Academy names

Previous scholars have tended to give names to academies according to their geographical locations. The tendency to establish institutions in areas where there was a large dissenting population resulted in academies being located in the same place at different times. This led some historians to distinguish between academies using Roman numerals. Thus names such as Exeter I, II, and III, Taunton I and II, and Manchester I and II appear in the secondary literature, often suggesting a tenuous, or nonexistent, continuity between different institutions.  A common practice was also to describe successive related institutions as a single entity. For example, the academies run by David Jennings at Wellclose Square and by the trustees of William Coward at Hoxton have often been put under the common label of Hoxton Academy. Similarly, academies supported by the King's Head Society in Clerkenwell, Deptford, Stepney, London, and Mile End have been identified as Homerton Academy, which they preceded.


The names adopted hitherto are therefore often misleading, particularly in the case of academies that underwent frequent relocation, or where links between successive institutions are far from clear. One such example is the academy run by Thomas Rowe, which has often been regarded as a continuation of that established at Newington Green by Theophilus Gale. This has led historians to refer to the academies of both Gale and Rowe as the 'Newington Green Academy', resulting in the assertion that Isaac Watts was educated by Rowe at Newington Green or Stoke Newington. In fact, while Rowe succeeded Gale as pastor to the Independent congregation in St Andrew's parish, Holborn, it is not true that his academy was a continuation of that run by Gale. By the time Watts began his studies, Rowe's academy was probably in Ropemaker's Alley, Moorfields, London.


To break the cycle of perpetuating previous errors a new system of nomenclature has been adopted. Each academy has been assigned its own unique name, which in turn means that searches for the traditional name may not retrieve the desired results. In such cases users should search for academies under the name of their principal tutor or a known location. The following conventions have been adopted in order to make the identification of academies more straightforward:

  • Where an academy had an official name or one that was commonly used at the time, this has been given in the database: for example, Blackburn Independent Academy, Brecon Memorial College, or Homerton Academy. 
  • If the above was not the case, the second preference is for the name of the sole or main (usually theological and resident) tutor, followed by up to two locations: for example, Philip Doddridge's Academy, Northampton, or Samuel Jones's Academy, Gloucester and Tewkesbury.
  • Where the academy remained under a sole tutor, but moved regularly, only the tutor's name is given: for example, Thomas Doolittle's Academy.
  • Where there were multiple tutors in a single location, none of whom can be identified as having charge of an academy, the location has been used: for example, Plaisterer's Hall Academy; Moorfields Academy; Warrington Academy.

For the early period, a number of 'academies' have been identified that could more accurately be defined as the private tuition of a small number of students for the ministry by a single tutor. These have been identified as such, and the academy name gives only the identity of the tutor and known location, with the word 'Academy' omitted: for example, John Flavell, Dartmouth. Two further types of dissenting education have been identified in the course of the project. The theological halls in Scotland provided instruction in divinity to students seceding from the established Church of Scotland, who continued to receive the remainder of their education at one of the universities. In England and Wales a number of preparatory academies offered a course of elementary education to students prior to their entry to a full academy. These have been clearly labelled as such in the database. Where the sources do not permit a clear categorization of the level of education provided the academy type is given as ‘uncertain’.


The structure of academy entries

The database entries for academies are displayed in up to five tabs. If one of the five sections contains at present no information the tab in question is not shown. For an example of an entry with all five tabs, see Manchester College, York (1803-1840).

1. The Brief details tab displays information about any alternative names by which the academy has been known; the known location(s) of the academy (including links to historical maps on the Vision of Britain website); the names of any forerunner and successor to the academy; the academy type (academy; preparatory academy; private tuition; or theological hall); whether it admitted lay students as well as ministerial students; the denomination which supported the academy (if known); the status of the student numbers in the database (all known student names entered; evidence for student names incomplete; student names not yet entered); and the funding bodies that supported and in some cases managed the academy. 

2. The Academy history tab provides a detailed up-to-date history of the academy.  These histories only cover the period up to 1860, even when the academy in question continued beyond that date. In the latter case a brief summary of the academy's later history is provided, including where applicable changes of location and amalgamation with other academies. In some cases successive, and closely related, academies are covered in a single article, with separate database entries for each phase in the history of the institution.

