Thomas Raffles (1788-1863) was an eminent Congregationalist and collector of autographs. He was born in Spitalfields, London, and was educated at a boarding-school at Peckham run by a Baptist minister. From 1805 he studied for the ministry at Homerton College and was ordained in 1809. On the death of Thomas Spencer of Newington Chapel, Liverpool, Raffles was invited to succeed him in April 1812. In May the same year he moved to the new Great George Street Chapel which had been built to accommodate the growing congregation, which continued to grow rapidly under Raffles. Raffles was well known in Liverpool evangelical circles, and was involved with many organisations, including the Religious Tract Society, the Amicable Book Society, and the Bible Society. His influence also spread across Lancashire and further afield. Raffles was secretary of the Lancashire Congregational Union from 1826 to 1843. Soon after he moved to Liverpool, Raffles began his involvement with the Blackburn Academy, later Lancashire Independent College. He was chairman of the college education committee from 1839 to 1863, and in 1861 the Raffles scholarship and Library were founded in his honour. In 1839 he was chairman of the Congregational Union of England and Wales and received honorary doctorates from Aberdeen University and Union College, Connecticut.
He collected many original manuscripts relating to the history of nonconformity in Lancashire, as well as vast numbers of autographs from Europe and America. He also wrote poetry and hymns, publishing a supplement to Watts's Psalms and Hymns (1853). His Original Hymns were published posthumously in 1868. He also published theological lectures, articles and editions of the Bible etc. between 1814 and 1856. It has been claimed that Raffles was a major influence of the conversion of Enriqueta Augustina Tennant (later Mrs Rylands) from Roman Catholicism to Congregationalism.
Source: Alexander Gordon, 'Raffles, Thomas (1788-1863)', rev. Ian Sellers, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press - http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/23009.
Alice Margaret Cooke (1867-1940), who compiled the calendars of the Raffles autographs, was a friend of Mrs Enriqueta Rylands. During the 1890s she taught history at Owens College, Manchester, and in 1897 she was elected a member of the court of governors of the Victoria University. She was assistant tutor to women students from 1897 to 1901 and in this role supported the new women's union, was a founder of the first hall of residence for women at Owens, and was chairman of the women's athletic union. During this period she was invited by Mrs Rylands to compile a catalogue of Earl Spencer's Althorp Library, which became the nucleus of the printed book collection of John Rylands Library. Alice Cooke also lectured for university extension, supported the Manchester University settlement, and worked for the women's suffrage cause. She had a very successful academic career, with appointments as librarian at Cambridge University Library, reader of history at Leeds University and director of studies in history at Newnham College Cambridge, where she remained until her retirement in 1927.
Source: Fernanda Helen Perrone, 'Cooke, Alice Margaret (1867-1940)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press - http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/62414.