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

  • You will need to register to get in: check what you will need to do this before you set off!
  • The documents will be kept in a strong room, and you will need to ask before you can look at them in the reading room. Make sure you leave time to look up what you want in the catalogue, and time for the staff to find it for you.
  • You will not be able to borrow anything.
  • You will only be allowed to take a few things in. Use pencils or a laptop to make notes.
  • You may be asked to use surrogate copies (photocopies, microform or digital copies). This is to protect the originals.
  • Remember that archivists and librarians are trained to help you find information. They can show you how to find answers to your questions about Methodism, but they won't necessarily know the answers themselves.

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

  • Records of Methodism at national level
  • Missionary records
  • Local records
  • Archives of Methodist training institutions
  • Libraries focussing on Methodism

 

The connexional archives
(the records of the church at the national level) are held at the Methodist Archives and Research Centre, The University of Manchester Library. At the last count there were 100,000 items in these collections.

Follow these links to discover whether MARC has the material in which you are interested, and how you may view the collection.

  • Before going to Manchester it is essential that you read the guide to the Special collections at www.library.manchester.ac.uk/specialcollections/ especially the sections on becoming a reader and using the Reading Rooms. The Special Collections are housed in the John Rylands Library on Deansgate. Although part of the University, this building is open to the public and you will be welcomed, but like all archives you do need to register to use the collections. This is as much for the benefit of the Methodist Church, and you as a user, as for the University: the point of keeping things safe is so that future users will also have the same opportunities.

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
and its predecessors are held at SOAS, University of London.

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
are held in local authority record offices across the country. This is also where you will find the records of the groups of local churches known as Circuits and those of the 31 Districts into which Methodism is divided. The best way to find out what is available is the National Archives Discovery catalogue http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/

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.

  • Wesley House, Cambridge has 500 items in an archive, which are mainly institutional records, but include the Beales-Coulson Archive of material relating to the early days of student Methodist Societies. www.wesley.cam.ac.uk/
  • Queens Foundation, Birmingham holds institutional records from 1978. www.queens.ac.uk/
  • Cliff College has a large archive of 1,157 items, recently listed. These are mainly institutional records, but there is a collection of material relating to the eighteenth century preacher, John Fletcher. www.cliffcollege.ac.uk/
  • The Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History holds the institutional records of Westminster College, a Methodist teacher training college, and the personal papers of Rev Dr Donald English and Rev Bill Gowland www.history.brookes.ac.uk/research/centres/ocmch/library/
  • Southlands College was another Methodist teacher training college, now part of the University of Roehampton. The institutional records are still held on site, and have been listed at www.aim25.ac.uk/cgibin/vcdf/detail?coll_id=5486&inst_id=50&nv1=browse&nv2=repos

 

Other Methodist libraries

There are a number of libraries that are open to those researching into Methodism.


Manchester Wesley Research Centre
Dene Road, Didsbury, Manchester M20 2GU

Offers facilities for scholars, which may be explored by visiting the website www.mwrc.ac.uk/mwrc

 

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:

Wesley Historical Society
John Wesley's Chapel Bristol (The New Room)
Kingswood School

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

 

 

 


 

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