On a recent trip to Manchester in August, I stumbled upon the Methodist Archives and Research Centre (MARC) at the John Rylands Library, located at the University of Manchester on Deansgate Road in the city centre. I discovered that the MARC had moved there in 1977 from its original place at John Wesley’s Chapel, City Road, London.
The MARC was established in 1961 by the Methodist Church of Great Britain to house the Connexional records of the Church. I was impressed to find out that the MARC holds the world’s largest collection of manuscripts relating to the founders of Methodism – John and Charles Wesley – and other members of the Wesley family.
Arriving at the John Rylands Library, I discovered that there was a recent renovation at the rear of the awe-inspiring Victorian Gothic brick building where the Special Collections Reading Room was located. I headed upstairs to the 4th floor to seek entry to the Methodist Archives Section.
The website stated that I would need to make a prior appointment with Dr Peter Nockles or Dr Gareth Lloyd at the University of Manchester to gain access to the Methodist Collection. The other person I could contact was Mr Owen Roberts, the Methodist Heritage Officer, but he was away in the London Office.
Not being easily discouraged, I approached the receptionist, who was very helpful. After filling up the required application form with identification that I was a Singapore Methodist and a member of the Kampong Kapor Methodist Church Archives Committee, I was given access into the Reading Room.
They offer a closed-access reader service which means that items must be requested beforehand. They are then retrieved by staff and brought to your desk in the Reading Room. Special Collections items cannot be borrowed.
The collection of printed and archival material owned by the Methodist Church of Great Britain and deposited in the MARC is acknowledged to be one of the world’s finest resources for the study of evangelical religion.
The collection contains approximately 70,000 printed items and several million manuscripts dating from the early 18th century until the present. Methodists have been involved in every area of public life and the archives reflect this diversity, containing materials across a wide spectrum of subjects from secular education and the armed forces to anti-slavery literature, the spread of British influence overseas, industrial relations, and political agitation.
Inside the Reading Room, the catalogues for the Methodist Church collection can be found in hard copy on the shelves but they can also be viewed in digital format from the desktop monitors.
For the first time, a guide to the entire Methodist collection has been made available online, in PDF format. The Guide to Methodist Resources at The University of Manchester1 contains summary descriptions of all the principal sub-collections within the MARC, divided into archival and printed categories.
Other sections of the guide include the provenance (origins) of the collection, an overview of Methodist history, information about digital resources, and online and printed bibliographies.
My hope is that those interested in the history of the Methodist Church, past and present, are made aware of the rich resources now available online:
Not forgetting our own Methodist Church in Singapore Archives and History Library at archives.methodist.org.sg!
Richard Fong –
is a member of the Kampong Kapor Methodist Church Archives Committee.
Photos courtesy of Richard Fong