Papers of Archdeacon Owen

Scope and Content

This collection comprises both official and personal papers of W. E. Owen as a CMS missionary and Archdeacon of Kavirondo in Kenya from 1918 up to 1945. His official correspondence relates to a wide range of political and social issues in which he concerned himself including forced marriages and marriage customs, ownership of land and the Native Lands Trust ordinance, the discovery of gold in the Kavirondo reserve and its implications for native life and customs, and compulsory labour. The collection also includes an almost complete sequence of his pocket diaries from 1920 to 1945 and files of materials assembled for a biography of Owen.

Administrative / Biographical History

Walter Edwin Owen (1880-1945) was Assistant Secretary in the Church Missionary Society Office in Belfast. He was accepted as a missionary in 1904 and ordained as a deacon in 1904 by the Bishop of London and as a priest in 1905 by the Bishop of Uganda. He served in Uganda for 14 years and then succeeded Walter Chadwick as Archdeacon of Kavirondo where he identified with the life and aspirations of the peoples of Nyanza. He was a skilful administrator. He died in 1945. His brother, Owen John Simpson was also a CMS missionary in West Africa.

Reference: Register of missionaries (clerical, lay & female) and native clergy from 1804 to 1904 ( Church Missionary Society, 1905 ). ; Gordon Hewitt, The Problems of Success: a history of the Church Missionary Society 1910-1942 ( SCM Press Ltd, 1971 ).


This collection forms part of the Church Missionary Society Unofficial Papers. It is arranged into three series: Official Papers, Family Papers and Miscellaneous Papers.

Access Information

Open. Access to all registered researchers.

Acquisition Information

This collection was deposited with the CMS but the original provenance is unknown; it was transferred on permanent loan to the Special Collections Department by the CMS in the 1980s.

Other Finding Aids

Please see online catalogue for further details.

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 Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult.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

The Special Collections Department holds the Church Missionary Society Archive, the official archive of the society (GB 150 CMS), which includes papers relating to Owen's service as a CMS missionary.

The University of Birmingham, Special Collections Department and the Orchard Learning Resources Centre hold a rich collection of archives relating to missions, charities and other religious and ecclesiastical organisations and individuals.