Early Methodist Personal Papers: Volume 1:(Thomas Adam - Thomas Barber)

Scope and Content

Contained within the PLP collection of the Methodist Archives are an estimated twenty-fivethousand items of correspondence and associated papers created by nearly four thousand individuals[Clive Field,Sources for the Study of ProtestantNonconformity, in The Bulletin of the John RylandsUniversity Library of Manchester (Volume 71, Number 2, Summer 1989), 125] associated withthe Methodist movement between the 1730s and the present day.

Within that broad spectrum, are papers created by preachers, lay people and clergymen. Not all ofthese were Methodists or were even sympathetic to the movement, but they all impacted in variousways on the denomination's history and this archive as a whole constitutes one of the richest sourcecollections in the world for the study of evangelical Christianity in Britain.

The range of subjects represented in the collection is matched by the topics that are covered,as the individuals who created the papers, discuss official as well as personal matters. Researchersfrom several different disciplines will therefore find the collection valuable, especially as verylittle of the material has been published.

This initial series of catalogues will extend only so far as those individuals whose ministryand/or Christian life commenced before 1800. It is intended that the papers of later individualswill constitute a separate series. This current catalogue contains the personal papers of surnamesAdam to Barber

The object has been to provide the researcher with a detailed precis of each document within thecollection. Wherever possible, people mentioned in the collection have been identified and theirsignificance indicated. All the source material used in this identification can be consulted at theJohn Rylands Library and if possible, widely available sources such as theEncyclopaedia of World Methodism or theDictionary of National Biography have been cited.

Administrative / Biographical History

Early Methodist Personal Papers: Volume 1 contains the correspondence of fifteen individuals,many of these were Methodist preachers, others influenced the Evangelical movement in some way. Mostof the 216 letters in this collection is made up of the letters of four individuals: Atherton,Atmore, Ball and John Barber. The correspondence of these four accounts for two thirds of thetotal.

Thomas Adam (1701-84)

Adam was born in Leeds, the son of the town clerk. He was educated at Wakefield and Hart HallOxford and was ordained in 1724, becoming the Rector of the parish of Winteringham in Lincolnshire.

Adam experienced an evangelical conversion in 1748 and went on to exercise a major influenceover the Evangelical movement within the Church of England, especially after the publication of hisLectures on the Church Catechism in 1753. He was a particularly close friend of his fellowevangelical clergyman Samuel Walker of Truro.

As a staunch Anglican, Adam was opposed to what he regarded as the irregularities of Methodism.

Source:Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974),Kenneth Hylson-Smith,Evangelicals in the Church of England1734-84 (1988),29-30 andDictionary of EvangelicalBiography, 1739-1860, edited by Donald Lewis (1995)

John Addison (d.1788)

Addison was born in Broughton, Lancashire and was educated at Queens College Oxford. He graduatedin 1732 and was ordained into the Anglican ministry. He became Vicar of Urswick in 1744 andministered there until his death in 1788.

John Allen (1737-1810)

Allen was born at Chapel-en-le-Frith in Derbyshire of mixed Anglican and Presbyterian parentage.He joined the Methodist society at Chinley as a young man and became a local preacher. Allen enteredthe itinerancy in 1766 and exercised an active circuit ministry, mainly in the North of England,until poor health forced him into retirement in 1799. He died in Liverpool. Source:Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, 1739-1860, edited byDonald Lewis (1995)

Francis Asbury (1745-1816)

Asbury was the first general superintendent or bishop of American Methodism. He was born nearBirmingham in England and came under Methodist influence at an early age. Asbury was accepted as alocal preacher at the age of eighteen and joined the itinerancy four years later. At the 1771Conference, he was one of five volunteers to go to America.

At first subordinate to senior colleagues like Joseph Pilmore and Richard Boardman, withintwelve months of his arrival Asbury was appointed by John Wesley to be his temporary assistant incharge of all American work. During the War of Independence, Asbury was the only British Methodistpreacher to remain in America and his pre-eminent position was confirmed by John Wesley in 1784,when he was consecrated general superintendent, a position which he held jointly with Dr ThomasCoke.

For thirty years Asbury made annual tours of the eastern United States, preaching sermons andadministering to the far-flung Methodist congregations. During his lifetime and at least partly dueto his influence and supervision, the American Methodist Church expanded to become one of the mostimportant Protestant denominations in the United States.

