Papers of the Venn MSS

Scope and Content

This collection comprises personal and family papers of five generations of the Venn family, a family of Anglican clergy, a number of whom graduated from the University of Cambridge. The collection principally relates to Henry Venn (1725-1797) and to his direct descendants including his son John Venn (1759-1813), his grandson Henry Venn (1796-1873), his great grandson John Venn (1834-1923) and their families. Two members of this family were directly involved with the Church Missionary Society: John Venn (1759-1813) as a founder of the CMS and Henry Venn (1796-1873) as honorary secretary of the Church Missionary Society, 1841-1873.

The collection also contains papers of related families including the King family of Hull (related by the marriage of Katherine to John Venn, 1759-1813). The collection includes substantial family and personal correspondence; personal diaries including numerous travel journals both of journeys in the British Isles and abroad; household and personal accounts; genealogical notes and biographical and autobiographical reminiscences and materials; papers relating to clerical and other appointments; religious papers and printed materials. Both male and female members of the family are well represented in the collection and some of the documents are extremely detailed.

The collection owes much to John Venn's work. He published the Annals of the Venn family in 1904 and he in turn acknowledged the work of his grandfather, John Venn, who encouraged the collection of family reminiscences and memoirs. Items include travel diaries relating to tours of France, Belgium and Switzerland and a domestic diary of Emelia Venn, 1815-32; correspondence and papers of John Venn, (1802-1890), including a journal of voyage to India, autobiographical notes and personal accounts, 1820-67; correspondence, diaries and papers of Henry Venn (1796-1873), 1810-73 which include two diaries relating to Church Missionary Society matters. Miscellaneous items include two log books of the East India Company's ship Hindostan relating to its voyage to Bombay and China, 1796-1800.

Administrative / Biographical History

Administrative/Biographical History

The collection relates to the following generations of the Venn family:

First generation: Henry Venn (1725-1797): Son of Richard Venn (1691-1740); M.A. Jesus College, Cambridge, 1749; fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge, 1749-1757; curate of Clapham, 1754; vicar of Huddersfield, 1759; rector of Yelling; published sermons and devotional works. He married Eling Bishop (d c 1767, daughter of Reverend Thomas Bishop, minister of St Mary-le-Tower, Ipswich); his children included a son, John (1759-1813) and daughters, Catherine and Jane.

Second generation: John Venn (1759-1813): Only son of Henry Venn (1725-1797); B.A. Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, 1786, M.A. 1786; ordained deacon 1782 and priest, 1783; curate to his father at Yelling, later rector of Little Dunham, Norfolk, 1783-1792, then rector of Clapham, Surrey 1792-1813 and of Great Tey, Essex, 1804-1813. He was one of the founders of Church Missionary Society in 1797, the central figure of the Clapham 'Sect' and a friend of Charles Simeon (1759-1836), another founding member of the CMS. He married twice: Katherine King (daughter of William King, merchant of Hull) and Frances Turton (daughter of John Turton of Sugnal near Eccleshall, Staffs). Children from his first marriage included Emelia (1794-1881), Henry (1796-1873), John (1802-1890), Caroline (who married Reverend S. E. Batten) and Jane.

Third generation: Henry Venn (1796-1873): Eldest son of John Venn (1759-1813); B.A. Queens' College Cambridge, 1818, M.A. 1821, B.D. 1828; Fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge, 1819-1829; ordained deacon 1819 and priest, 1821; curate of St Dunstan-in-the-West; returned to Cambridge, 1824 as dean and college lecturer; vicar of Drypool, Hull, 1827 and rector of St John's Holloway, London, 1834-1847; prebendary of St Paul's, 1846; honorary secretary of the Church Missionary Society, 1841-1873. He published sermons, pamphlets and memoirs including Life and Letters of Henry Venn (his grandfather) and Missionary Life of Xavier . He was a leader of the Evangelical body of the Church of England and a member of the Royal Commissions on Clerical Subscriptions and Ritual Reform. He married Martha Sykes (d. 1840, daughter of Nicholas Sykes of Swanland near Hull); his children included Henrietta (1832-1902), John (1834-1923) and Henry (1838-1923).

John Venn (1802-1890): Second son of John Venn (1759-1813); East India College, Haileybury, 1818-1820 and went to India as a Cadet but invalided home; B.A. Queens' College, Cambridge 1827, M.A. 1830; Fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge, 1829-1834; ordained deacon, 1828 and priest, 1829; curate of St Mary-le -Strand, London, 1828-1829 and of Pinner, Middlesex, 1830-1833; vicar of St Peter's with St Owen's, Hereford, 1833-1870; prebendary of Hereford, 1843-1868. He provided a steam corn mill for the benefit of the poor and started an Industrious Aid Society. He was author of a number of theological works including St Paul's Three Chapters on Holiness and Commentary on St Paul's Epistle to the Galatians . He was unmarried.

