Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)BC
TitlePapers of the Chamberlain sisters, Beatrice, Ida, Hilda and Ethel Chamberlain
Extent1046 items
DescriptionCorrespondence and personal papers of Joseph Chamberlain's daughters Beatrice Chamberlain, Ida Chamberlain, Hilda Chamberlain, amd Ethel Chamberlain comprising substantial series of letters between the sisters and other family members and papers consisting of writings, travel diaries, sketchbooks, photographs, official documents and miscellaneous ephemera as well as unpublished memoirs written by Ida and Hilda Chamberlain about their childhoors and about their father, Joseph Chamberlain, and their brother, Neville Chamberlain.

The collection includes letters and papers relating to Beatrice's American visit, 1897-1898; correspondence between Beatrice and Neville Chamberlain, 1890-1918; correspondence between Beatrice and other family members, 1875-1918; correspondence between Ida and Hilda Chamberlain and other family members, 1888-1963, particularly correspondence between Ida Chamberlain and Mary Endicott Chamberlain 1889-1943 and between Hilda Chamberlain and Dorothy Lloyd 1940-1957; correspondence between Ethel Chamberlain and her husband, Lionel Richards, and family members 1898-1909, including letters written after Ethel's death in 1905.

Personal papers of the sisters include ephemera relating to Joseph and Austen Chamberlain, birth certificates of the sisters, obituaries, writings by Ida and Hilda Chamberlain including unpublished memoirs of family members including Joseph, and Neville Chamberlain and a memoir by Joseph Chamberlain of his second wife, Florence Kenrick, written for their children, together with recollections by Ida and Hilda of their childhoods; separate series of travel diaries of Ida Chamberlain and Hilda Chamberlain; documents relating to Ethel Chamberlain's marriage and photographs of her daughter, Hilda Mary Richards. The collection also contains personal papers of Hilda Mary Richards including postcards sent to her by Chamberlain family members, a photograph album compiled by Joseph Chamberlain and Mary Endicott Chamberlain and kept by Hilda Mary Richards, and photographs of Hilda Mary Richards.

Taken together, the collection is a rich source of information about the lives and experiences of the four sisters, including their observation of and involvement in the political lives of their father and brothers, both in Birmingham and in London within the arena of national politics and government. The letters comment on the political careers of Joseph, Austen, and particularly Neville Chamberlain, as seen by the sisters, and commentary on local, national, and international politics is interspersed with news about their own daily lives and their activities in Birmingham and London before 1914 and, for Ida and Hilda, in Odiham in Hampshire after 1915. Letters focus on public service work, social activities, leisure and hobbies including gardening, reading, and travel. Some of the correspondence also contains evidence of personal reflection and discussion of emotions and the importance of family relationships. It is clear from the correspondence that letter writing was one of the main ways in which the sisters retained their closeness to each other, and to their brothers and other family members, particularly their stepmother, Mary Endicott Chamberlain and, for Hilda from the 1940s onwards, their niece, Dorothy Lloyd. The sequences of letters reveal this closeness and deep affection.

The papers provide further insight into the sisters’ personal and family lives and the recollections and memoirs written by Joseph Chamberlain and by Ida and Hilda Chamberlain contain valuable detail about the siblings childhoods and illustrate their desire to protect the achievements and shape the public memory of their brother, Neville. The travel diaries kept by both Ida and Hilda Chamberlain provide a detailed record of travels in Britain and Europe between 1890 and the 1940s and include a travel diary kept by Ida during the family's tour of Egypt in 1889-1890 which can be read alongside the travel diary written about the same trip by her brother, Neville (NC2/1). Papers of Ethel Chamberlain provide insight into her life, as the only one of the sisters to marry, and contain documents and photographs demonstrating the impact of her early death in 1905 and the close relationship between her surviving sisters and Ethel's daughter, Hilda Mary Richards.

