TitleSheffield Literary and Philosophical Society
AdminHistoryThe Sheffield Literary and Philosophical Society was established in 1822. Its roots lay in the Society for the Promotion of Useful Knowledge which was been founded in 1804, but only survived until 1805. Numerous members of the latter society, such as Thomas Asline Ward, were involved in establishing the Literary and Philosophical Society. Ward records in his diary of 6 November 1822 (see SLPS/144) that he attended the founding meeting.

The first meeting records the main objectives of the Society, viz., '…the present advanced state of society renders it highly desirable that every populous district should contain some public institution, dedicated to the cultivation and advancement of literature and science; .. such an institution would be of essential advantage to the local interests of the town and neighbourhood, by furnishing the inhabitants with opportunities of intellectual improvement … and by the diffusion of liberal knowledge amongst all classes.'

The Society comprised proprietors, annual subscribers and honorary members. Proprietors, elected by ballot, paid an entrance fee of two guineas and an annual subscription, also of two guineas. They could introduce two guests to the regular lectures and they could use the Society's books and apparatus. Annual subscribers paid a guinea subscription and could attend the lectures as well as introduce two guests. Women could be annual subscribers, but could not become proprietors. Honorary Members were admitted to the Society by invitation. They had free access to the Literary Meetings and Regular Lectures, but had no say in the running of the Society.

The Society's business was divided into Private and Literary. Private was simply the business of running the Society; Literary was the reading of papers or giving of lectures. Lectures themselves were either Regular (delivered by the Proprietors or by someone at their invite) or Extraordinary Public Lectures, to which all subscribers and members of the public could attend.

Many eminent citizens of the town were members or gave lectures, such as John Holland and Henry Clifton Sorby. The subject matter of lectures and readings included such diverse subjects as snuff boxes, birds and snow, etc.

The first president was Dr Arnold Knight. Vice presidents were James Montgomery, Samuel Bailey, Rev T Cotterill and Thomas Asline Ward. The Treasurer was Offley Shore; Curator, William Jackson; Secretaries, Thomas Waterhouse and Luke Palfreyman.

The first committee was comprised of J H Abraham, Michael Ellison, Rev Dr Phillips, Hall Overend, James Ray, John Todd, Edward Barker, William Lucas, Rev H H Piper, William Jeffcock, B J Wake and Rev Peter Wright.

The Society flourished through the 19th and early 20th century but by the late 1920s / early 1930s its future was in doubt. At an Extraordinary Meeting of the Proprietors held on 10 October 1932, it was resolved to wind up the affairs of the Society, and to present all local material in its library to the Sheffield City Libraries.

Henry Clifton Sorby (1826 - 1908):
Microscopist, geologist, biologist and metallurgist. Born near Attercliffe, Sheffield in 1826. His family owned and ran the John and Henry Sorby edge tool manufacturing company. Rather than enter the family firm or attend university he developed his own research into chemistry and mathematics. He undertook considerable work in the microscopic study of rocks and crystals (his rock sections and micrographs (photographs taken through a microscope) are preserved at the University of Sheffield). In 1857 he was elected to the Royal Society. In his later years he spent the summer months on his yacht at Suffolk and Essex, studying estuaries as well as church architecture, whilst in the winters he returned to Sheffield. He was influential in founding Firth College, which later became the University of Sheffield. Sorby held a number of offices (president of the Royal Microscopical Society, of the Mineralogical Society, and of the Geological Society of London) and received numerous awards from the Geological Society of London, the Royal Dutch Society of Science and the Royal Society. He died in 1908 and was buried at Ecclesall churchyard in Sheffield (see Dictionary of National Biography for further details).

John Holland (1794 - 1852):
Poet and writer. Edited Sheffield ''Iris'' 1825 - 1832 (succeeding James Montgomery) and Sheffield ''Mercury'' 1835 - 1848. Friend of James Montgomery. Details of his publications are available in 'The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature: 1800-1900' by Joanne Shattock

James Montgomery (1771 - 1854):
James Montgomery was born in Ayrshire, the son of a Moravian minister. He attended a Moravian school at Fulneck, Leeds. He was then apprenticed as a baker, but being more concerned with poetry and music he ran away to Wentworth, Rotherham. In 1792 he took employment at the Sheffield Register. After the editor of the Register, Joseph Gales, fled to America to escape political pressure, the paper was relaunched as the Sheffield Iris, with Montgomery as editor. Montgomery went on to serve spells in prison for sedition and libel.