Fourth generation: John Venn (1834-1923) Son of Henry Venn (1796-1873); B.A. Caius College, Cambridge, 1857, M.A. 1860, DSc, 1884; Fellow of Caius College, Cambridge, 1857-1923; President, 1912-1923; ordained deacon in 1858 and priest, 1859; curate of Cheshunt, Herts, 1858-1859 and of Mortlake, Surrey, 1860-1862; lecturer in Moral Science at the University of Cambridge from 1862, Hulsean Lecturer in 1869 and one of those involved in the development of the Moral Sciences Tripos. His publications included Logic of Chance , 1866, 3rd edition 1888; Hulsean Lectures , 1869; Symbolic Logic , 1881, 2nd edition 1894; and Empirical Logic , 1889, 2nd edn 1907. In his later life he devoted himself to the publication of University and College records which included Biographical History of Gonville and Caius College , 3 volumes 1901. He also collaborated with his son on the preparation of Part 1 of Alumni Cantabrigienses and Matriculations and Degrees 1544-1659 . He was also interested in the history and genealogy of the Venn family and published the Venn Family Annals , 1904. He married Susanna Carnegie Edmondstone (daughter of Reverend Charles Welland Edmondstone) and had one son, John Archibald Venn (1881-1958).

Fifth generation: John Archibald Venn (1881-1958): Son of John Venn (1834-1923); B.A. Trinity College, Cambridge, 1902; Fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge, 1927; Lecturer in the History and Economics of Agriculture, University of Cambridge, 1921-1949; President of Queens' College, Cambridge, from 1932 and Vice-Chancellor, 1941-1943; publications included The Book of Matriculations and Degrees, 1544-1659 ; Alumni Cantabrigienses ; Foundations of Agricultural Economics (2nd edition 1933);and numerous contributions to the Economic Journal and other periodicals; married Lucy Marion Ridgeway (daughter of Professor Sir William Ridgeway).

Reference: Editions of Alumni Cantabrigiensis, Part II ( Cambridge University Press, 1954 ). Who Was Who


This collection forms part of the Church Missionary Society Unofficial Papers. It is arranged into the following series: Title Deeds, Family Papers (divided into sub-series by document type and further sub-divided by family member), Charity and Ecclesiastical, Correspondence (divided into sub-series by family member) and Miscellaneous Papers.

Access Information

Access Conditions

Open. Access to all registered researchers.

Acquisition Information

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Presented to the CMS by a member of the Venn family in 1958 and transferred on permanent loan to the Special Collections Department by the CMS in the 1980s.

Other Finding Aids

See full catalogue for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Related Material

The Special Collections Department holds the Church Missionary Society Archive, the official archive of the society (GB 150 CMS) and this includes papers relating to John Venn (1759-1813) as a founder of the CMS and Henry Venn (1796-1873) as honorary secretary of the Church Missionary Society, 1841-1873. The CMS Unofficial Papers includes records of the Eclectic Society of London of which John Venn was a member and which was instrumental in the founding of the CMS (GB 150 CMS/ACC11).

The University of Birmingham, Special Collections Department and the Orchard Learning Resources Centre hold a rich collection of archives relating to missions, charities and other religious and ecclesiastical organisations and individuals.

Other collections containing papers of and relating to members of the Venn family are held by a number of other institutions. These include correspondence of Henry Venn (1725-1797) with Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, 1763-70 (held by Westminster and Cheshunt College Library: GB 278); correspondence of Henry Venn (1796-1873) with W.E. Gladstone, 1849-56 (held by British Library, Manuscript Collections: GB 058 Add MSS 44368-85) and letters to Bishop Selwyn 1841-49 (held by Cambridge University: Selwyn College Library: GB 276); and correspondence and papers of John Venn (1834-1923) (held by Cambridge University: Gonville and Caius College Library: GB 467 John Venn papers); and his genealogical research notes (held by the Society of Genealogists: GB 2034 Venn Collection).


Publication Note

Annals of a clerical family being some account of the family and descendants of William Venn, Vicar of Otterton, Devon, 1600-1621 by John Venn (London, Macmillan, 1904) makes use of materials in this collection. A copy is available in the collection at GB 150 CMS/ACC81/Z/27/1