Graham Ellis, on his retirement from  the Music Department, discovered during his “clear out” a most interesting collection of letters dating back to the 1880s.  These had been collected by the then Director of Music, Dr William Henry Hunt, who had been  on the staff at Birkenhead between 1873 and 1879. Sadly he had to retire from teaching on health grounds, but maintained close contact with the school for the next 35 years, during which he arranged many concerts.
By requesting permission to use the music of well known composers of the era, such as Charles Hallé, CV Stanford, John Stainer and Ebenezer Prout, signed replies made  the basis of an interesting collection. Of local interest there were letters from William Saumarez Smith, Principal of St Aiden’s Theological College.
As well as letters from distinguished composers and musicians of that era there were those signed by Gladstones  sent from their home in Hawarden.  Of particular interest were five signed by William Gladstone, initially thought to have been from the Prime Minister, but in fact from his son, also William. Three were from William’s mother, Catherine, whose husband had been Prime Minister four times.
A visit to the beautiful Gladstone Library in Hawarden and discussion with the archivists revealed that William Gladstone was a keen musician and  it was surmised that he had had music tuition from Dr Hunt.
The collection is  in a fragile state but conservation action has been taken and it is planned that these will be on display in Archives in due course.