Methodist Archives and Libraries
How to find them... and how to use them
There are a number of collections of institutional and personal records relating to the Methodist Church and Methodism, and also a range of libraries that contain good collections of material.
General guidance on using archives may be found at www.bl.uk/blpac/pdf/handling.pdf
The key points are
We would also recommend looking at this useful guide if you intend using archives in your research http://archiveshub.ac.uk/guides/usingarchives/
There is no central archive or library for Methodism. The rest of this guide explains how to find
The connexional archives
Follow these links to discover whether MARC has the material in which you are interested, and how you may view the collection.
A detailed guide to the Methodist Collections may be found here www.library.manchester.ac.uk/rylands/special-collections/subject-areas/methodist-archives-and-research-collections/
The University Library of Manchester also contains an important collection of books on Methodism. Check the catalogue here for the 60,000 volumes in stock https://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/ The location is Special Collections (John Rylands Library). Remember that you will not be able to borrow any of these books, but you will be able to read them in the Library itself. Unlike the archives collection, the books at Manchester cover all aspects of the history at Methodism at all geographical regions.
The records of the Methodist Missionary Society
Follow these links to discover whether SOAS have the material in which you are interested, how you may access the collection, and how to find out about missionary collections in general.
The records of individual churches
This tool brings together the collections of The National Archives and those of all the record offices throughout the country who report theior holdings to The National Archives. If a detailed list of what is available has been put online, or the records have been digitised, links are provided.
The Circuit has always been the main unit of Methodism. Methodist ministers don't just look after one church, like other Christian clergy; neither are they the only people to lead worship in a church. People known as local preachers lead most Methodist services. This means that many of the administrative records of Methodism are created and kept at Circuit level, which has led to the Methodist Church and local record offices agreeing to arrange the records by Circuit, and not by individual church. If you are interested in studying Methodism in an area you will need to find out which Circuit covered that area. This can be done, and you may discover where the records of a particular Circuit might be, by using this tool www.methodistheritage.org.uk/research-circuitarchives.htm
If you are thinking of using a number of local record offices you should obtain a CARN (County Archive Research Network) ticket. CARN is a network of different record offices which have come together to have one standard ticket system.
These tickets are free; they are valid for four years and will give you access to any record office that belongs to the Research Network. You will need to produce some proof of identification containing a name and address eg. driving licence, utility bill or bank statement.
Other Methodist institutions with archives
The various theological or teacher training institutions still run by the Methodist Church retain their own archives. Once closed, these are moved to the Methodist archives and Research Centre. If your interest in these records, you will need to contact the individual institutions.
Other Methodist libraries
There are a number of libraries that are open to those researching into Methodism.
The Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History is based at Oxford Brookes University. The Wesley Historical Society Library is also based on this campus, and the Oxford Brookes University Library catalogue includes the catalogues of the following Methodist libraries:
The Wesley Historical Society Library is the largest collection of books on Methodism outside Manchester. The New Room Library in Bristol contains 4000 books on a wide range of Methodist topics.
These Methodist libraries can be searched online using this link http://catalogue.brookes.ac.uk/TalisPrism/?interface=Wesley&newsession=true
A more sophisticated catalogue may be searched by linking to http://capitadiscovery.co.uk/brookes/advancedsearch
Use the pull down menu to select the Collection (Wesleyan) or Location (any of the libraries listed above)
The Museum of Primitive Methodism (Englesea Brook) has a library of 7000 items, with particular emphasis on Primitive Methodism. The catalogue may be searched at http://service.modes.org.uk/enbpm/index.asp?page=index
The Wesley Historical Society, North East Branch Library is in the care of the Literary and Philosophical Society, Newcastle upon Tyne
The catalogue is found here www.litandphil.org.uk/dbWesley.asp?letter=A&booksIn=Reference
Cornish Methodist Historical Association Library
This is housed in the Cornish Studies Library in Redruth, but is not included in their online catalogue. The CMHA material is enhanced by books and journals acquired by The Cornish Studies Library (and in their catalogue).It covers the highly significant Methodist presence in Cornwall. www.cornwall.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=22544