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Ranstead Collection

The Ranstead Collection is made up of 74 titles from the library of William Ranstead (1859–1944), which were donated to the Turnbull Library in 1964 by one of his sons. It is part of the Turnbull Named Collections.

The collection has a large number of works by Ranstead’s friend, the journalist and author Robert Blatchford (1851–1943), who was the founder of the socialist newspaper The Clarion. A number of these works are inscribed by the author. Works by Alexander M. Thompson (1861–1948), co-founder of The Clarion, inscribed to Ranstead are also included, as well as a small number of general works on socialism.

Ranstead was born in England to a working class family and received little education. However, he would eventually become the manager of Gandy Belt Manufacturing Company in Liverpool. This lucrative position allowed him to explore his interests in humanitarianism and socialism. After reading a book by Blatchford, Ranstead helped to financially support The Clarion.

Cover of A Book About Books, by Robert Blatchford, showing an inlaid illustration of a monk at a stack of volumes.
Robert Blatchford, A Book about books, 1903. Record page

In 1899, Ranstead visited New Zealand and cycled through both the North and South Islands. He was suitably impressed and described it as a ‘socialist Canaan’ in The Clarion. In response, many hopeful working class emigrants wrote to Ranstead who provided information and support for the would-be settlers. In 1900, some 200 ‘Clarion’ settlers arrived in New Zealand and although there was talk of a co-operative socialist settlement, this never eventuated and the settlers established independent lives.

It is estimated that all in all Ranstead’s writings inspired well over 1000 people to immigrate to New Zealand. The ‘Clarion’ settlers would have a profound effect on the political climate of New Zealand, reinvigorating the labour movement and founding the New Zealand Socialist Party, one of the forerunners to the Labour Party.

William Ranstead's papers in the Manuscripts collection

Photographs relating to William Ranstead

See more about Ranstead in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Ranstead bookplate attached to a book's inner papers, along with Alexander Turnbull's plate.
Ranstead bookplate in Samuel A. Barnett, Practicable socialism, 1888. Record page

Access items in this collection

Original items in this collection can be requested through the Library’s catalogue and consulted in the Katherine Mansfield Reading Room.

This collection is catalogued online and may be called up as a list on the National Library catalogue by searching ‘Ranstead’ using the ‘in call number’ search option in the NLNZ catalogue advanced search.