A large series of correspondence with and relating to James Kay-Shuttleworth, spanning almost eighty years.
Early correspondence focuses on Kay-Shuttleworth's time at the University of Edinburgh (1824-1827). He describes (mainly to his mother Hannah Kay [snr.] and his sister, Hannah Kay [jnr.]) the classes he is taking and the tutors he is studying under. His early investigation into asphyxia in warm blooded animals (for which he was later awarded the Fothergillian medal by the Humane Society) is documented.
His work as a medical doctor in Manchester, including being one of the founders of the Ancoats and Ardwick Dispensary (1828) is documented, as is his work as Secretary to the Manchester Board of Health and at the Knott Mill Cholera Hospital during the cholera epidemic of 1832. These papers present a vivid picture of the slums of Manchester and the lives of the poor. The correspondence also refers to him as one of the founders of The North of England Medical and Surgical Journal, the Manchester Statistical Society, the Manchester and Salford and District Provident Society, and the Manchester Medical Society. His unsuccessful attempt for election as an honorary physician to the Manchester Infirmary in 1835 is also documented.
The publication and distribution of some of his key his pamphlets such as The Moral and Physical Conditions of the Working Classes employed in the Cotton Manufacture in Manchester (1832), The Defects of Construction of Dispensaries (1834), and The Training of Pauper Children (1839), is covered; as is his activity in supporting liberal causes, particularly the anti-corn law agitation and the Reform Bill (1832). His Whig sympathies are clearly outlined in these letters.
Correspondence from 1835 onwards, when he was appointed as an Assistant Poor Law Commissioner, centres on his administration of the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, a role which involved him in implementing the New Poor Law and managing schemes such as the government controlled labour migration from the rural south to the cities of the industrialized north. These letters reveal his zealous views on lives of paupers. His time administering the [London] metropolitan district as Superintendent of metropolitan schools for pauper children is covered and there are letters documenting his travel to Scotland in 1837, to examine the pioneering education work of John Wood and David Stow.
Correspondence from 1839-1849 covers his appointment as the first Secretary to the Whig government's Committee of the Privy Council on Education which administered grants for public education. These letters highlight the pedagogical reforms he implemented, which laid the foundations of the British public elementary school system. Letters from this time describe how he and Edward Carlton Tufnell established Battersea College, the first and most important of the early English teacher training colleges. The final letters in this group refer to the epileptic fit he suffered in 1848 which caused him to resign his post in 1849; and the baronetcy which followed.
Later business letters refer to his brief return to politics when, in his Letter to Earl Granville, K.G., on the Revised Code of Regulations (1861), he attacked the code of regulations for government grants to elementary schools which Robert Lowe had introduced. The passage of the 1867 Reform Bill caused him to produce his Memorandum on Popular Education (1868), which continued his attack on the Revised Code. There is some correspondence in 1869 containing discussions around the Irish Land question. Letters of 1874 describe Kay-Shuttleworth's unsuccessful effort to enter parliament, standing as a Liberal for North-East Lancashire, aged 70 years.
The letters of 1861-1865, the years of the Lancashire Cotton Famine, reveal how Kay-Shuttleworth, acting as Vice Chairman of the Central Relief Committee in Manchester, become involved in the administrative work of relieving the sufferings of cotton operatives, including the area around the Gawthorpe estate. Letters from this period also show his growing interest in middle-class education when in 1864 he was appointed as governor of Giggleswick School in the West Riding of Yorkshire; he also endeavoured to improve the education of middle-class girls.
Early family letters include correspondence with Kay-Shuttleworth's mother Hannah Kay (née Phillips) and his sister Hannah Kay. These mainly centre on his time at the University of Edinburgh, his medical practice in Manchester and his work as Assistant Poor Law Commissioner in London, Norfolk and Suffolk. The largest single series of family letters is the correspondence with his son, Ughtred James Kay-Shuttleworth. These letters, which date from Ughtred's boyhood and continue until Kay-Shuttleworth's death in 1877, show the close relationship between father and son - as Kay-Shuttleworth follows Ughtred's education, his marriage to Blanche Marion Parish, the birth of their first child, Angela Mary, and Ughtred's later career as Liberal MP for the constituency of Hastings in East Sussex; and finally, his management of the family estates at Gawthorpe and Barbon.
Second to this series is the correspondence with Janet Elizabeth (known as Puss), Kay-Shuttleworth's eldest child, and with his wife Lady Janet Kay-Shuttleworth (née Shuttleworth). Puss's letters describe the time she spends with her father in England and her life at the Villa Ponente in San Remo, Italy, where she lived with her mother. The Lady Janet Kay-Shuttleworth correspondence charts her courtship and marriage to James, and, as she spent prolonged periods on the Continent due to ill health, their eventual separation. The letters between Kay-Shuttleworth and Ughtred after her death in 1872 chart the hand-over of the Gawthorpe and Barbon estates to Ughtred, as the heir. There are detailed accounts of the management of the estates, rents, tenants, farming, the cattle plague and so forth.
Other correspondence includes that of relatives in the Kay, Fenton, Shuttleworth, Parish, North, Hubbard, Marjoribanks and Leaf families. There is also correspondence from Kay-Shuttleworth's brothers Joseph Kay and Edward Ebenezer Kay. The Fenton correspondence includes letters from Kay-Shuttleworth's uncle Joseph Fenton and various male cousins. The North correspondence includes letters from Lady Janet Shuttleworth's step-sisters, artist Marianne North (known as Pop), and her sister (Janet) Catherine, who married the writer John Addington Symonds jnr., as well as from their father Frederick North who was the Liberal MP for Hastings. There are also letters from Caroline Davenport (of Capesthorne Hall, née Hurt, later Lady Hatherton), a cousin of Janet Kay-Shuttleworth who acted as a match-maker between Kay-Shuttleworth and Lady Janet.
There is a small series of correspondence (1833-34) relating to Kay-Shuttleworth's unsuccessful courtship of Helen Kennedy, daughter of James and June Kennedy, the wealthy Manchester family whose fortune was built on cotton.
Kay-Shuttleworth's social and political worlds overlapped, and the many letters from powerful friends and colleagues demonstrate the complexities of these relationships. This includes correspondence with Lord John Russell, Sir William Cavendish the 7th Duke of Devonshire, Matthew Arnold, John Addington Symonds snr. and jnr., Charles Henry, Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts the Baroness Burdett-Coutts, Nassau William snr., John Bright, William Edward Forster, Harriet Sutherland Leveson-Gower the Duchess of Sutherland, Edward Stanley the 14th Earl of Derby, Sir Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice the 5th Marquis of Lansdowne, Derwent Coleridge, Elizabeth Campbell the Duchess of Argyll, William Langton and Thomas Brassey.
One of the last groupings of correspondence is around the research for, and critical responses to, Kay-Shuttleworth's three historical novels, Scarsdale, or Life on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Border Thirty years ago, (3 volumes 1860), Ribblesdale, or Lancashire Sixty Years Ago, (3 volumes 1874), and Cromwell in the North, 1648, A Story (9 volumes, unpublished).