The Personal Papers of Samuel Bardsley: Correspondence and Diaries

Scope and Content

The Samuel Bardsley collection consists of original correspondence and related documents produced by Samuel Bardsley during the early 18th and late 19th centuries. It is made up of correspondence, and four books, only one of which has been catalogued; this contains transcripts of letters and a diary.

The letters begin with Samuel Bardsley’s second year as an itinerant preacher in 1769 (when he was 23) and cover the next nine years during which he served important circuits in England and Scotland. Those letters transcribed in the book cover his time in the Derbyshire and Macclesfield circuits between 19 September 1772 to 4 October 1773 .

The diary covers fourteen months from August 1765 (the year he was introduced to John Wesley) to October 1766 when he was aged nineteen. It covers Bardsley's early preaching attempts in Manchester and surrounding towns and villages. The worship life of the Manchester Methodist society is described in detail and among several interesting features of the narrative, Bardsley often summarised the sermons of other preachers as part of his own drive for education. The diary represents a remarkably vivid account of the everyday life and ministry of a local preacher who went on to become one of Wesley's chief itinerants.

Unlike some of his contemporaries, Bardsley's handwriting is legible and his narrative follows a natural progression. His record of events in correspondence and diaries is detailed and he shows no reluctance to reveal names and describe incidents or his own innermost feelings, as for example on August 20th 1765 when he relates how, during his visit to Manchester for the Conference, John Wesley took Bardsley's arm and walked with him through the streets of the city; Bardsley was struck by this gesture of comradeship from an Oxford-educated Anglican minister to a Manchester bottle-washer and thereby reveals one of the secrets of Wesley's ability to inspire and lead men and women from all backgrounds.

Administrative / Biographical History

Samuel Bardsley was born in Manchester the son of Martha Bardsley (father’s name unknown). He had at least two brothers [Jeremiah and John], one sister and a cousin who lived in Denton which was then on the outskirts of the city. In 1765, when he was first introduced to John Wesley, he was working as an errand boy and bottle washer for a Manchester merchant. He was influenced by the itinerant John Pawson to enter the itinerancy in 1768. He went on to become for a time the senior preacher of the connexion, having served important circuits in England and Scotland for fifty years.

Bardsley was a good pastor and a powerful speaker held in high esteem and affection by John Wesley with whom he often corresponded. He was one of a hundred preachers named in the 1784 Deed of Declaration, although it is curious to note that Wesley never appears to have appointed him to the office of assistant, except for his time in the Bideford circuit where he was the only preacher.

Bardsley remained active in the active ministry until his death which occurred suddenly in August 1818, while travelling home from the Leeds Conference.

Bardsley had been engaged in the late 1760s to the Manchester Methodist Molly Charlton but ended the relationship because of the opposition of his mother, John Pawson and John Wesley. He remained single for the rest of his life although he was for a time connected by rumour to the prominent Methodist Hester Ann Roe. She went on to marry his colleague James Rogers.


The collection consists of 1 box of manuscript material comprising 77 letters, and 1 book which is a Letter Book and Diary. The collection has been catalogued in two series. The loose letters have been catalogued as part of the PLP collection, and the folio as BRD/1:

  • PLP/5/6 - Loose Letters of Samuel Bardsley.
  • BRD/1 - Letter Books and Diaries

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The Methodist Church

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue of the Collection was produced by Gareth Lloyd in December 2000. The present catalogue has been produced to replace this with an ISAD(G) compliant catalogue.

Alternative Form Available

The items listed below have been published as a part of the microfiche collection: Clive Field (ed.), The people called Methodists: a documentary history of the Methodist church in Great Britain and Ireland on microfiche (Leiden, Netherlands: IDC Publishers, 1998). The description here is that contained in the published Guide to the microform collection, which contains the John Rylands University Library reference, followed by the microfiche reference in square brackets.

  • Bardsley, Samuel. Journal, 1765-66, and Letter-books, 1772-76. 4 vol. MAB Diaries. [MP-612 mf. 1-21]

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.

Geographical Names