The Association of Denominational Historical Societies and Cognate Libraries


brings people together to explore the history and significance of protestant non-conformity.

Events - Contacts - History - Conference publications - Texts - Links
Denomination history diary and record

Remembering Alan Sell

Thursday 7.11.2019 - ADHSCL (Association of Denominational Historical Societies and Cognate Libraries) Annual General Meeting at 2.30pm, followed by the Annual Lecture at about 3pm -

Was George Muller Brethren?

Lecture by Neil Summerton from the Brethren Archivist and Historians' Network.

We are also hopeful that the archivist for the Brethren archives may be able to attend.

Please make this lecture known as all are welcome.

Wesley's Chapel
49 City Road

light refreshments will be served

The Correspondence of George Whitefield Project

Lecture by Geordan Hammond, Director of the Manchester Wesley Research Centre; and Senior Lecturer in Church History and Wesley Studies at the Nazarene Theological College.

The aim of this project is to produce the first complete and critical edition of the correspondence of Whitefield, including all extant letters written by and to him. Thus far over 2,600 letters have been identified with manuscripts at over 50 institutions on both sides of the Atlantic. The project is being led by David Ceri Jones with assistance from Geordan Hammond and was funded in its initial two years by the Leverhulme Trust. The leaders of the project have secured a contact with Oxford University Press to publish a projected seven volume series of the letters.

The paper will introduce and discuss the progress and present state of the Correspondence of George Whitefield Project. In addition to discussing the aims, progress, and challenges of the project, some case studies of the letters will be presented along with suggestions about the significance of the letters for our understanding of early evangelicalism.

Thursday 12.11.2018 at Dr Williams's Library. Annual General Meeting at 2.30pm, followed by the Lecture at about 3pm.

Isaac Watts. and the evolution of English Dissent

2017 Lecture by Robert Strivens, former principal of the London Theological Seminary and a continuing lecturer in church history there, as well as soon to be pastor of Bradford upon Avon Baptist Church.

Thursday 12.10.2017 at Dr Williams's Library. Annual General Meeting at 2.30pm, followed by the Lecture at about 3pm. AGM Agenda: 1. Welcome - 2. Election of Convenor, Treasurer and Secretary - 3. Approval of the Minutes of the Annual General Meeting 2016 - 4. - Secretary's report - 5. Treasurer's Report and approval of accounts for 2016/2017 - 6. Election of independent accounts examiner 2016/2017 - 7. Publication of 2016 Conference lectures - 8. Date of AGM and ideas for annual lecture 2018 - 9. Any other business

Nonconformist attitudes to war and peace in the long twentieth century

Two day conference at Friends House, Euston Road, London - opposite Euston station - on Friday 16.9.2016 and Saturday 17.9.2016

Cohosted by ADHSCL and the Chapels Society


Word document - Full programme - Flyer

Between 25 to 28 people gathered on both days to listen to a wealth of new and fascinating material related to nonconformists and war. The hospitality of Friends' House in providing the room and in the quality of the catering was much appreciated.

The first speaker John Ellis spoke about his grandfather George Herbert Ellis who alone amongst his family of Congregationalists was resolutely pacifist and yet the family bonds remained strong. The family connections came out as well in both Judith James' lecture about the Strict Baptists and Professor Peter Ackers' lecture about the Churches of Christ. This added an intimacy to the history of those who fought and those who chose not to fight for conscience's sake. The letters home from the front were used by a number of speakers to show the personal spiritual experience of those fighting in the various arenas of conflict.

Another theme that was highlighted by a number of the speakers was that of military chaplaincy. Dr. Neil Allison an ex army chaplain himself spoke about Captain Ernest Lodge Watson, an Australian by birth and Baptist pastor by profession who literally towered over the British troops and inspired them in his revivalist type services. David Seymour's research showed that many of the men who had been in the nonconformist colleges of Mansfield Road, Oxford either served as combatants or were involved in chaplaincy or service in the YMCA. Professor D. Densil Morgan pointed out how some of the chapel going Welsh troops had a very low opinion of the chaplains they met on church parade.

Professor Clyde Binfield illustrated his talk about Lutyens and his non religious designs for memorials which became so important in the official war graves sites, but also influential in the way war memorials were conceived of in various nonconformist schools. Dr. Anne Brooke showed how rolls of honour in the chapels formed the basis for more permanent memorials in churches and chapels after the first world war. The rolls had their surprises like the Unitarian chapel which listed a Hindu soldier on its roll of honour and in another chapel the conscientious objector's name alongside those who fought.

David Boulton spoke about Quakers and conscientious objection, but introduced his talk by pointing out that many conscientious objectors were Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians and Seventh Day Adventists and their protest and suffering tended to be unnoticed. He showed how Quakers did not speak with one voice about participation in the war, though of course many thousands did refuse to fight and of those around 6,000 were in prison. Professor Peter Ackers was able to show that while the young men of the Wigan Church of Christ chapels were resolutely pacifist, their stand was not supported by the more middle class or older people in the same grouping.