Source:Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974)and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860,edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995)

John Ashall (c.1770-1809)

Ashall entered the Wesleyan itinerancy in 1794. His active circuit ministry lasted untilsuperannuation in 1804, probably due to ill health. He died five years later in Stockport.

Source:Minutes of Conference 1809 and An Alphabetical Arrangement of WesleyanPreachers...1739-1818, compiled by Kenneth Garlick

William Ashman (c.1740-1818)

Ashman was born at Holcombe in Somerset. Converted at the age of seventeen, he entered theitinerancy in 1765. He travelled in the South of England and Wales until 1798 when he superannuatedto his native town where he continued to act as a class leader and preach locally until a short timebefore his death in February 1818.

Source:Minutes of Conference 1818 and An Alphabetical Arrangement of WesleyanPreachers...1739-1818, compiled by Kenneth Garlick

William Atherton (1775-1850)

Atherton was born at Lamberhead Green near Leigh in Lancashire. He entered the Wesleyanitinerancy in 1797 and served with great distinction in England and Scotland until shortly beforehis death.

Atherton was well-known for his forceful preaching and considerable debating skills. In 1846 hewas elected to the office of President of Conference, despite his opposition to the dominance ofJabez Bunting.

Source:Minutes of Conference 1851 and Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974)

Miles Atkinson (1741-1811)

Atkinson was born in Ledsham, Yorkshire, the son of Christopher Atkinson, the evangelical rectorof Thorp Arch in Yorkshire. He was educated at home and Peterhouse Cambridge. After graduation in1763 Atkinson became Curate of Leeds Parish Church and headmaster of Drighlington School. In 1768 hewas appointed lecturer at Leeds and was firmly converted to evangelical views by readingDoddridge’sRise and Progress of Religion in theSoul. In 1771 he joined the Elland Clerical Society and was one of its first tutors ofordinands. Atkinson was morning lecturer at Whitchurch near Leeds (1773-80), Rector of Walton on theHill in Lancashire (1780-88), Vicar of Leek (1785-1803) and of Kippax (1783-1811) where heestablished Sunday Schools for over 2,000 children. He also built St Paul’s Leeds and servedas its first minister from 1793 to 1811. Atkinson’s sons Christopher and Thomas both followedhim into the ministry. Source: Dictionary of EvangelicalBiography 1739-1860, edited by Donald Lewis (1995)

John Atlay (b.1736)

John Atlay was born at Sheriff Hutton in Yorkshire. He was converted at the age of 22 and enteredthe itinerancy in 1763. After serving circuits in Yorkshire and Scotland for ten years, he wasappointed by John Wesley to be his book steward in London.

By 1785 Atlay was showing signs of disenchantment with Methodism, which included his attendanceat Moravian worship. In 1788 he supported the Dewsbury Chapel trustees in their dispute with Wesleyover the power to dismiss preachers. He severed his connection with the Methodists after theConference of that year and became an independent minister at Dewsbury.

Source:Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974)and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, 1739-1860by Donald Lewis (1995)

Charles Atmore (1759-1826)

Atmore was born at Heacham in Norfolk, the son of a ship’s captain. After the early deathof his mother, he was raised by his aunt and uncle. Atmore was converted by the ministry of JosephPilmore in 1779 and became a local preacher before entering the itinerancy in 1781.

Despite his youth, Atmore was named to the Legal Hundred in 1784 and was ordained by Wesley forthe work in Scotland in 1786. He was President of Conference in 1811 and was actively involved inthe establishment of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society.

Source:Dictionary of Evangelical Biography,1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995

William Aver (1768-1835)

Aver was converted in early life and entered the itinerancy in 1790. His active circuit ministrylasted until 1835 and was spent principally in the South-west of England. Shortly before the 1834Conference he retired to Penzance where he died in January 1836 after an illness lasting severalmonths. He is described in his Conference obituary as ‘naturally endowed with considerableshrewdness and power of discrimination, he was remarkable also for the gentleness of hismanners’.

Source: Hill’s Arrrangement andMinutes of Conference 1835

George Baldwin (1762-1810)

Baldwin was converted in early life under the ministry of the Methodist preacher George Snowden.He became a local preacher and in 1786 entered the itinerancy. Baldwin’s active ministry oftwenty-four years was exercised in England and Wales. He died at Burslem in Staffordshire after anillness lasting several months.

