There are five main archival collections kept here at Westminster College: the Presbyterian Church of England archive, the United Reformed Church History Society collection, the records of Westminster College, the records of Cheshunt College (including correspondence with the Countess of Huntingdon), and the Churches of Christ archive. Details are also given below for some related collections which are held elsewhere – the URC archives, the Congregational archives, and missionary records, for example.
Presbyterian Church of England Archive, 1844-1972
The national-level records of the Presbyterian Church in England (1844-1876) and the Presbyterian Church of England (1876-1972) include papers and committee minutes relating to ministry, mission, education, finance, youth work and inter-denominational relations. Westminster College is also home to the indexed, published records of the National Synods and General Assemblies from 1844-1972.
URC History Society Collections, 1646-present
These collections include material relating to the Presbyterian and URC traditions, early editions of the Westminster Confession of Faith, S.W. Carruthers’ collection of seventeenth century Parliamentary Fast sermons, some of Philip Doddridge’s letters, and many early printed books in the Reformed tradition. We also hold historical yearbooks and magazines (the Presbyterian Messenger, the Evangelical Magazine, and the Congregational, Presbyterian and Churches of Christ yearbooks), a series of published church histories, and a run of composite biographical files about Presbyterian ministers, which are invaluable to family and local history researchers.
Westminster College Archive, 1844-present
Westminster College was built in 1899 to house the Presbyterian Church of England’s theological college following its move from London to Cambridge. With the creation of the United Reformed Church in 1972, Westminster became one of the URC’s colleges, and is now a Resource Centre for Learning. The archive comprises the day-to-day records of Westminster College and some records from its predecessor in London, and the books, papers, watercolours and photographs of Mrs Agnes Lewis and Mrs Margaret Gibson, scholars, explorers, and benefactors of the College in Cambridge. The library at the College contains a unique collection of hymnals spanning 300 years and an enormous range of books and journals on theology and the history of dissent and nonconformity.
Cheshunt College Archive, 1768-1967
In 1967 Westminster College joined with Cheshunt College, the lineal descendant of the Countess of Huntingdon’s training college for ministers which was originally founded at Trevecca in 1768. The archive includes the records of Cheshunt College, letters written to the Countess, and some of her personal books.
The diaries of William Copeland Astbury (1783-1868), which are part of the Cheshunt collection, have recently been transcribed by Dr Stephen Orchard, and an index has been published online at http://www.astburydiary.org.uk
Some sources from the Cheshunt Archive are also being published in Margaret Bird’s new volume on the Diary of Mary Hardy (1733-1809) – the diary of a wife of Norfolk farmer, maltster and brewer – which is online at http://maryhardysdiary.co.uk/
Churches of Christ Archive, 1842-1981
The records of the Church as a national body have just been transferred to Westminster College. These archives are currently in the process of being catalogued, but we hope to make them available for consultation soon.
Related collections held elsewhere
Local URC records, including records belonging to individual churches
Please note, we do not hold any registers of baptism, marriage and burial. Any registers, as well as other records of URC churches, are either held by those churches or will have been deposited at the church’s local County Record Office. URC Synod records are held by individual Synods (contact details are on the URC website, www.urc.org.uk).
The records from the URC’s constituent denominations are held at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. These include the London Missionary Society, the Council for World Mission (Congregational), and the Foreign Missions Committee (Presbyterian). For further information, please see www.soas.ac.uk.
Archives of the United Reformed Church
The URC archive tells the story of the national URC from its foundation in 1972 to the present day, and is housed in the Congregational Library at Dr Williams’s Library in London. For further information, please see www.dwlib.co.uk.
The archive of Pilots, a Christian organisation for young people, forms part of the URC archive, and is held at URC Church House in London. For further information, please see www.urc.org.uk
Archives of the Congregational Church in England and Wales
The records of the central institutions of the Congregational Church – previously the Congregational Union of England and Wales – from 1831 until 1972 sit alongside the URC archive in the Congregational Library. For further information please see http://dwl.ac.uk/
Archives of the Congregation Union of Scotland
The Congregational Union of Scotland joined the United Reformed Church in 2000, and their archives from 1838-1991 are held at Glasgow Record Office. For further information, please see www.glasgowlife.org.uk
Featured image: Frontispiece from A Collection of Hymns Universally Sung in the Chapels of the late Countess of Huntingdon, published by G Thompson, 1798. From the Cheshunt Foundation