Records of Bishop Wilson Theological College, Bishopscourt

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The content consists of a council minute book, typescript of unsigned council minutes , general finance committee minute books, a student Christian movement discussion group minute book, summaries of students’ records, a students’ address book, a sports equipment inventory book and list of an incumbent, parish, diocese and bishop to be remembered at matins (morning prayers) and evensong (evening prayers). Further content includes ledgers, cashbooks, wages book, bank books, hostel account books, a balance sheet, material relating to mortgage bonds and a register of books loaned from the College library.

Administrative / Biographical History

Bishop Wilson Theological College was an Isle of Man divinity school based in Bishopscourt which also doubled up as the official residence of the Bishop of Sodor and Man. The college was founded in 1879 by the Reverend Rowley Hill (1836-1887), Bishop of Sodor and Man from 1877-1887. The college received its name from a previous Bishop of Sodor and Man, Thomas Wilson (1663-1755) who held the position from 1697 to 1755. Wilson’s reputation as a promoter of further education and advocate for the Manx people was well known: for example early in his residency he established libraries in the parishes and the towns and in times of famine the bishop would purchase grain at market price and sell it to the poor in small quantities at low cost. Bishop Wilson founded a chapel at Castletown in July 1698 and rebuilt St John’s Chapel as well as numerous churches around the Island. Further reforms advocated by Bishop Wilson on the Island included the the formation and adoption of the Act of Settlement of 1704 (making tenants virtual owners of their land, with rights of sale and inheritance) and reform of discipline governing both clergy and laity (its effect lessening the severity of the rules but strengthen their enforcement). It was said that Bishop Wilson's funeral was attended by approximately the entire population of the Isle of Man (except the very young, elderly or infirm), signifying his popularity with his congregation

Bishop Wilson Theological College trained men for the ministry with a distinct evangelical approach and attracted students from all over the British Isles. Many graduates were also encouraged to enter into the Manx church and make permanent roots on the Island and for practical training purposes many students were placed in local parishes. For three generation the college provided a steady stream of academically trained men for the Anglican Church, however by the Second War the situation was very different. In 1942 Bishop Wilson Theological College had entered a difficult period (as did other similar institutions in the British Isles): the school had little prospect of gaining new students due to the high number of men embarking on military service. Running a school with a depleting enrolment was not a viable option and the Executive Committee of the College Council stated they would give careful consideration to the situation on a termly basis. By 1943 the decision of closure was made and the Bishop Wilson Theological College shut its doors permanently.

Conditions Governing Access

No regulations or restrictions are implemented on this material.

Advance notification of a research visit is advisable by emailing library@mnh.gov.im

Other Finding Aids

Printed box list available

Archivist's Note

The biographical information was gathered from Gerald Bray's (ed.) Records of Convocation II Sodor and Man 1878-2003 (2005: 4), Carole Watterson Troxler, ‘Wilson, Thomas (1663–1755)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2009 [ http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/29691, accessed 26 Jan 2016] and the Manx newspaper the Isle of Man Examiner (27 March 1942).

Isle of Man newspapers available online at http://www.newspapers.gov.im/Default/Skins/IOMDemo/Client.asp?skin=IOMDemo&enter=true&AppName=2, accessed 26 Jan 2016.

Fonds-level description created by Eleanor Williams (MNH Project Archivist), January 2016.

Related Material

Related material held by Manx National Heritage includes numerous library and archival resources regarding the college and prominent individuals. Material relating to the teachings at the college includes the 'Papers of Revd Thomas Elliot, teacher at Bishop Wilson Theological College (reference number: MS 09474).