Source: PLP 4/29.8,Minutes of Conference 1811and An Alphabetical Arrangement of Wesleyan MethodistPreachers...1739-1818, compiled by Kenneth Garlick

Hannah Ball (1734-92)

Hannah Ball was born in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, the daughter of a lace-maker. She wasinfluenced by the printed sermons of the Methodist itinerant Thomas Walsh and was converted by JohnWesley in 1765. She began to keep a diary the following year and this was published in 1796 as hermemoirs.

Ball founded a Sunday school in 1769, which pre-dated the efforts of the more famous pioneerRobert Raikes. She was supported by the Methodist preacher Samuel Wells. After her death, the schoolwas run by her sister Ann.

Source:Dictionary of Evangelical Biography,1739-1860, edited by Donald Lewis (1995).

John Barber (1757-1816)

Barber was born in the Peak District of Derbishire. While working as a farm labourer, he attendedevening school and proved a diligent pupil. Barber was converted in 1778 and joined a Methodistclass which was led by his employer. Barber moved to Chinley in Derbishire and started working as aweaver, while at the same time labouring as a local preacher. He was heard by Wesley in 1782 to theevangelists's satisfaction and was appointed to itinerate in the Birmingham circuit later that year.Despite his lack of years in the ministry, Barber was appointed to the Legal Hundred in 1784 and wasordained by Wesley for the work in Scotland in 1788. Barber served twice as President of Conference(1807 and 1815) and was a leading member of the important Committee of Privileges. Barber diedsuddenly during his second presidential term. Source:Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995)

Thomas Barber (1746-1825)

Thomas Barber was born in County Fermanagh, Ireland. He was converted under the ministry of JohnSmith and John Wesley. Early in 1779, Barber commenced travelling as a preacher at his own expensein parts of Ulster. The famous Wesleyan minister Adam Clarke was one of his early converts. Laterthat year, he was officially accepted by the Conference and was appointed to the Sligo circuit wherehe laboured with great success. In 1780 he was sent to the Waterford circuit where he gave specialattention to working with young children.

Barber's extensive circuit ministry was exercised throughout Ireland and ended in superannuationin 1808. He retired to Monaghan where he died after a long period of ill health. Source: Pioneer Preachers of Irish Methodism by Robert Gallagher(1965), 94-95, Minutes of Conference 1826 andHistory of Methodism in Ireland, Vol.1-2 by C. H.Crookshank (1885).


The collection is divided into fifteen series in alphabetical order. Each series is then arrangedin chronological order. The Hannah Ball PLP collection consists of the individually cataloguedcontents of a manuscript letter book

Series: .

  • PLP 1/13 - Thomas Adam
  • PLP 1/16 - John Addison
  • PLP 1/53 - John Allen
  • PLP 3/3 - Francis Asbury
  • PLP 3/5 - John Ashall
  • PLP 3/7 - William Ashman
  • PLP 3/14 - William Atherton
  • PLP 3/21 - Miles Atkinson
  • PLP 3/23 - John Atlay
  • PLP 3/24 - Charles Atmore
  • PLP 3/29 - William Aver
  • PLP 4/29 - George Baldwin
  • PLP 4/32 - Hannah Ball
  • PLP 4/69 - John Barber
  • PLP 5/3/ - Thomas Barber

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The Methodist Church.

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue of the Collection was produced by Gareth Lloyd in 2000 The present catalogue has beenproduced to replace this with an ISAD(G) compliant catalogue.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private studypurposes 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'spermission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or privatestudy.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of anymaterial within the archive. Please contact the Keeper of Manuscripts and Archives, John RylandsUniversity Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The papers were acquired by the Methodist Church at different times and in various ways rangingfrom purchase to gift. The collection per se is artificial in that, until it entered churchownership, it did not form a discrete whole. The archive was transferred as part of the widerMethodist Archive collection to the John Rylands University Library of Manchester in 1976.

Related Material

This collection should be used in conjunction with the printed catalogues of material containedwithin the Wesley family archive, the folio scrapbooks of early preachers' letters (DDPr) and thediscrete collections of preachers like Adam Clarke, Joseph Benson and Anglican evangelicals likeJohn and Mary Fletcher (MAM Fl).