George Müller Collection

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This collection contains a wide-ranging body of documents concerned with the various works undertaken by the Scriptural Knowledge Institute. It contains: documents pertaining to missionary schools outside of the UK supported by the Scriptural Knowledge Institute, documents pertaining to a school within the UK supported by the SKI, and papers related to the establishment and maintenance of the SKI itself, as well as the life of its founder George Müller.

The first series is concerned with the running of multiple missionary schools in Guyana and Italy. These schools provide cheap or free religious education to poor children and they are supported by the SKI, both financially and with regard to religious materials. The collection details the day-to-day challenges of running such schools, for example the constant financial struggles faced due to underfunding. Many of the papers are concerned with budgets and accounts, and with ways to save money and to make ends meet. They also give an in-depth insight into the administrative maintenance of the schools, showcasing the teachers' needs and problems, as well as the lives of the pupils and the education that they receive. The papers also show the efforts of the men of the SKI to keep the schools running, through their correspondence with each other and with the teachers and other support staff. The Guyana papers in particular give an insight into life in a missionary context.

The second series contains the documents pertaining to the maintenance of the SKI-supported school for poor children at Purton, Gloucestershire, UK. Religious affiliation was not a factor in the admittance of a pupil or employment of a teacher at this school, although the papers do suggest that the religious conversion of the pupils was important. Like the papers of the missionary schools abroad, this collection contains the papers connected to the day-to-day running of such a school. The men of the SKI responsible for this school are often the same as those connected to the Italian schools and again this collection demonstrates through their correspondence their commitment to its maintenance, though much of this collection showcases the eventual closure of the school due to it becoming financially untenable. Much of the collection therefore deals with accounts and expenses, as well as with issues of employment and the careers of the teachers. This collection gives more insight into the lives of the pupils, the work they undertook and the school trips they partook in, and gives a good insight into their lives after school.

The final series is concerned with Müller himself, his life and work, and the work of others connected to the Institute, such as missionaries or preachers. The collection nevertheless gives a good general account of the work of the SKI, though many of the documents are concerned with Müller's personal history and his individual work. This series contains more religious material than the previous two, showcasing the religious affinity of Müller and the spiritual aims of the SKI. There are many documents pertaining to doctrinal discussion and religious discourse, and some material relating to Müller's involvement in minor divisions within the Open Brethren.

Administrative / Biographical History

George Müller was a member of the Open Brethren, born in Germany in 1805 and educated at the University of Halle to become a priest despite his lack of belief at the time. Accounts of his life widely consider his youth to be one of sin and decadence, but during his studies a friendship with some Christians led to his conversion and following graduation he undertook missionary work in London, working to convert the local Jewish population. He later took a position as a vicar in Bristol, refusing to take a salary and instead trusting his congregation to give whatever they could to support him.

The Scriptual Knowledge Institute was founded in 1834 to help local schools in religious education and in the circulation of bibles and other religious literature. After becoming aware of the situation of many orphans in the UK and feeling saddened over an orphan boy who attended a school supported by the SKI having to go into a poor-house, Müller decided to expand the Institute to assist orphans. Given his commitment to the principle of 'living by faith', Müller refused to actively fund-raise for the Institute and instead relied upon the generosity of the public to raise funds.

Nevertheless, the SKI managed to raise enough money to rent a house in 1835 in which to establish an orphanage and provide them with food. Over the following years, the Institute expanded and in 1849 the orphanage was moved to Ashley Down, where four more houses were purchased over the following years and thousands of orphans housed. In addition, Müller expanded the SKI still further and supported charity schools in the UK and missionary schools abroad. These schools were supplied with teachers from amongst the orphan population at Ashley Down, with pupil teachers being trained there and sent out to schools.

The schools provided free or cheap education to poor children until the late 1920s/early 1930s when the financial burden of maintaining the schools became too great and they were closed. While the schools were Christian, and the missionary schools placed importance on the religious education of the pupils, the primary aim was to provide an education and the religious affiliation of the children was not considered an obstacle to their admittance.

Arrangement

Upon arrival at the archive, the collection was arranged in multiple folders, and this original order has been maintained. The collection has been organised into the following three series: 

  • GMS/1 Papers of Missionary Schools Abroad
  • GMS/2 Purton School Papers
  • GMS/3 Papers of the Müller Foundation

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Donated to the archive by the Müller Foundation.

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 Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

This collection was held in the museum at Müller House, the headquarters of the George Müller Charitable Trust, and the trustees agreed that because of the strong Brethren connection of these particular papers they should be transferred to the CBA.

Accruals

None expected

Bibliography

Arthur Tappan Pierson, George Müller of Bristol: His Life of Prayer and Faith (London: J. Nisbit, 1930)

Basil Miller, George Müller: The Man of Faith (Grand Rapids: Zonderban, 1941)

Frederick Warne, George Müller (London: Pickering and Inglis, 1937)

Personal Names