Brethren Photograph Collection

  • Reference
      GB 133 BPC
  • Dates of Creation
      c1850 - [ongoing]
      1979 to date.
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      151 Photographs, 14 photograph albums, 126 negatives and 7 CD roms.
  • Location
      Collection available at University Archive and Records Centre, main John Rylands University Library.

Scope and Content

The collection contains photographs of prominent Brethren personalities and preachers, Brethren congregations, Brethren missionaries, Gospel Halls and meeting places.

The collection would be of interest to anyone studying the history of the Brethren, biographers of Brethren individuals, and those interested in chapel architecture.

Administrative / Biographical History

The title 'Christian Brethren' is the name often given to a group of independent autonomous Christian congregations, which trace their origins back to Ireland in the 1820's. They are sometimes referred to as the Plymouth Brethren, or just Brethren, but some members dislike such titles because they suggest that they are a denomination. The Brethren have seen themselves as returning to an earlier tradition of worship as practiced in the New Testament, before the creation of formal churches and denominations.

The Brethren movement split in two in 1848 and the two wings are often referred to as the 'Open Brethren' and the 'Exclusive Brethren'. These titles continue to be used despite continued fragmentation and division, particularly in the 'Exclusive Brethren', in the years since. The movement in its various forms is a very 'broad church', but there are a number of distinctive doctrinal and ecclesiological features that characterize congregations in the Brethren tradition.

Exclusive groups (of which there are a number of different variations) have often adopted more tightly knit and centralized organizational forms. The independent and autonomous nature of 'open' congregations means that there is no centralized decision-making, and no hierarchy to police the Brethren for conformity; consequently there is much variety. Having said this, in many congregations across the world there is a clear sense of Brethren identity, a community of worship, and a similarity of belief. On the other hand, in recent years many independent 'open' congregations, which trace their roots to Brethren traditions, have changed, adapting to changing circumstances, and would be loath to describe themselves by the name 'Brethren'. The 'Brethren' have always had a strong evangelistic and missionary thrust. In consequence, there are 'Brethren' congregations in up to 130 countries in the world.


The collection has been organised into the following series:

  • Photographs
  • Photograph Albums
  • Compact Discs

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Other Finding Aids

There is an earlier typewritten catalogue CBA H7. The present catalogue replaces this finding aid.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Keeper of Manuscripts and Archives, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The collection was accumulated as a part of the Christian Brethren Archive. Since its creation in 1979, the Archive has been the place of deposit for books, periodicals and archival material from within the Brethren tradition. Over time this built up into a large collection which included photographs. In the 1980s it was decided to form a discrete collection of photographical materials and a typescript catalogue was produced. Since then further photographs have been added to the collection, and the current catalogue represents an amalgamation of the old catalogue with the photographic material added since.

Related Material

There are other photographic materials in the following Christian Brethren collections:


Tim Grass, Gathering to his name: the story of the open brethren in Britain and Ireland (Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press, 2006)

Neil Dickson, Brethren in Scotland 1838-2000 (Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 2002)

Henry Pickering, Chief men among the Brethren (London: Pickering and Inglis, n.d.)