Material relating to Rev. John Clowes, M.A. (1743-1831)

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 418 NCH/2
  • Alternative Id.
  • Dates of Creation
      Late 18th century-early 19th century

Scope and Content

This sub-fonds comprises published and unpublished sermons (461 in total) dating from 1769 to 1814; addresses, prayers, and speeches to various audiences (25 in total); drafted and printed Annual Reports of the Manchester Printing Society dating from 1798 to 1818; reports of meetings held at Hawkstone and Warwick between 1806 and 1829, as well as some letters and minutes relating to New Church House dating from 1907 to 1929; also published and unpublished writings including prefaces to various works, ten letters to editors of various publications, eleven draft articles dating between 1818 and 1823, and a variety of other drafts and pamphlets. In addition, Chetham's Library also accepted a number of copies of Clowes's printed books and pamphlets, which expanded the Library's existing collection of printed materials dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Church of England clergyman, John Clowes, was born in Manchester in 1743; he was the fifth of the six children of the barrister-at-law, Joseph Clowes (1700-79) of Ardwick, Lancashire, and Catherine Edwards (1712-52). The senior branch of the Clowes family inherited the estates of the Chethams of Crumpsall, and were related by marriage to the Byroms; Joseph Clowes was the youngest son of this family. John Clowes was schooled in Salford and was later educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he attained his B.A. (1766), M.A. (1769), and became a Fellow of Trinity College (1767). He was ordained in 1768, and accepted the rectorship of St John's Church, Manchester in August 1769. In around 1773 he was introduced to the writings of the Swedish scientist, philosopher, and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), and over the next fifty years he devoted his efforts to the translation of many of Swedenborg's works from Latin into English. In 1782 he founded a Society of Gentlemen for the purpose of translating, publishing, and distributing Swedenborg's teachings; Clowes served as its President from 1782 and, after the society was renamed the Manchester Printing Society in 1801, continued to serve as its President until his death.

During his career, Clowes published several translations of Swedenborg's works, such as The True Christian Religion (1789); Arcana Coelestia (1807); Conjugial Love; Heaven and Hell; and On the worship and love of God (1816). He also defended and promulgated Swedenborg's doctrines in works such as Letters to a Member of Parliament (1799); A Dialogue between a Churchman and a Methodist on the Writings and Opinions of Baron Swedenborg (1802); and A Few Plain Answers to the question, why do you receive the testimony of Baron Swedenborg? (1828). He published many of his sermons as well as several tracts for children, such as Paradise Lost and Regained (1814), and he also published numerous letters, papers, and articles in publications such as the Intellectual Repository, the Aurora, and the Christian Observer.

Clowes preached Swedenborgian principles from his pulpit but refused to separate from the Church of England, and was displeased with the decision made by many Swedenborgian supporters to establish the New Jerusalem Church in Peter Street, Manchester. Hence he became involved in the meetings of those who chose not to separate from the Church of England, which were held at Hawkstone Park, Shropshire, from 1806. In 1804 he declined to accept a bishopric, but became chaplain of the Manchester Volunteers. Clowes was also active in promoting and encouraging the development of Sunday Schools. In 1823, Clowes was visiting Birmingham when he became ill, and he died at Leamington Spa in 1831. Clowes was interred in the family vault at St John's Church, Manchester.


[Clowes, J.], A Memoir of the late John Clowes, M.A. written by Himself (1834).

'Clowes, John (1743-1831)' (J. Mee), The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H.C.G. Mathew (Oxford, 2004).

Compton, T., Life and Correspondence of The Rev. John Clowes, M.A. (1874).

Linehan, P.J., 'The English Swedenborgians, 1770-1840: A Study in the Social Dimensions of Religious Sectarianism' (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Sussex, 1978).

McCallum, D.K., and McCallum, M., New Church House and its Origins, 1782-1982 (Manchester, 1982).

Venn, J., and Venn, J.A., Alumni Cantabrigiensis (Cambridge, 1922-58).


Original Arrangement of Documents

At some time since Clowes's death in 1831, his papers had been covered with brown paper then bound and tied with string to form small bundles. Over time, these bundles had become disorganised and any original ordering within or between the bundles had gradually been lost. The collection of manuscripts had been surveyed several times by members of the Society, such as in 1874, but these surveys were limited to establishing the security and the existence of particular items within the papers. There had been an attempt in the early 1990s to list some of these bundles' contents, but the papers remained disorganised, were kept in poor conditions (through being badly-packaged), and were also generally inaccessible to researchers.

Two examples of these bundles give an indication of the jumbled nature of the contents:

Bundle A

1 'Watch and pray' preached 24 Jul 1774

2 'Being warned of God in a dream', 21 Jan 1781

3 'That both he that soweth and he that repeateth may rejoice', 27 Jun 1790

4 'Lay aside every weight', 24 Feb 1782

5 'Run with Patience', 24 Mar 1782

6 'Cloud of witnesses', 10 Feb 1782

7 'Take heed how ye hear', Aug 1781

8 'It pleased Jehovah to cruise him', n.d.