Montgomery became involved in all manner of causes in Sheffield. He was a founding member of the Sheffield Literary and Philosophical Society and was a director of the Sheffield Gas Company for many years. Known as champion of the chimney sweep boys. In 1822 (with George Bennett) he founded the Sheffield Sunday School Union. From 1830 onwards he lectured on literature and poetry at the Royal Institution in London, and also in Bristol, Hull, Worcester etc. In 1825 he was granted a Crown pension. He died at the Mount, Sheffield.
DescriptionLetters and papers of (or relating to) John Holland, Librarian of the Sheffield Literary and Philosophical Society, 1806 - 1886 (SLPS/1-35)

Letters and papers of (or relating to) James Montgomery (SLPS/36-50)

Letters and papers of Henry Clifton Sorby, 1844 - 1896 (SLPS/51)

Miscellaneous items (SLPS/52-118)

Diaries of Thomas Asline Ward, 1804 - 1871 (SLPS/119-191)

Minutes, correspondence, membership records, deeds and other papers of the Society, 1821 - 1934 (SLPS/192-209, 218-221)

Records of the Sheffield Library, which was merged with the Sheffield Literary and Philosophical Society in 1907, 1818 - 1929 (SLPS/211-215)

Minute book of the Sheffield Society for the Promotion of Useful Knowledge, 1804 - 1805 (SLPS/216)

Deeds relating to the lease of the Society's Reading Rooms in Leopold Street and Church Street, Sheffield, 1901 - 1922 (SLPS/218-221)

An album of letters, etc. connected with James Montgomery and John Holland, 1790 - c. 1850 (SLPS/222)
Datec. 1795 - 1933
Extent1,311 items (c. 2,962 pieces)
RelatedMaterialRelated material at Sheffield Archives:
For other correspondence of Montgomery see MD1092, MD2104, MD6790, MD7028 and RP/57-148.

Related material at Sheffield Local Studies Library:
Sheffield Literary and Philosophical Society: Centenary Retrospect 1822-1922 by W S Porter (Sheffield, 1922) (ref. 820.6 S)

Portraits of Presidents of the Society, 1823 - 1931 (Sheffield Local Studies ref. 820.6 s)

Annual reports, 1823 - 1934 (Sheffield Local Studies ref. 820.6 s)

Address to the Public on the proposed literary and philosophical society, 1822 (Sheffield Local Studies ref. MD 1375 s)

Proceedings of a public meeting for the purpose of establishing a literary and philosophical society in Sheffield (Sheffield Local Studies ref. 820.6 SST)

Laws, rules and constitution etc., various dates (Sheffield Local Studies various references)

Portraits of Presidents of the Society, 1823 - 1931 (Sheffield Local Studies ref. 928.2 SSTQ)

Various other items - Society library catalogues, papers, lectures, talks, syllabus, addresses etc given at Society meetings (Sheffield Local Studies ref. 820.6 etc)

Dissertation on the Sheffield Literary and Philosophical Society by S J Pedley, 1970 (Sheffield Local Studies ref. 820.65 SQ)

