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Lewis Court Bible Christian Collection

Lewis Court Bible Christian Collection (Methodist Archives)

Date range: 1815-1932

Lewis Henry Court (1871-1960) was born into a Bible Christian family in Kingsbrompton, Somerset. He became a local preacher at the age of seventeen, and entered the full-time ministry four years later. He served in home circuits for 42 years, mainly in the south-west of England, before he was forced into retirement by ill health in 1934. Court was a gifted writer and artist, who authored several books on Methodist history and related subjects. He also published several collections of poetry.

The Bible Christian Church was founded by a dissident Wesleyan Methodist preacher William O’Bryan (1778-1868), who began a plan of independent evangelism on 18 October 1815 in North Cornwall. The first society of 22 members was established at Lake Farm in the small Devon village of Shebbear. They were termed Bible Christians because of their practice of regularly consulting the scriptures for guidance. Bible Christians were noted for their zeal and extensive use of female preachers.

The movement spread rapidly in south-west England and by 1820 missions had been planted in the Channel Isles and Kent, although the heartland of the denomination remained in the south-west. Overseas missions, which sometimes followed migrating Cornish tin miners, were established in Canada (1845), Australia (1850), New Zealand (1878) and China (1885). The Bible Christians joined with the United Methodist Free Churches and the Methodist New Connexion in 1907 to form the United Methodist Church. At the time of union, they had 220 ministers, 1,500 local preachers and 34,640 members.

The United Methodist Church joined in 1932 with the Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain.

The collection, amassed by Lewis Court over a period of about 50 years, consists of the correspondence of the O’Bryan family, 1815-65; letters of prominent preachers, material concerning missions in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and China;  photographs and portrait engravings of several hundred Bible Christian and United Methodist ministers, 1840-1932; and correspondence concerning the provenance of the collection.

Finding aids: Catalogue available online via ELGAR.

Location

The John Rylands Library

Using the reading rooms in the John Rylands Library

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