Along with my friends and colleagues in the ministerial covenant group I had a great time at our meeting at Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, Flintshire, in February. A unique institution, there is no other Prime Ministerial library in Britain and nothing else like it that hosts all manner of literary and theological courses and meetings.

But I was particularly struck by the words on this postcard on sale at the library:

Gladstone Library 01

The back of the card states: Source W.E. Gladstone, from a letter to Samuel Dukenfield (sic) Darbishire of 2nd January, 1895, quoted in John Morley, Life of Gladstone (1903). Samuel Dukinfield Darbishire and his family were all prominent Manchester Unitarians, members of Cross Street Chapel, so I was interested to see that this quote was in a letter written to him. It makes me want to follow up the 1903 biography and also Roy Jenkins’ biography of W.E. Gladstone, copies of which were available in the library.

But it is a remarkable place. No other Prime Minister has ever been motivated to leave their library to the nation. An impressive legacy and  a marvellous resource.


3 thoughts on “Gladstone’s Library, North Wales

  1. By chance, your Gladstone post showed up as I was reading about Woodrow Wilson’s religious evolution. The section I was reading discusses his citing Gladstone in Wilson’s own article (1880) on Gladstone and then in a related debate on religious tolerance, specifically the issue of American anti-Catholicism. The Gladstone-influenced debate is unfortunately more broad minded than any of Wilson’s other public statements on the issue at the time. Later, as President of Princeton University, however, he did make the university’s first appointment of a Roman Catholic faculty member. He also wrote of Gladstone that he was “the greatest statesman that ever lived” and took him as his model for his own earliest ambition to become a statesman as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Emily, that is very interesting. I think I am going to have to have a look at Gladstone’s involvement with Unitarians. It is something that has been addressed in the ‘Transactions’ from time to time. He was a political hero to many of them but I have always understood he did not approve of them theologically.
      All the best,


      1. At the time Wilson was writing his comments about Gladstone he was a young anglophone but very Southern Presbyterian, not I’m afraid an attractive bunch. Members of our congregation here have sometimes expressed dismay at his showing up in our window, although of course that wasn’t his fault.

        Liked by 1 person

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