The following items, formerly part of the Society's library, are available at the Local Studies Library.
Addy, S.O., Sheffield Glossary , 1888 (former reference SLPS/72)
Addy, S.O., The Hall of Waltheof, 1893 (former reference SLPS/73)
Arnold, Mrs J.O., Requital, 1913 (former reference SLPS/75)
Arnold, Mrs J.O., The Fiddler, 1911 (former reference SLPS/74)
Bailey, Samuel, Questions in Political Economy, 1823 (former reference SLPS/76)
Barham, T.F., Abdallah; with a poem on the same subject by James Montgomery, 1821 (former reference SLPS/59)
Bennett, Sir W. S. and Otto Goldschmidt, Chorale book for England, 1863 - 1865 (2 volumes) 1863 - 1865 (former reference SLPS/77-78)
Brearley, Harry, and Fred Ibbotson, The Analysis of steel-works materials, 1902 (former reference SLPS/79)
Brittain, Sir H.E., To Verdun from the Somme, 1917 (former reference SLPS/80)
Buckingham, J.S., Autobiography, 1855 (2 volumes) (former reference SLPS/81-82)
Cattermole, G., The History of Haddon Hall, 1867 (former reference SLPS/83)
Earnshaw, Samuel, Partial Differential Equations, 1871 (former reference SLPS/84)
Ewing, J. H., Jan of the Windmill, 1876 (former reference SLPS/85)
Firth, Sir C.H., Cromwell's Army, 1902 (former reference SLPS/86)
Firth, Sir C.H., The Journal of Joachim Hane, 1896 (former reference SLPS/87)
Gatty, Margaret, Aunt Judy's May-day volume, 1867 (former reference SLPS/88)
Gatty, Margaret, British Sea-weeds, 1863 (former reference SLPS/90)
Gatty, Margaret, Parables from Nature, 1861 (former reference SLPS/93)
Gatty, Margaret, Proverbs Illustrated, 1842 (former reference SLPS/92)
Gatty, Margaret, The Books of Sun-dials, 1889 (former reference SLPS/89)
Gatty, Margaret, The Fairy God Mothers, 1851 (former reference SLPS/91)
Gilchrist, R.M., Damosel Croft, [19th cent] (former reference SLPS/94)
Gilchrist, R.M., Road Knight, [19th cent] (former reference SLPS/95)
Hatton, Joseph, The Banishment of Jessop Blythe, 1895 (former reference SLPS/96)
Hatton, Joseph, The Dagger and The Cross, 1897 (former reference SLPS/97)
Holland, John, Flowers from Sheffield Park, [19th cent] (former reference SLPS/64)
Holland, John, Newstead Abbey: a poem, 1864 (former reference SLPS/60)
Holland, John, Notes on the Seasons, [newspaper cuttings], [19th cent] (former reference SLPS/61)
Holland, John, Scrap book, [19th cent] (former reference SLPS/62)
Holland, John, Sheffield Park, 1820 (former reference SLPS/63)
Holmes, Robert, Chance Acquaintance, 1919 (former reference SLPS/98)
Holmes, Robert, Sister Matty and Company, 1918 (former reference SLPS/99)
Holmes, Robert, Them That Fall, 1923 (former reference SLPS/100)
Julian, John, ed. A Dictionary of Hymnology, 1892 (former reference SLPS/101)
Leader, R.E., Sheffield in the 18th Century, 1905 (former reference SLPS/102)
Leahy, A.H. Heroic Romances of Ireland, (2 volumes), 1905 - 1906 (former reference SLPS/103-104)
Leahy, A.H., (Translator) The Courtship of Ferb, 1902 (former reference SLPS/105)
Lloyd, G. I. H. ,The Cutlery Trades, 1913 (former reference SLPS/106)
Local pamphlets, vol.106, [19th cent] (former reference SLPS/65)
Montgomery Friendly Society, Rules and orders, 1825 (former reference SLPS/68)
Montgomery, James, Prison amusements, 1797 [incomplete] (former reference SLPS/66)
Montgomery, James, The Whisperer, 1798 (former reference SLPS/67)
MP 58 S - 67 S; MP129 M - 134 M; MP43 L, [19th cent] (former reference SLPS/70)
Perham, M.F., Josie Vine, [19th cent] (former reference SLPS/107)
Perham, M.F., Major Dane's Garden, [19th cent] (former reference SLPS/108)
Red Hill Sunday School reports, 1819, 1861, 1819, 1861 (former reference SLPS/69)
Roebuck, J.A., Colonies of England, 1849 (former reference SLPS/109)
Rowland, Edith., A Pedagogue's Common Place Book, 1925 (former reference SLPS/110)
Smith, G.C.M. ,The Life of Field-Marshall Lord Seaton, 1903 Former reference SLPS/115)
Smith, J.P., Holy Scriptures and Geological Science, 1848 (former reference SLPS/116)
Snell, Simson, Eyesight and School Life, 1895 Former reference SLPS/117)
Snell, Simson, Miners' Nystagmus, 1892 (former reference SLPS/118)

Related Material held elsewhere:
A digital copy of the annual report of the society for 1824 is available on Googlebooks ( accessed July 2008). The original is in Oxford University.

Architectural photographs, diaries and other papers of Henry Clifton Sorby are in the University of Sheffield Special Collections
(MS 51, 67, 150, 234, 235)
CustodialHistoryThe Society flourished through the 19th and early 20th century but by the late 1920s / early 1930s its future was in doubt. At an Extraordinary Meeting of the Proprietors held on 10 Oct 1932, it was resolved to wind up the affairs of the Society, and to present all local material in its library to the Sheffield City Libraries.

This collection of manuscripts, pamphlets, illustrations, etc. was presented to Sheffield City Libraries in Feb 1933. Manuscript material was retained by the Archives, whilst printed material was retained at the Local Studies Library.

Additional material (such as SLPS/1A) was purchased and added to the collection in December 1974.
ArchNoteCatalogue prepared by Peter Evans, February 2010.
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