Papers of the Right Reverend Ernest William Barnes

Scope and Content

Correspondence: early general, 1888-1924; with individual clergyman and diocesan officials; on controversies, 1924-1936; with rebel parishes; with individual rebel clergymen; with and relating to Birmingham institutions; on general topics; miscellaneous, 1924-1950; and relating to his writings, broadcasts etc, 1902-1952. Other papers include engagement diaries, 1904-1953; mathematical papers; and other published offprints.

Administrative / Biographical History

Administrative/Biographical History

The Right Reverend Ernest William Barnes 1874-1953, Bishop of Birmingham, 1924-1953. Educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham and Trinity College Cambridge where he was bracketed second wrangler. In 1897 he became president of the Union and obtained a first in mathematics. The following year he was first Smith's prizeman and was elected a fellow of his college, becoming assistant lecturer in 1902, junior dean in 1906-1908, and tutor 1908-1915. In 1909 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1902 he was made deacon and in 1903 was ordained priest. In 1915-19 he was master of the Temple; in 1918 he was made canon of Westminster, and in 1924 Ramsay MacDonald nominated him bishop of Birmingham. Barnes was a fellow of King's College London, 1919, and received the honorary degrees of D.D. from Aberdeen, 2935 and Edinburgh, 1927, and L.L.D. from Glasgow, 1926.

Barnes conceived it to be his mission and duty to urge the necessity of substituting a world outlook based on the natural sciences for the traditionally scriptural outlook characteristic of christian theology. He preached what came to be known as "gorilla" sermons, supporting the evolutionary theory of man's biological descent from some creature akin to the apes. The essence of christianity as he understood and practiced it was to be found in a personal discipleship of the Jesus of the Gospels, and in the acceptance of an ethic based on the Sermon on the Mount.

Reference: E.T. Williams and Helen M. Palmer, Editors, Dictionary of National Biography, 1951-1960 ( Oxford University Press, 1971 ).


The collection is arranged by document type and subject.

Access Information

Access Conditions

Open. Access to all registered researchers.

Acquisition Information

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was deposited as a gift by the family in 1980.

Other Finding Aids

See full catalogue for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Further deposits are not expected.

Related Material

University of Birmingham Information Services, Special Collections Department holds several archives of missions, charities and other religious and ecclesiastical organisations and individuals.