(Historical account to 1860)
Because of the unsatisfactory nature of the leasehold premises of the Wesleyan Theological Institution at both Hoxton, where the institution opened in 1834, and Stoke Newington, where the auxiliary branch opened in 1839, the Wesleyan Methodist Conference decided to build two appropriate houses, one near London, the other near Manchester, to accommodate the anticipated increase in student numbers. Funding these buildings was the first commitment of the Centenary Fund in 1839, with £24,000 initially allocated to the house near London. Because the committee of management had trouble finding a suitable site near London for the Southern Branch, the Northern Branch in Didsbury opened first in 1842.
The Wesleyan Theological College, Richmond, Surrey [courtesy of Dr Michael Brealey, Wesley College, Bristol]
In 1841 a 'very eligible property' on Richmond Hill, Surrey, was finally purchased and settled on the trustees of the Wesleyan Theological Institution; the negotiations were conducted by the institution's treasurer, Thomas Farmer (Report for 1841 (1842), xvii). The property, totalling about eleven acres, consisted of a substantial mansion, two other houses and two cottages, extensive gardens, and several acres of land. A number of architects were invited to submit plans for the new building, and Andrew Trimen of Regent Street (who published Church and Chapel Architecture in 1849) was chosen; the contractors were Evans and Co. of Oxford. Comparison with ancient collegiate buildings was evidently intended. Trimen's imposing neo-Tudor building of ashlar Bath stone, adjoining the original manor house, was on three floors with a tower and two wings, and with a frontage of 248 feet. The entrance hall, dining hall, and lecture rooms were on the ground floor, the library and studies on the second, and bedrooms for sixty students on the third. The cost of the building was £11,000. The statue of John Wesley in the entrance hall (now in Methodist Central Hall, Westminster) was donated by Farmer in 1848. The house governor and theological tutor lived in the manor house, and the classical tutor in the modified dairy buildings. A new Wesleyan chapel was built in 1850, described by Thomas Jackson in his manuscript 'Recollections': 'Connected with the Theological Institution is a commodious and beautiful chapel, for which we are mainly indebted to the kindness and liberality of Mr Farmer, of Gunnersbury-house' (Methodist Archives and Research Centre, MAW334 MS 154, notebook 16). A new organ was installed in 1859.
The Methodist Archives and Research Centre at The John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester, holds the records of the Wesleyan Theological Institution:
the Wesleyan Theological Institute [sic] collection, including the printed annual reports, and the Richmond College collection. The Richmond College Library collection (MAB R/-) comprises several thousand monographs, bound pamphlets and periodicals covering the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries; it is not currently known how much of Jackson's original library survives.
Barber, W. T. A., A Short History of "Richmond" ( [London], 1926) [held by the Richmond Hill Campus of the American International University in London and the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History].
Brash, W. Bardsley, The Story of Our Colleges 1835-1935: A Centenary Record of Ministerial Training in the Methodist Church (London, 1935), chapter 6.
Brown, Kenneth D., 'Nineteenth-Century Methodist Theological College Principals: A Survey', Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society, 44 (1984), 93-102.
A Catalogue of Books and Manuscripts, presented to the Wesleyan Theological Institution, in the Year MDCCCLIX, by James Heald, Esq. [London, 1859].
Cumbers, Frank H. (ed.), Richmond College, 1843-1943 (London, 1944).
Jackson, Thomas, The Centenary of Wesleyan Methodism. A Brief Sketch of the Rise, Progress, and Present State of the Wesleyan-Methodist Societies throughout the World (London, 1839), 239-40.
-----, The Present Demand for a Well-Trained Ministry. An Inaugural Address, Delivered on Occasion of the Commencement of the Annual Review of the Wesleyan Theological Institution at Richmond, September 11th, 1860 (London, 1860).
-----, Recollections of My Own Life and Times, ed. B. Frankland (London, 1874; first pub. 1873), 322-9, 403-4.
Johnson, Dale A., The Changing Shape of English Nonconformity, 1825-1925 (New York and Oxford, 1999), chapter 3.
-----, 'The Methodist Quest for an Educated Ministry', Church History, 51: 3 (1982), 304-320.
The Methodist Societies: The Minutes of Conference, ed. Henry Rack, The Works of John Wesley, vol. 10 (Nashville, TN, 2011), 81.
Nicholls, Michael Kenneth, 'Ministerial Training in London, 1830-1890: A Comparative Study', unpublished MPhil thesis, University of London (1990).
'Opening of the Southern Branch of the Wesleyan Theological Institution, Richmond', Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine, 22 (October 1843), 853-4.
'Opening of the Wesleyan Theological Institution, at Richmond', Illustrated London News, 73 (September 23, 1843), 208.
Pritchard, F. C., 'Education', in A History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain, ed. Rupert Davies, A. Raymond George, and Gordon Rupp, vol. 3 (London, 1983).
Reports of the Wesleyan Theological Institution (1841-1860).
Senior, Geoffrey R., 'Piercy, George', Dictionary of Methodism in Britain and Ireland, ed. John A. Vickers (Peterborough, 2000); online edn: www.wesleyhistoricalsociety.org.uk/dmbi.
Isabel Rivers, 'Wesleyan Theological Institution: Southern Branch, Richmond (1843-1972)', Dissenting Academies Online: Database and Encyclopedia, Dr Williams's Centre for Dissenting Studies, September 2012.