Papers of Father Columba Graham Flegg relating to the Catholic Apostolic Church

Scope and Content

The collection was gathered by Father Columba Graham Flegg in the course of his research on the history of the Catholic Apostolic Church which culminated in the publication of his Gathered Under Apostles'-A Study of the Catholic Apostolic Church, (Oxford, 1992). It consists of a mixture of printed and copy sources, including published works, theses, pamphlets, sermons, prayers and addresses. There is also music used in the Catholic Apostolic Church in Edinburgh since 1879.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Catholic Apostolic Church (sometimes called the 'Irvingites') was a remarkable body of Christians gathered together under apostolic rule out of the various Western Churches and looking for the imminent Second Coming of Christ. The French revolution had a disturbing effect on British society. Some saw its coincidence with biblical prophecy as a prelude to the Apocalypse. There was considerable public concern with mysterious spiritual events: miraculous healings, inspired 'speaking in tongues', and utterances of prophesies. These were seen as signs that the world was entering into the 'end times' when judgements would fall upon it, to be followed by the return of Christ in glory and the establishment of a period of universal blessedness (the Millennium). The Rev Edward Irving was a leading advocate of these views.

Irving was a one-time assistant to Dr Thomas Chalmers, and his gifts as a preacher made him famous and able to command huge audiences. From Old Testament and early Christian prophesy he evolved a theory of 'pre-millenarianism'. Irving died in 1834, before the founding of the Catholic Apostolic Church, so the term 'Irvingites' is strictly an anachronism.

In readiness for the Apocalypse, twelve new 'apostles' (including Henry Drummond), were appointed by ministers of seven churches at a solemn ceremony in London in 1835. These churches had come into being when a number of 'charismatic' congregations, including Irving's, had been expelled from their parent bodies. Initially the congregations under apostles carried on with their former traditions of worship. There was a call, however, for liturgical expression of the fullness of the Church's witness. Thus elaborate and beautiful liturgical services were devised, to replace former forms of worship. Their liturgy was derived mainly from the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches. A large number of clergy were required for each church, organised in four divisions, an 'angel' (a role similar to that of a bishop), six elders, seven prophets and at least seven deacons.

A prophetically inspired decision not to replace apostles who died led to a schism in Germany and the eventual formation of a separate body known as 'The New Apostolic Church', which remains in existence today and had a membership of about 8 million worldwide in 1994. The deaths of the apostles as the years passed guaranteed the eventual demise of the main body, since they had reserved to themselves the authority to ordain to the traditional major orders: the episcopate (known as angels), priesthood and deacons. Thus, with the death of the one surviving apostle in 1911, such ordinations ceased and services were curtailed. The last angel died in 1960 and the last priest in 1971. All Catholic Apostolic sacramental ministrations therefore ceased from that time.

Source: Mansfield Traquair Trust.


The collection contains the following items used in research on the Catholic Apostolic Church:

  • Music, printed, lithographed, copied and manuscript from 1879;
  • 2 box files of documents, papers, reprints and sermons;
  • 4 lever arch files and 1 blue file of photocopies of articles from books etc.;
  • 1 lever arch file: copy of H, Drummond, Dialogues on prophecy;
  • 7 blue files: copies of theses: Lively, D.Phil (Oxford, 1977), Orchard, PhD (Cambridge 1968); Lancaster, B.Phil (St Andrews 1977), Stevenson (Ph.D);
  • 2 microfilm theses;
  • Catalogue of the books from the library of the late John William Lister in Dr William's Library, 1954;
  • 12 document wallets containing printed pamphlets, photostat or photocopy articles, letters, manuscripts, notes, addresses and teaching or sermons, one containing a small amount of original teaching material (2 containing printed pamphlets passed to Rare Books for cataloguing);
  • 7 envelopes of choral music from the Catholic Apostolic Church in Edinburgh;
  • Card Index box for bibliography of Catholic Apostolic Church.

Access Information

By appointment with the Archivist. Access to unpublished records less than 30 years old and other records containing confidential information may be restricted. Special conditions apply to photographs.


Description compiled by Rachel Hart, Archives Hub Project Archivist.

Other Finding Aids

Previously unlisted.

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

Custodial History

The collection was given to the University by Father Columba Graham Flegg in 2001.

Related Material

The library of Father Columba Graham Flegg was also given to the University in 2001.


CG Flegg, Gathered Under Apostles - a study of the Catholic Apostolic Church (Oxford, 1992).

Additional Information

There is some original material within the collection. The location of the original material of which there are copies is, in some cases, noted on the copies, or remains unknown.

Geographical Names