Ethical Church

Scope and Content

Papers of the Ethical Church (1894-2013), including: committee papers, 1894-1933; finance papers, 1922-1933; correspondence, 1901-1935; church business, 1894-1939;internal Sub-organisations, 1923-1932; publications, 1900-1926; Coit Papers, 1926-1932; papers of Related Ethical Societies, 1923-1965; and other Items, 1903-2013[Additional records of the Ethical Church can be found in BHA/3/8]

Administrative / Biographical History

The Ethical Church, Queensway, Bayswater, was established in the late 1891 by Dr Stanton Coit.

Coit, who was a native of the USA, was a prominent figure in the UK ethical movement. He was minister of the South Place Religious Society (later South Place Ethical Society, then Conway Hall Ethical Society) from 1988 to 1891; founder of the West London Ethical Society in 1891; founder of The Ethical World journal; founder of the Union of Ethical Societies in 1896; and editor of the International Journal of Ethics in 1893-1905.

Following his resignation from South Place Ethical Society in 1891, Coit and his loyal followers established the West London Ethical Society. Shortly after, he purchased an old Methodist Chapel on Queensway, Bayswater, and converted it into the UKs first ethical church. By 1914 the distinction between the West London Ethical Society and Ethical Church had become blurred, and the Society formally changed its name to the Ethical Church.

Coit believed that his Church would be the first of many ‘ethical churches’. He hoped it would act as encouragement to other established churches (ie. the Church of England), to move away from religious teaching.

Throughout the early twentieth century membership of the Church was open to all those who demonstrated a “rudiment of goodness which is called moral faith”. Members sang hymns from their own ethical songbook and heard lectures from appointment ministers including Dr Stanton Coit, Harry Snell, Harold Blackham and Virginia Coit.

As explained in a leaflet produced by the Ethical Church, it’s central aim was to “strengthen its members in their self-dedication, their love of the Good, their grasp of what is good, [and] their power to choose the better way in every situation”.

By 1918 the membership of the Church had fallen to 300, and in 1953 the building was sold to the Catholic Church. Proceeds of the sale were used to purchase 13 Prince of Wales Terrace, renamed Stanton Coit House. The West London Ethical Society was re-established in 1953, re-joining the Union of Ethical Societies in the same year.


The Ethical Church Archive is divided into the following nine sections:

  • EC/1: Committee Papers
  • EC/2: Finance
  • EC/3: Correspondence
  • EC/4: Church Business
  • EC/5: Internal Sub-Organisations
  • EC/6: Publications
  • EC/7: Coit Papers
  • EC/8: Papers of Related Ethical Societies
  • EC/9: Other Items

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Donated to Bishopsgate Institute by Carl Harrison, Honorary Archivist of Conway Hall Ethical Society, 2014.

Other Finding Aids

Adlib catalogue and copy of handlist available in researcher's area.

Archivist's Note

Entry compiled by Grace Biggins.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopying and digital photography (without flash) is permitted for research purposes on completion of the Library's Copyright Declaration form and with respect to current UK copyright law.