Papers Relating to Harold St.John

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 HSJ
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      English and Spanish , English unless otherwise stated.
  • Physical Description
      0.5 linear metres
  • Location
      University Archive and Records Centre, main University Library.

Scope and Content

The papers here listed include original letters written to and by H. St.John, photographs of H. St.John and others, notebooks, notes for lectures, typescripts and MSS for addresses and articles by H. St.John, printed articles by H. St.John and others extracted from periodicals and books, tracts by H. St.John and a few other miscellaneous items.

Two aspects of his life provide context for some of the items in the collection. During the later part of his life, H. St.John and his wife lived in a flat at Clarendon School, Abergele where his wife's sister was the headmistress: H. St.John often gave lectures to staff and pupils at the school. Second, H. St.John wrote for and edited the New York periodical, The Bible Scholar.

Administrative / Biographical History

Harold St.John, the notable Bible scholar, teacher and missionary was born in 1876. His father was the treasurer of Sarawak in Malaysia, and his work for the diplomatic service meant that Harold’s childhood was spent travelling around the Far East, as well as spending periods in Germany and Belgium. His mother was deeply religious having been converted to evangelical Christianity in the Brethren tradition, and she brought Harold and his siblings up as Christians. At the age of 18 he underwent a profound conversion experience, after which he devoted himself to a life of preaching the Gospel.

As a young man Harold aspired to an education at Oxford University, but was unable to live up to his aspirations when his father died in Mexico leaving the family in straightened circumstances. Harold obtained work in a bank in London, where he was to remain for the next twenty or so years. Despite long working hours, he devoted his spare time to preaching the Gospel. He preached in the east End of London and in Hyde Park, but was particularly attracted to work among the slums. At first unsuccessful, he found that he improved his chances of a hearing if he abandoned his smart clothing, dressed down and spent time living among the poor in common lodging houses. He also conducted an evangelical campaign in St. Ives, Cornwall.

In 1913, at the age of 36 he resigned his position at the bank to devote himself to full time missionary activity. He married Ella Swain in 1914, and together they moved to Brazil. After six months in Brazil he engaged on a preaching tour of Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. In 1917, with the help of Stuart McNair, St.John set up a Bible School in Carangola in Brazil. He left here for British Guyana in 1921, and spent the next forty years as an itinerant missionary. In the course of his travels he visited North and South America, the West Indies, Europe, North and South Africa, Palestine, Australia and New Zealand.

In his final years he settled in North Wales. Here he undertook Bible teaching at a girls’ school in Abegele, where his wife’s sister was headmistress.

Harold St.John was highly regarded in Brethren circles for his missionary activity, but he was also revered for his detailed knowledge of the Bible. The Biblical scholar F.F. Bruce said, ‘we younger men referred to him as “The Maestro”’ and that ‘for detailed acquaintance with the text of the Scripture he had few equals’.

He and his wife Ella had five children. He died in 1957.


The collection has been divided into two parts, consisting of the main collection and a separate list of items acquired at a later date.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

The archive may contain personal data about living individuals, and readers are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 in their use of the material. This finding aid may also contain personal data about living individuals. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The John Rylands University Library (JRUL) holds the right to process such personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the JRUL to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the JRUL has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately, according to the Data Protection Principles.

Acquisition Information

The papers were bequeathed to the Library by Mr.G.C.D. Howley.

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue of the Collection was produced by Susan M. Noble in 1984 (reference number CBA H5). The present catalogue has been produced to replace this with a modern ISAD(G) compliant catalogue.

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

Many items were originally kept by H. St.John himself, while others - notably many of the letters- were written by H. St.John and were kept by the addressees.


Patricia St.John, Harold St.John. A portrait by his daughter (London: Pickering and Inglis, 1961)

The Collected Writings of Harold St.John (2 volumes), with an introduction by James Anderson

Geographical Names