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Letters to John Hill Burton from Sir Edwin Chadwick

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0809 Burton and Chadwick
Held at: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
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Full title: Letters to John Hill Burton from Sir Edwin Chadwick
Date(s): 1840-1851 and 1954
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 69 letters and 1 file
Name of creator(s): Chadwick | Sir | Edwin | 1800-1890 | Knight | Sanitary Reformer
Burton | John Hill | 1809-1881 | historian
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

John Hill Burton was born in Aberdeen in 1809; educated at Aberdeen grammar school from 1819, and went with a bursary to Marischal College, Aberdeen, in 1823. After graduating MA in 1826, he applied himself to the law, reading for the bar in Edinburgh. He was an Adovcate by profession, and as a young man compiled various legal works and was associated with various movements, not only law reform but also political economy and public health. Later his aptitude led him along literary and historical lines. Edinburgh at this period was the centre of intellectual activity and Burton Hill became an intimate friend of many of the notabilities of the day. Burton Hill died of bronchitis at his home, Morton House, in the Pentland Hills on 10 August 1881.

Sir Edwin Chadwick was born at Longsight, near Manchester, on 24 January 1800; educated at a village school in Longsight and then boarded briefly at Dr Wordsworth's school in Stockport and moved to London. Edwin clerked until 1823, when he shifted towards the bar. This acquainted him with the social problems of prisons, hospitals, and slums.

Chadwick was admitted to the Middle Temple in 1823. In 1832 he was appointed Assistant Commissioner to the Poor Law Enquiry and the following year Royal Commissioner to the same Enquiry, and to enquire into the employment of children in factories. In 1834 he was appointed Secretary to the Poor Law Commission, and in 1836 Royal Commissioner to enquire into a rural constabulary. In 1842 Chadwick published the Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population (known as the 'Sanitary Report'). In 1847 he lost his position as Secretary of the Poor Law Commission, but was appointed Royal Commissioner on London sanitation, and Metropolitan Commissioner of Sewers.

In 1848 Chadwick was created CB and was appointed Commissioner to the General Board of Health. He resigned from the Metropolitan Commission of Sewers in 1849 and from the General Board of Health in 1854. In 1857 he became interested in standing for Parliament and in 1859 stood as candidate for Evesham. In 1865 he stood as candidate for London University but withdrew before the poll. In 1868 he stood for Kilmarknock Burghs. He was created KCB in 1889. Chadwick died on 5 July 1890.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Sir Edwin Chadwick, 1840-1851 and 1954, comprise copies of letters from Chadwick to John Hill Burton on public health matters, 1840-1851, and correspondence between the School, Chadwick Trust and Professor Finer on the copying of these letters, 1954.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged as in scope and content.

Conditions governing access:

This collection is open for consultation. Please contact the Archivist to arrange an appointment. All researchers must complete and sign a user registration form which signifies their agreement to abide by the archive rules. All researchers are required to provide proof of identity bearing your signature (for example, a passport or debit card) when registering. Please see website for further information at

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies, subject to the condition of the original, may be supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Archivist.

Finding aids:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Burton kept the greater part of the correspondence addressed to him, many of these letters are from people of much eminence. At his death in 1881 all this correspondence and his other papers were placed in a box together for safe custody. In 1903 his two sons having died, these documents were handed over to the eldest grandson.

In 1840 Burton Hill was engaged in correspondence with Edwin Chadwick on matters connected with public health, the early letters refer such nuisances as town refuse entering streams, the employment of children in factories and the general betterment of the working classes. Edwin Chadwick was in touch with Hill Burton because he was anxious to introduce reforms as far as possible in Scotland almost concurrently in England. Many of the reforms to be introduced required legal advice, explaining the association of John Hill Burton with Chadwick.

Original letters belong to one of Hill Burton's descendants, Professor Cleland of Adelaide, South Australia. They were temporarily in the UK in 1954, Sir Allen Daley handed them to Mr Butler, the Secretary of the Chadwick Trust. They were then copied and typed up by the School. A further copy was send to Professor Finer, University College of North Staffordshire. One letter mentions that some of the letters have previously been published.

Immediate source of acquisition:

See archival history.

Allied Materials

Related material:

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine also holds photographs of Chadwick (Admin/12/01/68).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: AIM25 entry for Chadwick Papers (GB 0103 CHADWICK) and Oxford National Biographic Dictionary online.
Edited by Samantha Velumyl, AIM25 cataloguer.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
February 2008

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