An overview of the Congregational Library collections:
'What consitutes the strength of the collection is the great number of works relating to the history, principles, and works relating to the history, principles, and work of the Congregational Churches. Here are Marpelate and Seperatist tracts, the writings of the Ejected minsiters and their successors, down to the present day. Complementing the printed books is the large accumulation of manuscripts historical from the earlier periods and in the correspondence of and papers of Joshua Wilson a primary source for the expansion of Congregationalism in the nineteenth century and the concerns which occupied it.' The Congregational Library, the Congregational Lecture for 1992, by John Creasey,
The Congregational Library holds over 50,000 books, pamphlets and periodicals concerned with Congregationalism, Puritanism and Dissent in general. Congregational Library holdings are managed by the Dr Williams's Library staff and made available in our reading rooms.
The online catalogue of Congregational Library printed books includes: all books printed before 1801, all books aquired by the Congregational Library from 1998 onwards, and its entire collection of hymns and sacred music - the most wide-ranging and ecumenical part of its holdings. Obviously, this excludes a vast range of material in our collection for which the reader must resort to the Card Catalogue on-site at the Library. See the Print Collections A-Z for a break down of the main print collection divisions in the Congregational Library.
Literary and Personal Archives
Subject areas covered by the manuscript collections include: local history and the records of churches; the training and work of ministers, including sermons; notes of lectuers given in nonconformist academies; and matters of doctrine and liturgy. Evidence for the lives and opinions of those involved include diaries, commonplace books and correspondence. The bulk of manuscripts come from Joshua Wilson, and consist not only of his collections of historical material, but also his voluminous correspondence on matters of contemporary concern, from the 1820s to the 1870s. The detailed MS lists of the archives are being transferred to our online catalogue. See the Print A-Z (collections) for a full list at Collection level.
Until 1831, the Congregational/Independent churches had no central organization, though a number of county unions had been formed. In that year the Congregational Union of England and Wales was founded, remaining in existence until its constituent churches formed themselves into the Congregational Church in England and Wales in 1966. At this point a number of churches broke away to form the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches. In 1972 the CCEW united with the Presbyterian Church in England and Wales to form the United Reformed Church. Those churches who preferred to continue in the Congregational tradition then formed themselves into the Congregational Federation, and a small number of other churches remained unaffiliated to any of the new groupings.
Archives held by the Library include the records of the Congregational Memorial Hall Trust (which owns the Congregational Library), 1862 onwards, together with those of the Congregational Union/Congregational Church, 1831-1972, and some (but not yet all) of its successors, 1972 onwards: namely the United Reformed Church, and the Unaffiliated Congregational Churches Charities. The Archives do not normally include the church books or registers of individual churches, nor the records of most of the county unions. The main exceptions are the Kent Union Society, 1802-1931, and a handful of London churches. The Archives mainly consist of the minute books of the various committees which operated as part of the Congregational Union and later bodies, both permanent standing committees and temporary ones designed to deal with particular problems or crises. A brief handlist of the Archives may be consulted. Access to those parts of the Archives which are of a personal nature is restricted, as is access to the Memorial Hall Archives, which may only be inspected by permission of the Trustees of the Congregational Memorial Hall Trust.