Scope and Content

The Home Office records reflect the complex administrative structure of the LMS and include Home Committee minutes, Board minutes and papers, Personnel records (known as Candidates' papers), administrative papers, correspondence and Overseas Committee minutes. There are also series of missionary portraits, and photographs.

Administrative / Biographical History

The minutes of the first meeting of clerymen, who met to establish the Missionary Society at Baker's Coffee House, Cornhill, 4 Nov 1794, unfortunately do not survive. A journal of the meeting is kept at the City Temple in London. Attenders included David Bogue, Joseph Brooksbank, John Eyre, John Love, John Reynolds, James Steven, Matthew Wilks and John Townsend. The object of the Missionary Society was 'to spread the knowledge of Christ among heathen and other unenlightened nations', with the fundamentally non-denominational principal that the Society was 'not to send Presbyterianism, Independency, Episcopy or any other form of Church order or Government', a principle that was enshrined in the Society's plan and constitution.

Minute books survive from 8 Jan 1795, when Rev John Eyre was appointed Treasurer and Rev John Love as Secretary. At this meeting, a committee of correspondence was initially established. Subsequently it was decided that an annual meeting was to be held on the second Tuesday/Wednesday in May, as a forum for discussion and to appoint officials. The main governing body of the LMS was the Board of Directors, originally 23, of whom three-fifths were to be London based. The numbers of Directors soon grew and included lay members and minsters, as well as 'County' Directors who would attend the meeting as and when. At first the entire Board met to discuss all matters, but by 1810 the Board could no longer administer all aspects of the work,and committees were appointed to oversee particular areas. The work of the LMS came under major review in the 1860s, which resulted in a revision of the Constitution and reorganisation of the Board in 1870, with subsequent changes in record keeping practices. For example, the introduction of the annual report from the Mission stations and the requirement to set up District Committees in the field stem from this administrative reorganisation.

In 1890 the Board was again reorganised. There were three hundred members and and women were admitted as Directors for the first time. Denominations, theological colleges, Auxiliary organisations,and the London Churches could all appoint Directors. At the centre of the Board was the Standing Committee, consisting of fifty London Directors and fifty Provincial Directors. By 1895 thirty three of the 295 Directors were women and by 1945 women made up fifty four of the 345 Directors.

Originally it had been felt that it was unnecessary to appoint salaried officers and that work of the Missionary Society could be carried out by volunteers, most of whom were clergymen. However, as the scope of the Society grew and as more missions were opened it was realised that paid officials were needed. From the beginning, the post of Secretary was salaried at £42 per annum. In 1805 Thomas Lee was appointed as a collector (to collect funds), but the post of Treasurer was carried out by a Director as a voluntary post. The post of Home Secretary was first held by John Eyre, from 1798-1800 and the job was to ensure the smooth running of the Home office and home affairs such as fundraising, so that overseas activities could progress without hindrance. From 1811 the post of Home Secretary was paid. An Assistant Home Secretary was appointed in 1907. The post of the Foreign Secretary was instituted in 1798 with the role of overseeing activities in the mission fields, and regional committees were set up in 1810. District Committees in the field reported to the foreign missions committees; some were set up in the early 19th century but many stem from later administrative changes. Deputations to missions were also appointed to check on the work of missionaries in the field, the first Deputation being that of Rev John Campbell to Southern Africa in 1812. A Secretary of Funds was appointed in 1855, and an Editorial Secretary in 1895. Other staff included an Organising Agent (1903), London District Secretary (1920) and Secretary for Education and Women's work (1920).

The administrative work of the LMS relied on a committee structure to carry out day to day functions and to complement the work of the paid officials. The committee records document the day to day decision making of the LMS. The first committee to be established was the Examinations Committee which first met on 1 Oct 1795 and whose role it was to establish the suitability of candidates to become missionaries. Women candidates were examined by the Ladies Committee from 1875. The regional committees were established in 1810, but as the missions grew, this structure became increasingly insufficient. This led to the establishment of District Committees in the mission field who would report to the Directors and would carry out increasing amounts of administrative work. Such committees had been established in all fields by the mid 1860s.

Following the reorganisation of the Board in 1890, new committees were created including Ladies Committee, Funds and Agency Committee, Finance Committee, Southern Committee (which covered Africa, Madagascar and the South Seas), Eastern Committee (which covered China and India) and the Literature and Records Committee.


The Home records are arranged into the following classes: Board papers, including minutes (1795 -1977); Administrative papers, including registers of legacies (1817-1912) and records of Secretarial Deputations (1920-1977); Home Committee minutes, including special committees and sub-committees (1837-1977); Regional Committee minutes (1826-1970), and minutes of the Overseas Committee (1970-1977); Home Incoming correspondence (1795-1927); Home Outgoing correspondence (1866-1914); Home Extra correspondence (1764-1945); Regional Outgoing correspondence, c.1822-1925; Candidates' records, including Candidates' Examination Committee minutes (1796-1977) and Candidates' Papers, 1796-1950 (N.B. records 1940-1950 are closed); Property records, including property registers (1932-3 & 1952), and overseas property deeds; Home Odds (miscellaneous papers).

Auxiliary papers form a related class of records, and consist of the minute books and other papers of London Missionary Society Auxiliary groups, who raised money for the LMS and supported its activities within the UK. Many records relating to LMS auxiliaries are in UK Local Record Offices. The series within the CWM collection comprise those transferred from Dr Williams' Library, and include mainly records of London auxiliaries, although there are materials relating to Newcastle, Leeds, Fylde, Kendal and Bristol auxiliaries.

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