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Unitarian College Archives

Date range: 1654–2004.

The Unitarian College, Manchester, was founded in May 1854 as the Unitarian Home Missionary Board, in order to train men for ministry among the poor, following the departure of Manchester College to London in the previous year.

In 1889 it changed its name to the Unitarian Home Missionary College, and it assumed its present title in 1925.

The College moved to a new home, ‘Summerville’, in the salubrious suburb of Victoria Park in 1905, where it resided until 1985, when it relocated to Luther King House in neighbouring Rusholme. It has gradually achieved parity of status with Harris Manchester College, which is now situated in Oxford.

The Unitarian College Archive encompasses the institutional records of the Unitarian College in Manchester, the records of other Unitarian bodies, and the papers of numerous individuals who were prominent in the Unitarian movement.

It is of major importance not only to the history of the College but also to the history of Unitarianism, Puritanism and Dissent in general.

The College's own records include:

  • applications for admission
  • reports of the principal, tutors and visitors on students and applicants
  • correspondence providing information on admissions, examinations and finance; library records
  • various minute books and record books, 1854-1953

Other institutional records concern:

  • the history of Dissenting and Presbyterian/Unitarian colleges and academies, particularly those at Warrington, Rathmell, Hoxton, Homerton, Daventry and Hackney, 1754-1796
  • lectures delivered at Manchester College during its Manchester, York and London phases, 1787-1856
  • minutes of the meetings of Presbyterian and Unitarian ministers in Lancashire and Cheshire, 1820-1875
  • minutes of the Manchester District Sunday School Association, 1845-1934; records of the Manchester Unitarian Sunday School Union, 1864-1914
  • minutes of the Monthly Conference of Ministers, 1882-1943; minutes of `The Brotherhood', the Manchester and district ministerial society, 1889-1917
  • records of several Unitarian churches and chapels

Personal papers comprise letters, diaries, texts of sermons and tracts, lecture notes, accounts and autobiographical material, c.1720-1943.

Among those represented are:

  • George Benson (1699-1762)
  • Joseph Ryder (1693-1768)
  • Nicholas Clayton (1733?-1797)
  • Theophilus Lindsey (1723-1808)
  • William Shepherd (1768-1847)
  • James Hews Bransby (1783-1847)
  • John Relly Beard (1800-1876)
  • John Gordon (1807-1880)
  • James Martineau (1805-1900)
  • George Fox (1834-1916)
  • Alexander Gordon (1841-1931)
  • Walter Herbert Burgess (1867-1943)

Alexander Gordon contributed biographies of some seven hundred Nonconformist figures to the Dictionary of National Biography; his papers include a substantial collection of research notes on approximately six hundred and fifty of these.

See also

Finding aids

Catalogue available online via ELGAR.


The John Rylands Library

Using the reading rooms in the John Rylands Library

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