9 'The conversion of St Paul', 27 Jan 1780

10 'Spiritual Harvest', 17 Feb 1811

11 'If any man come after me let him deny himself', 2 Apr 1775

12 'Beloved if God so loved us', 4 Jan 1778.

Bundle B

1 'Wo[e] unto you scribes', 18 Oct 1772

2 'All things are your's', 20 Nov 1814

3 'We are not under the law', 5 Feb 1786

4 'I am the resurrection', 7 Apr 1782

5 'I will reprove thee', 7 Jul 1782

6 'The signs of a true faith', May 1786

7 'I will yet plead with thee', 28 Jul 1782

8 'There shall go before Him a consuming fire', Jan 1789

9 'Turn away mine eyes', Oct 1783

10 'Do this in remembrance of me', 27 Aug 1780

11 'Fight the good fight of faith', 13 Feb 1780

12 'Do this in remembrance of me', 13 Aug 1780

13 'Ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord', 4 Nov 1787.

It is difficult to ascertain the reasoning for this arrangement: some sermons could have been linked by themes, others might have been collected together in this way by the author himself simply because they had been published in a particular volume of works.

Present Arrangement of Documents

The present arrangement of the collection aimed at resolving each of the problems of organisation, preservation, and accessibility; namely by re-packaging the papers and cataloguing the entire collection, thereby establishing the nature of the contents as well as providing an accessible resource for researchers. By far the largest task during this process was to catalogue and arrange the sermons. The difficulties of separating published from unpublished sermons meant that the most logical solution appeared to be that, since almost every one was dated, each of the sermons should be ordered chronologically based on its date of first preaching (with exceptions for those which could be clearly linked in a series).

The fragmentary nature of some documents meant that the distinction between sermon, prayer, or speech was difficult to discern from the content; hence it was judged expedient to include the series of 'Addresses and Prayers'. Similarly, the distinction between published and unpublished papers was another source of difficulty: the collection includes a number of letters which were intended for publication and various assorted prefaces all of which may or may not have been published in some form. Hence, the category of 'Published and Unpublished Works' includes all published articles, letters for publication, prefaces, unpublished drafts, and notes.

The Clowes Collection contains the following divisions and sub-divisions:

Clowes/1 Sermons (1769-1814)

Clowes/1/1 Sermons (1769)

Clowes/1/2 Sermons (1770)

Clowes/1/3 Sermons (1771)

Clowes/1/4 Sermons (1772-3)

Clowes/1/5 Sermons (1774)

Clowes/1/6 Sermons (1775)

Clowes/1/7 Sermons (1776)

Clowes/1/8 Sermons (1777)

Clowes/1/9 Sermons (1778)

Clowes/1/10 Sermons (1779)

Clowes/1/11 Sermons (1780)

Clowes/1/12 Sermons (1781)

Clowes/1/13 Sermons (1782)

Clowes/1/14 Sermons (1783)

Clowes/1/15 Sermons (1784)

Clowes/1/16 Sermons (1785)

Clowes/1/17 Sermons (1786)

Clowes/1/18 Sermons (1787)

Clowes/1/19 Sermons (1788)

Clowes/1/20 Sermons (1789)

Clowes/1/21 Sermons (1790)

Clowes/1/22 Sermons (1791-3)

Clowes/1/23 Sermons (1794)

Clowes/1/24 Sermons (1795)

Clowes/1/25 Sermons (1796-9)

Clowes/1/26 Sermons (1800-5)

Clowes/1/27 Sermons (1804)

Clowes/1/28 Sermons (1805-6)

Clowes/1/29 Sermons (1805-10)

Clowes/1/30 Sermons (1811-14)

Clowes/1/31 Undated Sermons

Clowes/2 Addresses and Prayers (1790-[1820s])

Clowes/3 Reports (1798-1828)

Clowes/3/1 Draft Reports

Clowes/3/2 Printed Reports

Clowes/4 Published and Unpublished Works (1789-1828)

Clowes/4/1 Letters for Publication

Clowes/4/2 Prefaces for Publication

Clowes/4/3 Published Works

Clowes/4/4 Unpublished Works and Notes

Acquisition Information

In his last will and testament, John Clowes bequeathed all his manuscript sermons and other manuscript books and papers to the Treasurer of the Manchester Printing Society. The Manchester Printing Society merged with the Manchester Tract Society in 1871 to create the Manchester New Jerusalem Church Printing and Tract Society. In 1926, it became the Manchester New Church Publishing Society and in 1928 this society was merged with the North of England Missionary Society of the New Church and the Manchester New Church House to become the North of England New Church House. The North of England New Church House, 34 John Dalton Street, Manchester, therefore became responsible for the papers of John Clowes and, in September 2011, these papers were deposited at Chetham's Library, Manchester.