Using the Connexional Archive
Deposited at the University of Manchester Library are collections created by the Church which complement locally kept records. The major sources for the local historian are as follows:
- The Property Division
- Magzines and newspapers
- Local histories
- Methodist letters and diaries
- The Wesley Papers
- Circuit Plans
- District minutes
1. The Property Division
This Connexional department exists to guide and assist circuits and districts in the administration of property. Its area of responsibility is not confined to real estate but this does account for most of the work carried out by the Division.
The records of the Property Division cover the period from the early nineteenth century to the present day and some of the documents refer back to the eighteenth century. The Wesleyan Methodist Connexion is the best represented of the pre-union churches, although there is information relating to most of the major Methodist denominations.
The Property Division Archive is a very large and rich collection, containing information about individual chapels and associated buildings on a national scale. Among the information which the researcher can often uncover about a chapel are the dates and costs of construction or modification, building dimensions, capacity, value of pew rents and appointment of trustees. There is also a large body of papers relating to finance, war damage and chapel redundancy. There are, however, very few illustrations or building plans.
This collection is listed and indexed.
Important: The archivist must be consulted regarding access to records created during the last fifty years
2. Magazines and Newspapers
Since 1778 the Methodist Church has been active in the publishing of magazines and newspapers. From the early nineteenth century the Connexional magazines of the various denominations reported news from the circuits such as the construction and opening of new chapels, anniversary celebrations and obituaries of local Methodists.
Complete or almost complete sets of most of these periodicals are available at the Methodist Archive and are listed in A Checklist of British Methodist Periodicals, compiled by E. A. Rose. There are also index cards for individual chapels available in the Methodist Archive Place Index.
3. Local Histories
The Methodist Archive has a collection of several thousand chapel and circuit histories. These vary from leaflets marking an anniversary to works of serious academic research. Many of them are indexed by place in the Methodist Archive Index, but those which have been deposited in recent years are unlisted and enquiry should therefore be made of the Library staff.
4. Methodist Letters and Diaries
The largest manuscript collection in the Archive consists of the personal papers of several hundred ministers and lay people from the eighteenth century to the present. These invariably contain references to chapels and circuits and are a valuable source of information about local Methodism. The collection is listed by person in the Catalog of Methodist Archival and MS Collections (Part 6) by Homer L. Calkin and there are detailed calendars for the papers of several individuals of particular significance.
5. The Wesley Papers
The Methodist Archive has the world's largest surviving collection of manuscripts relating to the founders of Methodism, John and Charles Wesley. The collection includes letters, diaries and other papers, many of which describe visits to Methodist societies throughout Britain and Ireland between 1739 and 1791.
The papers of John Wesley have been published and are widely available. The Charles Wesley collection has recently been calendared.
6. Circuit Plans
Circuit Plans contain the names of local preachers with a list of their appointments to preach at particular chapels. The collection at the Methodist Archive is the largest in Britain and covers two hundred years of Methodist history. It is representative of every Methodist denomination and most circuits, but it is not comprehensive.
Many of the circuit plans are listed in the Methodist Archive Index and there is a rich collection of Primitive Methodist plans in the Hartley Victoria College collection, of which a catalogue is available.
7. District Minutes
The Methodist Archive has a large collection of district minutes dating from the late eighteenth century to the present. These provide a valuable insight into the running of Methodism at district and circuit level. The collection is partially indexed by place.