The Leech Collection

The story of a Manchester family

A permanent online exhibition examining the history and significance of the Leech family in Manchester from the early 1800s to the last years of the twentieth century.

Find out more about this remarkable family and their passion for recording the minutiae of their lives in words, pictures and daily ephemera.


Brownsfield Mill

Thomas Leech and his family

Sir Bosdin Leech and his wife Edith

Daniel John Leech

Ernest and Mary Leech

Pauline and Ann Leech

Arthur Leech

Many of the more text-heavy images and some of the photographs can be enlarged for closer study by a click of the mouse.

We would like to record our thanks to members of the Leech family for generously allowing Chetham's Library to care for their family's collection. Special thanks to the late Ann Bosdin Leech and Jean Bacon.

Open diary of Thomas Leech


In recent years, members of the Leech family of Manchester and Ashton- under-Lyne have presented Chetham's Library with a large and diverse collection of personal and business memorabilia stretching over two centuries.

The family papers comprise many hundreds of letters, business and household accounts, cashbooks, photographs and sketches, as well as an enormous amount of carefully hoarded ephemera, juvenilia, genealogical research, travel documents, souvenirs and postcards.

The archive is a uniquely personal collection which is dominated by an astonishing series of journals and personal diaries, and begins with a short journal written in 1815-16 by the young Thomas Leech (1790-1863). Thomas appears to have encouraged his wife and children to produce their own diaries, beginning a family tradition that at times borders on the obsessional. There are almost two hundred diaries in the collection, a remarkable record that is unlikely to be matched by any other collection in the country.

These pages are intended to highlight how the family viewed itself and the different ways in which diaries were used by successive generations of the family. It is necessarily selective – the Leech archive occupies over one hundred and eighty linear metres of shelving and consists of seventy archival boxes, over three hundred bound volumes of manuscripts and over seven hundred printed books.

The archive survives not simply because the family were mere hoarders of material, but because successive generations used the collection to re-tell the family’s history. In the Leech collection we have something quite unique: the most important collection of the workings of a middle-class family in the modern age.