Home Office Incoming Correspondence

Scope and Content

Letters received by the London Missionary Society Home Office. The letters come from a wide variety of correspondents in the British Isles (and in a few instances further afield) with little consistency from year to year.

The early founders and supporters of the Society initiate the correspondence and among these early letters are a number from William Roby (Manchester), David Bogue (Gosport), George Burder (Secretary, 1803-1827), and Joseph Hardcastle (Treasurer, 1795-1815), and William Alers [William Alers Hankey] (Treasurer, 1816-1832).

Prolific correspondents during the 19th Century include Richard Knill, John Angell James, William Ellis, David Griffiths and Jemima Luke, but the most noteworthy feature of this series is the large number of different correspondents and the wide spread over the counties and cities of England and the countries of Scotland, Wales and Ireland from which they wrote.

A particular feature of the overall series is the inclusion of letters on the presence of celebrated missionary heroes in Britain: Robert Morrison, John Williams, Robert Moffat and pressure for LMS representation at the Westminster Abbey funeral of David Livingstone in 1874.

The gradual development of LMS auxiliary societies or associations around Britain (and a Hibernian auxiliary in Ireland) is seen in the incoming letters through the 19th Century. Also illustrated is the use of returned missionaries, missionaries on furlough (periodic breaks from their mission fields) and area ‘agents’ to promote support for the LMS in the UK. Correspondence builds through the century from retired missionaries and from or on behalf of their widows and orphans, evidence of the LMS’s acknowledged need to provide for these individuals.

Some letters show dealings with other societies, particularly the British and Foreign Bible Society, also the British and Foreign School Society, Church Missionary Society, the missions of the Moravian Church, Religious Tract Society, Wesleyan Missionary Society and some continental European missionary societies (see also the Europe Incoming Correspondence series). One folder (Box 3, Folder 5) contains letters, 1817-1819, relating to a request to support a mission on Pitcairn Island.

The series includes correspondence with government over issues of special concern in the overseas mission fields when the LMS made representations to the authorities, mainly successive secretaries of state for colonies or foreign affairs. For example, letters from William Wilberforce and Thomas Fowell Buxton show the LMS’s continuing participation in movements against slavery.

A number of letters relate to the Society's mission ships, including the Duff and the first and third 'John Williams' (other letters relating to the ships are held with the Australia and South Seas letters); many letters are from missionaries outward bound or returning to British shores – it was possible to transmit mail by pilot and other small vessels when in transit.

Detailed cataloguing has been completed for letters, 1795-1876. Catalogue entries provide the names of correspondents, dates, places and a summary of the subject matter.


Letters are arranged chronologically. There is a significant gap in the correspondence between 1877 and 1908, which is thought to be the result of bomb damage to the LMS Headquarters at Livingstone House during WWII.

Access Information


Other Finding Aids

A detailed list for Home Incoming Correspondence, 1795-1876, (list A1), is available for consultation in the Special Collections Reading Room, SOAS Library.

Archivist's Note