1906.

Administrative / Biographical History

Augustine Birrell was a lawyer  by occupation but is best remembered for his political and literary careers. He was born, the son of a baptist minister, in Wavertree, Liverpool on 19th January 1850 . He was educated at the famous non-conformist school Amersham Hall and from there progressed to Trinity Hall Cambridge where he read Law. He was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn and became Quain Professor of Law at University College, London between 1896-1899 .

His political career began in the 1880s  with his efforts to be elected M.P.  for Walton, Liverpool in 1885  and Widness, Lancs in 1886 . Both attempts were unsuccessful. He finally became Liberal Member of Parliament for Fifeshire West in 1899 , a seat he held until 1900 . He failed in 1900 to become M.P. for Manchester but returned to the House of Commons in 1906 as M.P. for North Bristol and held this seat until 1908. Birrell held the offices of President of the Board of Education  between 1905 and 1907 and of  Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland  between 1907 and 1916 .

In addition to this political career Birrell was a respected essayist and biographer. His first publication Obiter Dicta was published in 1884  and he wrote prolifically throughout his career culminating in a volume of autobiography Things Past Redress. He died on 20th November 1933 .


The Birrell Collection consists of several different deposits, it has been arranged according to provenance.

Access Information

Access is open to bona fide researchers, an appointment must be made in advance of any visit to use the Birrell collection.

Acquisition Information

The Birrell collection at the University of Liverpool has been deposited by various donors of the Birrell family, usually coming via Sir Charles Tennyson, the step-son of Augustine Birrell.

Other Finding Aids

A finding aid is available for consultation in the reading room.

Archivist's Note

This collection-level description was created for the Archives Hub in January 2004 .

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction and licensing rules available on request

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised.


There are no anticipated accruals.

Related Material

Oxford University Bodleian Library hold Papers of Augustine Birrell and correspondence with; Herbert Asquith, Margot Asquith, Bertram Dobell, JLL Hammond, Lewis Harcourt, the Lewis family, Andrew Philip Magill and Sir Mathew Nathan.

Sussex University Library hold the War papers of Francis Birrell, this includes letters from France to his father, Augustine Birrell

Held at the University of Liverpool:

Autograph letter collections including the Brett collection, Hope and the Moor collections.


Birrell, AThings Past Redress, Faber & Faber, 1937O'Broin, Leon, The Chief Secretary: Augustine Birrell in Ireland, Chatto and Windus 1969Tennyson, Charles, Sir,Stars and Markets, Chatto and Windus, 1957