The University of Sheffield
The University Library

Wilson Papers

Ref: MS 41

Title: Wilson Papers

Scope:
Papers of Henry Joseph Wilson, Sheffield Radical politician and Liberal M.P., for the period 1859 to 1910

Dates: 1859-1910, with some later additional material
Level: Fonds
Extent: 6 boxes
Name of creator: Henry Joseph Wilson

Administrative / biographical history:

The collection consists of the following sections:

  1. Correspondence, papers and related press cuttings received by Wilson
  2. Wilsons letters to members of his family
  3. Printed election material, newspapers and press cuttings
  4. Sheffield Nonconformist Committee papers
  5. A collection by Gertrude Lenwood, one of Wilson's daughters, of newspaper cartoons and copies and extracts from original letters

Henry Joseph Wilson (1833-1914), Sheffield Radical politician and Liberal M.P. for Holmfirth, was born on 14 April 1833 at Old Radford, Nottinghamshire, into a family of strong Nonconformist and Reform sympathies. In 1867, following a fourteen year period as tenant of Newlands Farm, near Mansfield, Wilson came to Sheffield to manage the family firm, the Sheffield Smelting Company, and also began his active involvement in politics.

His wide-ranging political interests included the temperance movement, opposition to the state regulation of vice, non-sectarian education, disestablishment, Irish Home Rule, internationalism, opposition to imperialism and the destruction of the opium trade. He held several offices in organisations connected with his political activities both local and national, amongst which were the secretaryships of the Northern Counties Electoral League for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts from 1872 to 1885, of the Sheffield Liberal Association from 1875, and of the British Continental and General Federation for the Abolition of Government Regulation of Prostitution, also from 1875. Wilson was a member of the Royal Commission on Opium in India, from 1839 to 1895, Treasurer of the National Vigilance Association in the 1900s, a Justice of the Peace from 1881, and was for fifteen years a member of the Sheffield School Board. He served on the Sheffield Nonconformist Committee, set up to work for the amendment of the Education Act of 1870, from 1872 to the Committee's effective dissolution in 1877. He was elected Liberal M.P. for Holmfirth division of the West Riding in 1885 and held the seat until his retirement in 1912. He died in Sheffield on 29 June 1914.

There are two biographies of Wilson, both based in part on his papers: Mosa Anderson, H.J. Wilson, Fighter for freedom (London, 1953) and W.S. Fowler, A study in Radicalism and dissent: the life and tTimes of Henry Joseph Wilson 1833-1914 (London, 1961).

Notes on the provenance of the Papers

Wilson's original archive was divided after his death between his children. The section of papers in the University of Sheffield Library was deposited here by R.E. Wilson in 1961. A further section was deposited in Sheffield City Library by Mrs. Gertrude Lenwood at various dates, while the records of the Sheffield Smelting Company were placed in the same repository. A third section, concerning Wilson's national and international work against the government regulation of vice passed from Dr. Helen Wilson, another of his daughters, via the Josephine Butler Society to the Fawcett Library and subsequently to the City of London Polytechnic (now University) Library