The archives section of the database contains information about archival holdings relating to the history of dissenting academies in the British Isles from 1660 to 1860. Information has been obtained from a variety of sources, and as a result a range of different standards of description will be found among the data. Information is provided about collections held by over seventy Repositories. The most important of these are Bristol Baptist College; Castle Hill United Reformed Church, Northampton; the Congregational Library, London; Dr Williams's Library, London (including the records of New College, London); Harris Manchester College, Oxford; The John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester (including the Methodist Archives and Research Centre); the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth; and Regent’s Park College, Oxford, Angus Library. Material from all of these collections was consulted directly by members of the project team during the construction of the database.

Information has been obtained from the following sources/methods of collection:

  • Scanning and inputting of information from published and unpublished handlists of archives held by the Congregational Library, Dr Williams's Library, and Harris Manchester College.
  • Searches for academies and tutors in the National Register of Archives (NRA), Access to Archives and other online finding aids.
  • Consultation of unpublished archive catalogues and handlists registered in the National Register of Archives, including Westminster College, Cambridge, Wesley College, Bristol, and The John Rylands Library.
  • Online archive catalogues of individual repositories, including the British Library, the National Library of Wales, and local record offices.
  • Surveys of uncatalogued or partially listed collections and direct consultation of specific types of material, including manuscript lecture notes and correspondence. Visits were paid to the following libraries and archives: Birmingham University Library, Bristol Baptist College Library, the British Library, the Congregational Library, Dr Williams's Library, Harris Manchester College, The John Rylands Library, the National Library of Wales, the Northern Baptist College Record Room (Luther King House, Manchester), Regent’s Park College, Angus Library, Shropshire Archives, and Wesley College, Bristol.
  • Correspondence with librarians and archivists, particularly Emma Walsh and Julian Lock (Angus Library), David Wykes and Jane Giscombe (Dr Williams's Library), David Powell (Congregational Library), Sue Killoran (Harris Manchester College), Ed Potten and Peter Nockles (The John Rylands Library), Beryl Evans (National Library of Wales), Michael Brealey (Wesley College, Bristol), Shirley Shire and Roger Hayden (Bristol Baptist College), and staff at the North Yorkshire County Record Office, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, Shropshire Archives, Devon Record Office, Gwent Record Office, and Lancaster Reference Library.

Where information has been obtained from an unpublished or electronic catalogue the level of detail provided is likely to be more limited than for material that has been consulted directly.

The archives data is presented as a finding aid for researchers interested in the history of dissenting academies. An individual entry may describe a collection, series of records, or individual item depending on the available finding aids and the level of information obtained.


Searching Archives using Advanced Search

The database entries for archives can be searched in up to nine fields:

1. Repository: a full list of repositories included in the database is provided here: Repositories. Searching for some repositories, notably Bristol Baptist College, the Congregational Library, Dr Williams's Library, Harris Manchester College, and The John Rylands Library, will produce a very large number of records. When searching the Repository field use only the main name or part of it, as some locations are not indexed.

2. Reference number: where available, manuscript sources can be searched by reference number. These are entered according to the conventions of the repository by which the manuscript is held. Due to variations in formatting, it is advisable to search for part of the reference only. For example, a search for 'Seddon' will retrieve all references to MSS Seddon (Harris Manchester College). A search for NCL/L54/1 will find references to Dr Williams's Library, MS NCL/L54/1/1-60.

3. Collection: the name of the collection, for example Northampton.

4. Creator: the surname of the author or writer of the document, for example Wilson.

5. Title: of item (often taken from the handlist or calendar), for example Blackburn MSS.

6. Description: brief description of the contents, for example lectures.

7. Person as subject: names of those mentioned in the document. To find records associated with a specific individual it is recommended that both Creator and Person as subject fields are searched simultaneously. Recipients of letters have usually been indexed as subjects, as have the names of tutors where notes of their lectures are in the hand of a student. Most records relating to tutors and other individuals who played a major role in the life of an academy have been indexed and will be found through this type of search. However, passing references to students and other individuals are not yet fully indexed. Searches of the personal name fields should be supplemented with a search for the surname in the Title and Description fields.

8. Academy as subject: name(s) of academy(ies) mentioned in document. Academies are indexed according to the form of name used in the academy entries. Before searching this field the academies section of the database should be consulted for the correct name and to distinguish between institutions with similar names.

9. Subject keywords: these were originally added to the database to help with the identification of material relevant to different sections of A History of the Dissenting Academies in the British Isles 1660-1860. Keywords were developed as content was added to the database, and are often based on catalogue descriptions rather than direct consultation of material. Therefore, they do not provide a comprehensive overview of the topics covered by an individual manuscript or collection. Further information about the subject areas covered can be found by searching the title and description fields. An alphabetical list of keywords and phrases that can be used to search the database is provided here: Archives Subject Keywords.