TitleSamuel Roberts (1763 - 1848), Silversmith, Social Campaigner and Pamphleteer
AdminHistorySamuel Roberts was born in Sheffield on 18 April 1763. He was the second and eldest surviving son of Samuel Roberts, manufacturer and merchant, and his wife, Mary Sykes, whose father was a manufacturer in the file trade. He started work aged 14 at his father's factory (manufacturing silver and plated goods) and worked his way through every department up until 1784. He then established his own successful silver and plated ware business in Sheffield.

Outside of business Roberts became a notable essayist and pamphleteer, campaigning on a range of social and political issues, including war, capital punishment, game laws, slave trade, lotteries, drunkenness, poor laws, child labour (notably the exploitation of child chimney sweeps), and Chartism. His campaigning for social justice and championing of the plight of the poor (including his fervent opposition to the New Poor Law Act), earned him the soubriquet the "paupers' advocate".

In 1804 Roberts became an Overseer of the Poor in Sheffield. In 1806 he was a founder member of an association for the abolition of the use of 'climbing boys' as chimney sweeps. His involvement with this campaign, as well as his opposition to slavery and to the state lottery, brought him into friendship with William Wilberforce (1759 - 1833), the philanthropist, Member of Parliament and leader of the campaign to abolish the slave trade. Roberts was also a close friend of James Montgomery (1771 - 1854), the poet, hymn-writer and editor of the Sheffield newspaper 'The Iris' (Wilberforce was also an admirer of Montgomery).

In 1794 Roberts married Elizabeth Wright, the only daughter of Robert and Elizabeth Wright of North Anston, Yorkshire. They had one son and three daughters, including Mary Roberts, the author of 'The Royal Exile'.

Roberts lived at Park Grange, Sheffield, where he died on 24 July 1848, aged 85. He was buried at Anston. Roberts' progeny also went on to play prominent roles in Sheffield public life. His only son, Samuel Roberts (died 1887), was a Justice of the Peace; his grandson Sir Samuel Roberts (1852 - 1926) became Conservative Member of Parliament for Ecclesall from 1902 to 1923 and was created baronet in 1919; his great-grandson Sir Samuel Roberts, second baronet (1882 -1955), was also Conservative Member of Parliament for the Ecclesall constituency from 1929 to 1935.
DescriptionThis collection, originally known as the "Roberts Papers", comprises letters of Samuel Roberts (1763 - 1848), primarily written to him (but also on occasion to family members) from 3 individuals (and arranged into 3 series accordingly):

Letters from William Wilberforce (1759 - 1833), Member of Parliament, Social Reformer and Philanthropist, 1811 - 1833 (RP/1)

Letters from James Montgomery (1771 - 1854), Poet, Hymn-writer and Editor of Sheffield Newspaper "The Iris", c. 1804 - 1853 (RP/2)

Letters from Rowland Hodgson (1774 - 1837), Gentleman, of Highfield, Sheffield, 1816 - 1828 (RP/3)
Extent158 items
AcquisitionSourceThese records were deposited in Sheffield Archives in Sep 1971 by a private individual, the Great Great Grandson of Samuel Roberts
ArchNoteCatalogue prepared by Tim Knebel and Clea Carroll, Nov 2012 (from original typescript paper list)
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