School of History, Philosophy and Culture

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  • Special collections

    Wesley Historical Society Library

    A leading collection of published material on British Methodism, with archival and other material.

    • Library Catalogue – includes all published books and pamphlets in the Wesley Historical Society Library, including serials.
    • The library also holds a significant amount of locally generated material, such as church leaflets relating to specific events.
    • The library also receives the bulletins of the (British) regional Methodist history societies, Methodist interest groups and also Methodist historical organisations in other countries.

    The Wesley Historical Society library includes a number of documentary, visual and ephemera holdings, including some original letters from John and Charles Wesley.

    Specific areas of interest include:

    • Collections of historic circuit plans
    • Collections of unofficial national surveys of present and former Methodist churches .
    • A collection of some 3000 images of Methodists, mostly Wesleyan ministers.
    • Folio volumes of memorabilia from Presidents of the Wesleyan conference.
    • Papers of Alfred Taberer relating to the compilation of the 1983 Methodist hymn book, 'Hymns and Psalms'.
    • Archives of the Wesley Historical Society, including the 'W.H.S. Manuscript Journal'.


    AVEC consultancy archives

    The AVEC consultancy archives are a valuable resource comprising extensive collections of background papers related to various phases of action-research into church and community development between 1976 and 1994.

    Archives of Bletchey Park/Lady Spencer Churchill College

    Documents relating to Anglican-Methodist reunion

    Papers relating to the unsuccessful 1968 Anglican-Methodist Unity scheme, including those from Rev Professor C.K. Barrett and others opposed to the scheme.

    Oxford Institute for Methodist theological studies

    The Oxford Institute is an affiliate of the World Methodist Council which has met in Oxford generally about every five years since 1958. It is a gathering of Methodist scholars around the world to foster and support disciplined theological study among professional scholars and scholarly ministers and laypersons within the Methodist and Wesleyan traditions.

    Westminster College archives

    The first Wesleyan Methodist training college for teachers was founded in Westminster, London in 1851 and moved to Oxford in 1959. It merged with Oxford Brookes University in 2000. The extensive archive contains official and personal papers, photographs and memorabilia covering over 150 years of the institutions history and heritage. This is also a major resource for educational historians.

    There is also a collection of books by or about former staff or students of the College.

    Papers of leading 20th-century Methodists

    Dr Francis L. Bartels

    Dr Bartels, who trained at Westminster College 1931-35, was a leading African educationalist. A former pupil of Mfantsipim School, Cape Coast, He returned to Ghana to become the first black African headmaster of the school between 1942-1961. His papers relate to his work with UNESCO and education in Africa, c.1960-c.2010.

    Rev Dr Donald English

    Donald English was a leading conservative evangelical, a gifted speaker, the only person to be elected twice as President of the [British] Methodist Conference since Methodist Union in 1932. He was also Chair of the World Methodist Council 1991-96. His papers include some of his bible and sermon notes, and [cassette] recordings of many of his talks and addresses.

    Rev William ('Bill') Gowland

    'Bill' Gowland (1911–1991) was a leading and influential figure in British Methodism. His evangelical background moved him into exploring radical new ways to make Christianity real in the changing world of the 20th century. He established Luton Industrial College, providing training, courses and conferences which dealt not simply with industrial ministry but with all aspects of the church's life in the modern world.

    Rev Dr Colin Morris

    Methodist minister, missionary, preacher, writer and broadcaster. In Zambia 1956–1969 Rev Dr Colin Morris was elected first President of the United Church of Zambia. He became known for his passionate and outspoken views on political and social issues and was a close friend of President Kenneth Kaunda. A Methodist minister in Britain, in 1978 he joined the BBC, becoming Head of Religious Broadcasting and from 1987 to 1991 was Controller of BBC Northern Ireland. His books include 'Include Me Out', 'Unyoung, Uncoloured, Unpoor'.

    Professor W.R. ('Reg') Ward

    Professor 'Reg' Ward was a leading historian of the English church in the eighteenth century. He became Professor of Modern History at the University of Durham and a Fellow of the British Academy. His books include Religion and Society in England: 1790-1850 (HarperCollins, 1972) The Protestant Evangelical Awakening (Cambridge University Press, 1992). He co-edited seven volumes of John Wesley's Journals and Diaries in the Bicentennial Edition of the Works of John Wesley (Abingdon Press, 1988-2003), also The Early Correspondence of Jabez Bunting (Royal Historical Society, 1972).

    Art collections

    Many works in the collections can be viewed online

    • The Smetham Collection
      James Smetham was an associate of the pre-Raphaelites and the first drawing master of Westminster College. The family collection comprises some 40 paintings and etchings as well as books, diaries and sketchbooks.
    • Methodist Church House Collection
      Portraits and pictures formerly held in the offices of the Methodist Church and the headquarters of the Methodist Missionary Society in London.
    • Westminster College Collection
      This includes portraits of former principals as well as art works bought by or donated to the College. Notable works include John Piper's depiction of the College at Horseferry Road, and Peter Collingwood's Wallhanging.
    • Wesley Historical Society Collection
      Historic pictures and prints belonging to the WHS library.
    • Bletchley Park College Collection
      This collection includes works by Evelyn Dunbar, including sketches for a projected, but unpainted, mural at the College.