The following academies at present have histories:

Abergavenny Academy (1757-1781)
Airedale Independent College (1800-1888)
Associate Presbytery Divinity Hall (1737-1747)
Associate Synod (Burgher) Divinity Hall (1747-1820) and United Secession Divinity Hall (1820-1847)
Bala Calvinistic Methodist College (1837-1922)
Baptist College, Stepney (1810-1856) and Regent's Park College, London (1856-1927)
Blackburn Independent Academy (1816-1843)
Bristol Baptist Academy (1720 to present)
Carmarthen Academy (c.1703-1795)
Carmarthen Academy, later Presbyterian College, Carmarthen (1795-1963)
Cheshunt College (1792-1967)
Constitutional, Protester and United Original Secession Divinity Halls (1806-1852)
Cotton End Academy (1840-1874)
Coward College (1833-1850)
Daventry Academy (1752-1789)
David Jennings's Academy, Wellclose Square (1744-1762)
Findern and Derby Academy (c.1712-1754)
General Associate (Anti-Burgher) Divinity Hall (1748-1820) including New Light Anti-Burghers (1807-1820)
Gosport Academy (1777-1826)
Hackney Unitarian Academy (1812-1818)
Homerton Academy (1769-1850)
Horton Academy (1806-1859) and Rawdon College (1859-1964)
Hoxton Academy (1764-1785)
Hoxton Missionary College (1826-1830)
Hoxton [Independent] Academy (1791-1826) and Highbury College (1826-1850)
James Scott's Academy, Heckmondwike (1756-1783)
John Fawcett's Academy (c.1773-1805), continued by John Fawcett Jr (1805-c.1832)
John Horsey's Academy, Northampton (1789-1798)
John Jennings's Academy, Kibworth Harcourt and Hinckley (c.1715-1723)
Killyleagh Philosophy School (c.1696-c.1714)
King's Head Society Academies (1731-1769)
Lancashire Independent College (1843-1958)
Leaf Square Academy (1811-1813)
Manchester College, York (1803-1840)
Manchester New College, London (1853-1889)
Manchester New College, Manchester (1840-1853)
Moorfields Academy (1712-1744)
New College, Hackney (1786-1796)
New College, London (1850-1977)
New College, Manchester (1786-1803)
Newport Pagnell Academy (1783-1850)
Original Burgher (Old Light Burghers) Divinity Hall (1799-1839)
Pastor's College (1857 to present)
Reformed Presbyterian Divinity Hall (1803-1876)
Relief Church Divinity Hall (1824-1847)
Rice Price's Academy, Tyn-ton (c.1698-c.1720)
Roger Griffith's Academy, Abergavenny (1697-1702)
Rotherham Independent College (1795-1888)
Samuel Walker's Academy, Northowram (1783-1794)
The Countess of Huntingdon's College, Trevecka (1768-1791)
The Presbyterian College, London (1844-1899)
The Western Academy (1752-1845)
Timothy Kenrick's Academy, Exeter (1799-1805)
Trevecka Calvinistic Methodist College (1842-1906)
Unitarian Home Missionary Board (1854 to present)
United Presbyterian Church Divinity Hall (1847-1900)
Warrington Academy (1757-1786)
Wesleyan Theological Institution: Hoxton (1834-1842) and Abney House (1839-1843)
Wesleyan Theological Institution: Northern Branch, Didsbury (1842-1940)
Wesleyan Theological Institution: Southern Branch, Richmond (1843-1972)
Western College, Plymouth (1845-1901)
William Roby's Academy (1803-1808)
Wymondley Academy (1799-1833)

3. The Tutors tab lists the names of all the known tutors who taught at the academy, with their life dates and the dates when they taught at the academy if known. The data can be sorted into date order by clicking the arrows at the head of each column. For further information, see Students and Tutors.


4. The Students tab lists the names of all the known students who attended the academy, with their life dates and the dates they studied at the academy if known. The data can be sorted into date order by clicking the arrows at the head of each column. For further information, see Students and Tutors. 

5. The Archives tab lists all the known manuscript sources relating to the academy. For further information, see Archives.

Searching Academies using Advanced Search

The following fields are searchable:

  • Academy name
  • Location
  • County
  • Country
  • Funding bodies
  • Denomination
  • Forerunner
  • Successor
  • Academy type

It is possible to search all the fields listed above in several combinations. The results can be limited by date, using the dropdown Start or End or Dates in existence: for example Country = Wales will display thirty-two results, and if limited by Dates in existence = 1800 to 1860 will display eighteen results. 

Searches for academies in a specific county can be combined with a specific denomination or funding body: for example County = Lancashire and Funding Bodies = Presbyterian will display four results. 

If you are not sure of the name or the spelling of an academy, you can search for the first part of the name: for example North will display Northampton and Northowram as well as the Wesleyan Theological Institution: Northern Branch.

Under Academy type, the following can be searched: academy, preparatory academy, private tuition, theological hall.

Sources for academy entries

The Database and Encyclopedia is based on extensive primary research conducted using a wide range of manuscript and published sources. Where available, the administrative records of an academy have been consulted to provide an accurate account of the history of an institution. Important archive collections include the New College, London collection at Dr Williams's Library, London, the records of the northern Congregational colleges at The John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester, and the minutes and accounts of the Common Fund, Presbyterian Fund, and Congregational Fund at Dr Williams’s Library. The purpose of the database is to provide a comprehensive and up-to-date account of the academies based on the available records.