Manchester State-Church Discussion

Scope and Content

A manuscript copy of a verbatim report by Henry Pitman of the discussions over Church-State relations and the campaign to disestablish the Church of England, held at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester on 13-15 March 1876. The copy was made for the Liberation Society, Manchester.

Administrative / Biographical History

The meeting reported in this manuscript took place over three days in March 1876, in the Manchester Free Trade Hall. The meeting gave an opportunity for both sides of the argument for the disestablishment of the Church of England to put their case to a large public audience. The primary parties in the discussion were Reverend J.J. Berger, vicar of St James's, Bolton, representative of the Northern Church Defence Association, and Mr J.H. Gordon on behalf of the Liberation Society. In 1874 Gordon had been appointed 'special lecturer' of the Liberation Society.

The British Anti-State-Church Association had been formed in 1844, and in 1853 it was renamed the Liberation Society (the Society for the Liberation of Religion from State Patronage and Control). Its aim was the disestablishment of the Church of England in its entirety. The Liberation Society gained a number of significant achievements in the 1860s, including the passing of Irish Church Act of 1869, which led to the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland two years later, and the abolition of compulsory church rates in 1868. By the 1870s the Society had a substantial membership and enjoyed widespread public support. The Church Defence Association was established to espouse the cause of antidisestablishmentarianism, in response to the threat posed to the Anglican Church by the Liberation Society.

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Donated to the John Rylands Library by the Liberation Society, Manchester, in October 1921.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan and Elizabeth Gow, project archivists, with reference to William H. Mackintosh, Disestablishment and liberation: the movement for the separation of the Anglican Church from state control (London: Epworth Press, 1972).

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928 (English MS 199).