The correspondence and papers in this collection provide an important comparison with the collections of political and personal papers of Joseph, Austen, and Neville Chamberlain, and complement the material in the Chamberlain Family collection. The letters and papers contained in this collection represent the sisters' own views and feelings and allow them to be seen in their own right, rather than merely as supporters of their father and brothers
ArrangementThe papers are arranged by individual correspondents and family members. The first three sections comprise correspondence. Other sections comprise personal papers of the sisters, and papers of Hilda Mary Richards, Ethel Chamberlain's daughter:
A: Letters of Beatrice Chamberlain
B: Letters of Ida and Hilda Chamberlain
C: Letters of Ethel Chamberlain
D: Personal and Family papers of the Chamberlain sisters
E: Personal papers of Hilda Mary Richards
Access ConditionsAccess to all registered researchers
Finding AidsA paper catalogue to file and item level is available in the Special Collections Department and at the National Register of Archives in London.
Access StatusOpen
Administrative HistoryBeatrice Mary Chamberlain (1862-1918), daughter of the Right Honourable Joseph Chamberlain and Harriet Chamberlain (née Kenrick); sister of the Right Honourable Sir Austen Chamberlain, half-sister of Neville Chamberlain. She died in the influenza epidemic which closed the First World War.

(Florence) Ida Chamberlain (1870-1943), daughter of the Right Honourable Joseph and Florence (née Kenrick); sister of Neville Chamberlain, half-sister of the Right Honourable Sir Austen Chamberlain.

(Caroline) Hilda Chamberlain (1872-1967), daughter of the Right Honourable Joseph and Florence (née Kenrick); sister of Neville Chamberlain, half-sister of the Right Honourable Sir Austen Chamberlain.

Ethel Chamberlain (1873-1905), daughter of the Right Honourable Joseph Chamberlain and Florence (née Kenrick); sister of Neville Chamberlain, half-sister of the Right Honourable Sir Austen Chamberlain. She was the only daughter to marry -she married Whitmore Lionel Richards (1868-1956) by whom she had a daughter, Hilda Mary - but was the first to die, in a Swiss sanatorium with her sister Hilda at her side.

Reference: Guide to the Chamberlain Collection ( The University of Birmingham Library, 1978 ); P.E.Marsh, The Chamberlain Papers from University of Birmingham Library. Series One: The Papers of Neville Chamberlain ( Primary Source Microfilm, Reading, 2000 ).
Custodial HistoryFirst deposit by Diane Maxwell (Austen's daughter) 1975, with additional deposit by Dorothy Lloyd (Neville's daughter) 1987, and papers relating to Ethel Chamberlain by the executor of the will of Hilda Mary Richards (Ethel's daughter) 1993. It is possible that Beatrice Chamberlain's correspondence had been kept by Diane Maxwell and Hilda and Ida's correspondence and personal papers had been kept by Dorothy Lloyd, possibly together with some of Beatrice's personal papers
AcquisitionThis collection was deposited in University of Birmingham Library in 1975, with additions deposited in 1987 by different depositors. The papers relating to Ethel Chamberlain were given in September 1993. An additional deposit of papers relating to Hilda Mary Richards was made in 2014 by the executor of the estate of Hilda Mary Richards
CopiesThe Papers of Beatrice, Ida, Hilda and Ethel Chamberlain have been microfilmed by Primary Source Media as part of a micropublication of all the Chamberlain Papers held by Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections. Facilities are available in the Library for researchers to make paper copies of individual items from these microfilms for their own private research purposes. Alternatively, digitized copies of the microfilms can be viewed online at Members of the University of Birmingham may access the digital copies free of charge. When browsing the digitized copies by collection, please note that the Papers of Beatrice, Ida, Hilda and Ethel Chamberlain are to be found under 'The Papers of Neville Chamberlain'.
Related MaterialThe University of Birmingham Special Collections Department also holds the papers of Joseph Chamberlain (GB 0150 JC), Austen Chamberlain (GB 0150 AC), Neville Chamberlain (GB 0150 NC), and a general Chamberlain family collection (GB 0150 C). Further artificial collections of letters also exist for Neville, Austen and Joseph Chamberlain.
Publication NoteThe Chamberlain Litany: Letters Within a Governing Family, Peter Marsh, 2010