Collection Focus: Wesley Historical Society (Yorkshire)

This collection was deposited at the University of Huddersfield in 2005 and forms part of the Non-conformist collections.

Wesleyan and Methodist heritage is an integral part of the history of countries worldwide The Society has regional Societies one of which is Yorkshire which started in 1962.

Methodism is a Christian denomination which began in mid-eighteenth Century in Britain by John Wesley although the sect originated in Germany. The history of Methodism can be found here. The site explains how the different sects were combined to form the United Methodist Church:

In the twentieth century most of the different Methodist denominations united together. The New Connexion, Bible Christians and United Methodist Free Churches (another breakaway following a major controversy in the Wesleyan church from 1849) came together in 1907, forming the United Methodist Church. That in turn joined with the Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists in 1932.

The Wesley Historical Society website states the aims of the society – which were set down at its formation in 1893 – were to promote:
1. The study of the history and literature of early Methodism.
2. Research into the Wesley family.
3. Investigation into the beginnings and development of Methodism.
And afterwards this scope widened to include:-
1. The history of all sections of The British Methodist Church that United in 1932.
2. Other Wesleyan and Methodist denominations.

This is a wide ranging, nationally important resource comprising over 13,000 books and archive items collected by the Yorkshire branch of the Wesley Historical Society. Items include Methodist Magazines, Conference Reports, Class Tickets, Biographies of prominent and interesting members of the Methodist Church and various documents relating to chapel events. Histories of many of the chapels are included although no registers are held in this resource. The Collection also has circuit plans, books, postcards and photographs showing individual Ministers, churches and various outings or events held by the Methodists, directories, histories of Chapels, class tickets, conference reports, bills showing forthcoming events, Methodist publications such as Methodist Recorder.

When the collection was deposited it was not electronically listed but details were held in a card index system. This is still available as a cross-reference tool in the Heritage Quay search room. The Collection catalogue is now available via our website at The collection is still growing as deposits are made each year by the Society.

methodist circuit plan

    Collection Highlights

WHS/5939, The Life of Ida May Haigh: The Child Vocalist of Golcar. This book is quite attractive and tells the story of her life, although ends sadly as Ida May died very young.


WHS/11881 Illuminated document showing the historical genealogy of the Otley circuit.


    Society of Cirplanologists

Registers of Methodist Circuit Plans 1770-1860 produced by the Society of Cirplanologists with supplements at various stages e.g. 1963, 1970

These plans detail ministers and lay preachers who were grouped into circuits. By 1770 this lead to the development of a matrix for the quarterly scheme of appointments which in turn formed into a directory showing preacher’s names, addresses details of chapels and other information. The Cirplanologists study these and they publish their research which is useful for family research.

Key Collections Series: Non-Conformity

The largest collection charting the history of non-conformity is that of the Wesley Historical Society (Yorkshire Branch). This collection which is still actively accruing material, covers circuit plans, leaflets, books and supporting historical material (such as centenary and anniversary brochures for chapels) for Wesleyan Methodist chapels across Yorkshire. It is an equally interesting collection for genealogists as it is for researchers of Methodist history. The history of chapels can be traced, as can the careers of preachers and the involvement of local individuals and families in the history of a particular place. A supplementary reference library also exists to complement the archival collection, which contains original books from the nineteenth century and books providing historical context and analysis of Methodist history, magazines and conference proceedings. The Lumbutts Sunday School Archive is an example of a library collection removed intact from a chapel and transferred to the archives which speaks to the methods used at the time to teach young children, and the type of literature deemed most appropriate at that time.


Print of a painting of John Wesley by Frank Salisbury, c1932.
Print of a painting of John Wesley by Frank Salisbury, c1932.
Illuminated certificate presented to Mr George Allen, Leeds First Primitive Methodist Circuit, 1887.
Illuminated certificate presented to Mr George Allen, Leeds First Primitive Methodist Circuit, 1887.












The Scholes-Monaghan Collection is an archive of the history of a family involved in Wesleyan Methodist missionary work throughout the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These contain personal accounts of journeys to and missionary work in China, and ephemera collected during their time abroad. The collection also reflects the history of a family, with photographs and accounts of journeys through Europe, diaries, educational and family documents and correspondence. The Guest collection is another family archive deeply rooted in the Methodist tradition.


Summer Bridge Chapel, Easter Tuesday 1894 meeting poster
Summer Bridge Chapel, Easter Tuesday 1894 meeting poster
Huddersfield Mission Annual Report, 1961.
Huddersfield Mission Annual Report, 1961.










There are also a number of smaller collections reflecting the history of non-conformity across the past two centuries. The Randerson collection contains Wesleyan Class Tickets from the 18th and 19th centuries. The Pacey Sermons contain transcripts of early twentieth century sermons, whilst a collection of books in the John Lancaster collection chart the history of Christadelphianism and the Leonard Smith collection contains books on Unitarianism.


Catalogued Collections

Randerson Archive –

Wesley Historical Society (Yorkshire) –


Uncatalogued Collections

Scholes-Monaghan Archive –

Guest Family History Archive –

Pacey Sermons Archive –

John Lancaster Collection –

Leonard Smith Collection –



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