This collection consists of the papers of the Unitarian Van Mission, Rochdale Unitarian Church, and other related historical documents. The papers are grouped together as part of a research project conducted by Rev John Roberts on the Unitarian Van Mission, written for the Unitarian Historical Society. Most of the papers are related to the Van Mission, for example newspaper cuttings and journal articles concerned with the Mission, as well as transcripts of speeches given during meetings held during the Mission and pages of information about the Unitarian faith. There are also pamphlets and circulars discussing various issues debated at the meetings, for example the question of women's place within Unitarianism and how formal theology and doctrine are considered within the faith. Roberts placed an advertisement in The Inquirer newspaper asking for information on the Van Mission and the resulting correspondence is also included in the collection, giving an insight from those who took part in the Mission or who witnessed the meetings or knew Spedding. There is also the diary of T.P Spedding, which takes the form of a scrapbook and includes numerous cuttings and images related to the Van Mission, as well as transcripts from speeches given at the meetings and minutes of discussions held. There is the script of the first tour in 1907 included in this diary, as well as correspondence between people involved and reports on the progress of the Mission. The diary records the names of people who were involved, as well as the numbers of meetings undertaken and the places visited.
The collection includes papers on the Rochdale Unitarian Church itself, as well as papers pertaining to the Blackwater Street and Clover Street chapels, from which it was created. These papers are mostly pertaining to the activities and ongoing development of the church and the community, for example there are several annual reports recording recent and future events held at the church, as well as documenting significant events in the lives of the congregation. There is the journal of the Sunday school, and a 'New Annals of Rochdale', which documents local social history in the first three decades of the twentieth century. These documents detail the history of the Rochdale Unitarian Chapel in the years prior to the Van Mission, detailing the development of the churches and their congregations, as well as the early ministry of Spedding and his work before he initiated the Mission. There is also a transcript from the funeral of Spedding in 1918.
There is a large number of photographs included with the collection. Some are print-outs of digital photos, but the majority are on photographic paper or backed onto card. Many of the photos are of the Van Mission: of the vans themselves, of the people involved, of the crowds who gathered to hear them speak, or of locations they visited. Others are photos of the Blackwater and Clover Street chapels, of the Rochdale Church or of various sites in the area which are relevant to Unitarianism or to the Van Mission. There are several glass photographic slides, showing images of a man (possibly Spedding) and churches and locations (possibly locations the Mission visited).
The research notes of Rev John Roberts can also be found within the collection, along with various handwritten pieces detailing his thoughts and opinions on various topics and issues within Unitarianism or on the Mission. There is his correspondence with people who were involved with the Mission and with the editor of the Unitarian Historical Society, as well as interview notes.