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Wiles Family: correspondence and genealogical papers

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.7721

Scope and Contents

Family correspondence and genealogical papers of the Wiles Family, originally of Holywell near Stamford in Lincolnshire, then of Jamaica, London and Cambridge. There are letters from three sons of Henry Wiles (1729-1815), a gardener at Holywell, who settled in Jamaica: James (1768-1851) was superintendent of the Botanic Gardens in Kingston, Jamaica, and was joined by two of his brothers, Henry (1771-1846) and John (1778-1842). All three were plantation owners with enslaved labourers, and are listed as slave-owners in the UCL Legacies of British Slavery database. The letters from Jamaica contain family news, but also relate to the Wiles’ coffee plantations, the price of coffee, the conditions of enslaved labourers and the abolition of the slave trade in Jamaica. Correspondence from later generations of the Wiles Family relate to Cambridge family of John Gilbert and Elizabeth Wiles, the children of Henry Wiles (1771-1846) who were educated in England, including John Wiles who married his cousin, Eliza Gilbert, and their son Joseph Pitt Wiles, headmaster of Warkworth House School in Cambridge. The letters and papers were compiled and edited by Clement Christopher Wiles (1878-1964). He produced a manuscript entitled ‘Family letters and records, 1690-1956' with an introduction to the family, transcripts of the letters with notes and a family tree (a photocopy of this manuscript is at MS Add.7721/193).


  • Creation: 1791 - 1959


Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Biographical / Historical

Clement Christopher Wiles, born 1878, the son of Joseph Pitt Wiles, a Cambridge schoolmaster. He read mathematics at St John’s College, and in 1903 emigrated to South Africa. As a teacher, he was headmaster of Indwe High School and of Graeme College, both in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. He married Marion Gilbert, his cousin, and they had four children. Clement Wiles died at Cape Town on 1 December 1964, aged 86.

Clement Wiles had developed an interest in the history of the Wiles family and accumulated family documents and genealogical information until the 1950s. He traced the Wiles tree to Holywell near Stamford in south Lincolnshire in the early eighteenth century. The sons of Henry Wiles (1729-1815), a gardener at Holywell, all settled in the Caribbean. The eldest, James, settled in Jamaica as superintendent of the Botanic Gardens, and was in due course joined by his brothers Henry and John. All three became plantation owners with enslaved labour. Henry’s children were educated in England, and his son John (1812-1908) entered the Cambridge statuary business of his uncle John Gilbert (who had married Elizabeth Wiles). John Wiles married his cousin Eliza Gilbert, and carried on his uncle’s firm. His fourth son Joseph Pitts Wiles (1849-1929) became headmaster of Warkworth House School in Cambridge, and a Baptist minister in Cambridge and Devizes. He and his first wife Mary Parker had a large family, of whom the eldest was Clement Christopher Wiles.

Clement inherited some of the correspondence of James Wiles (1768-1851) and his brothers, much of it written to their sister Ann in London, beginning in the 1790s, as well as letters and other documents of his grandfather John Wiles, the statuary, and his father, Joseph Pitts Wiles. To this collection he added letters to himself from his mother, his aunt Elizabeth Ann Wiles, his brothers and sisters, and his three elder children. To many of the letters he appended explanatory notes, either on separate sheets of paper, or in pencil on the documents themselves. He reduced the length of some items (mostly of twentieth-century date), carefully noting in each case the number of words that he had excised. In his later years he compiled a hand-written volume entitled ‘Family letters and records 1690-1956’, incorporating an introductory survey, transcripts of all the original documents and of his notes, a detailed index of names, and a genealogical table.


0.015 cubic metre(s) (1 box)

Language of Materials



The catalogue follows Clement Wiles’ arrangement of the documents.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The original letters and other documents, and Clement Wiles’ explanatory notes, were presented to the University Library in 1967 by his family per his eldest son Dr G.G. Wiles of the University of Cape Town. A photocopy of ‘Family letters & records 1690-1756’ (Add.7721/193) was purchased from Mrs Gilian Wiles of Cambridge in 2001.

S.G. Roberts
Jan. 2016
Description rules
International Standard for Archival Description - General
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Revision Statements

  • 26 April 2022: This catalogue was revised by Sally Kent to address absences and silences in the original catalogue description. The sections relating to Jamaica (MS Add.7721/1-19, 20-34 and 39-41) were revised to include explicit reference to slavery. A previous version of the catalogue is available on request.

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

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