West Indies & British Guiana [Guyana] Incoming Correspondence

Scope and Content

Incoming correspondence from missionaries in the West Indies and British Guiana [Guyana] to the London Missionary Society headquarters. Includes correspondence from Tobago (1807-1813), Trinidad (1809-1829), Jamaica (1830-1894), Demerera (1807-1894), Berbice (1813-1879), and correspondence for the West Indies & British Guiana (1888-1923). The letters have been written predominantly by missionaries in the field, but there are also letters from the wives of missionaries; LMS officials, including directors and secretaries; teachers and members of local congregations, and representatives of private concerns including planters, magistrates, local and colonial officials, including governors.

Detailed cataloguing of letters has been completed at file level for certain areas and dates. This includes letters for Tobago, 1807-1813, and British Guiana, Demerara, 1807-1840. A list is also available for Box 1 of the letters for Jamaica, 1830-1835. Catalogue entries provide the names of correspondents, dates of letters, places and a summary of the subject matter. Letters for remaining areas and dates have yet to be catalogued.

Early letters from Tobago illustrate the beginnings of the LMS mission in response to suggestions that slaves needed the ministry of the gospel as the slave trade was being ended in British colonies in 1807. The LMS followed the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum or Herrnhut Brethren), which had withdrawn from Tobago. Correspondents include Richard Elliott, who served throughout LMS's presence in Tobago, 1808 to 1813, and Isaac Purkis.

The mission focus was transferred from Tobago to Demerara and Berbice in what was to become (in 187- ) British Guiana. Letters from Richard Elliott in Demerara continue the story of LMS property on Tobago in subsequent years. The mission in Demerara began at the invitation of Hermanus Post of Le Resouvenir estate where a chapel and mission house were constructed. John Wray was the pioneer of the Demerara mission, and his Journal supplements the picture we gain from the incoming correspondence. Other prominent correspondents are John Davies (from Stabroek, later George Town), John Smith (whose death in prison while on a charge in 1823 connected with his support for 'negro' [African and African-Caribbean] slaves made him into the hero martyr of Guyana), James Mercer (who worked on Leguan Island in the Essequibo river estuary), Joseph Ketley, James Scott who worked on the West Coast (Ebenezer Chapel) and Charles Rattray (Canal No 1). Other stations included Fort Island, Orange Field, the 'Arabian Coast', Montrose.

The LMS mission began in Jamaica in 1830. The first missionaries were John Wooldridge and William Slatyer. Others joined them in the first few years and mission stations were established at Kingston, Clarendon, Mandeville, Morant Bay and Arcadia, but by 1836 missionaries withdrawn from Kingston and Arcadia. Mission continued in the North of Jamaica at Trelawney (First Hill) and St Ann's, Dry Harbour and Claremont and in the South of the island at Mandeville, Porus and Four Paths.


Until 1927, the LMS kept all correspondence received from the mission field in strict chronological order. From approximately the last quarter of the 19th century, each letter has a cover sheet, which gives it a unique number, date sent, date received by the Home Office, the appropriate governing region (Eastern, Southern etc) and a precis of contents. The arrangement of incoming correspondence changed in 1928, when the administrative decision was made to file incoming and outgoing correspondence together in alphabetical files from individuals.

Conditions Governing Access


Other Finding Aids

A detailed list of Incoming Correspondence for Tobago, 1807-1813, and Demerara, 1807-1840 (list C2), is available for consultation in the Special Collections Reading Room, SOAS Library. A list for Box 1 of the Jamaica Incoming Correspondence, 1830-1835, is available inside the box. A detailed box (item) listing is complete for Berbice boxes- 1a, 1b, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Archivist's Note