By way of contrast Dr. Andrew Chandler gave us an overview of the German Lutheran churches in Britain prior to the second world war and showed how their stance was profoundly against the rise of Nazism, when this was not mirrored by the Lutheran churches in Germany itself. Most of the pastors of the German speaking congregations in Britain joined with Dietrich Bonhoeffer in affiliating with the Confessing Church and were forthright in their stance against Nazism and doing what they could to help the 80,000 to 90,000 refugees fleeing from Germany in the 1930's.

The conference discussions were marked by the knowledgable comments and questions from other participants. It is hoped that the papers given at the conference may be published in the future, if they have not been published already.

Pauline Johns

The speakers

Friday 16.9.2016

10am: John Ellis "The warmongering pacifist: a family story"

11.30am: David Seymour "The colleges of Mansfield Road, Oxford in the Great War"

1.30pm: Dr. Neil E. Allison "Padre Ernest Lodge Wilson (1878 - 1951) and military chaplaincy during World War One"

2.30pm: Dr. Andrew Chandler "Dictatorship, Exile and Protest, British Christianity and the experience of German pastors and congregations in Britain 1933 - 1945"

3.30pm: ADHSCL AGM

4pm: Dr. Anne C. Brook "From Pride in the Living to Commemorating the Dead: Rolls of Honour in the First World War"

Saturday 17.9.2016

10am: Judith James "Strict Baptist Reactions to war 1914 - 1919"

11.30am: Professor Clyde Binfield "Salute to the holiest: Lutyens, Free Churches and the commemoration of war"

1.30pm: David Boulton "Conscientious objection among the Quakers in World War One"

2.30: Professor D. Densil Morgan " Responses to World War Two amongst Welsh Nonconformists"

4pm: Professor Peter Ackers "Who speaks for the Christians? The Great War and Conscientious Objectors in the Churches of Christ: a view from the Wigan coalfield"

ADHSCL - Officers' Contact Details

Convenor: Rev. Dr. David Ceri Jones
E-mail link
Secretary: Mrs Pauline Johns
11 Ashwick Close, Caterham, Surrey, CR3 6BY
E-mail link
Phone: 01883 341 909
Treasurer: Vacant

Website error reports

Dear colleagues,

You will be sad to know that Revd. Professor Alan Sell passed away on Sunday 7th February after a long illness. We have been invited to a thanksgiving service in remembrance. Our thoughts and prayers are with Alan's wife, Karen, and their family.

Alan was the inspiration behind our Association, and an enthusiastic promoter of it, and an appreciation of this has been written for us by Margaret Thompson.

With best wishes,
Pauline Johns

Dr Karen Sell warmly invites you to A Service of Thanksgiving for the Gospel, on occasion of the death of Alan Philip Frederick Sell, at The Church of Christ the Cornerstone, Saxon Gate, Milton Keynes, on Thursday March 3rd 2016 at 2.15 pm. Refreshments will follow the Service. If so wished donations may be sent to Willen Hospice, Milton Road, Milton Keynes, MK15 9AD
Alan Sell - an appreciation

by Margaret Thompson of the URC History Society.

Alan had many interests, concerns and occasional hobby horses, and others will sketch these in other places, but Sir Christopher Wren's memorial in St Paul's Cathedral, Si monumentum requiris, circumspice, (If you seek his monument, look about you), comes to mind after surveying the ADHSCL website. The idea of providing a forum for those denominations outside Church Establishment to talk to each other was a project conceived before Alan's return to the UK from Canada in 1992. A year later it was a reality, and the Association has since expanded its core membership. Through the work of its officers, London meetings have been held every year and conferences at regular intervals in a variety of locations. (Alan served as the first Convenor). Wales and Aberystwyth, where Alan taught at the United Theological College, had a special place in his affections, since he was determined that the Welsh contribution to Nonconformity should not be overlooked, perhaps influenced by Geoffrey Nuttall, whose writings he greatly admired.

A second "monument" must be the four volume series of Protestant Nonconformist Texts (2007). Alan invited eleven other contributors to take part, endeavouring to cover the spectrum of Dissent as appropriately as could be done, by period. He himself took responsibility for Volume 2 on the Eighteenth Century. Two academic presses were to pull the plug on the enterprise before the Ashgate contract was signed and sealed, at which point some of the compliers had firm pressure exerted by Alan as Series Editor. I recall from my time as ADHSCL treasurer, that Volume 4 required a subvention to ensure that certain manuscripts were word processed to make them legible and usable (a reminder of another time, yet less than twenty years ago). More recently, Alan secured a new agreement with the American publisher, Wipf and Stock, for paperback copies, and has thus ensured the continued availability of the series for a new group of readers and a more manageable price for institutions.

As a scholar, Alan's output was substantial, and broad in its theological and historical coverage - not for him that phrase employed when declining an invitation, "It's not my period". Systematic in his approach to research, his library and filed material were wide in scope and meticulously indexed. He had an eye and an ear for the telling phrase, as instanced by one title, "From worms to sunbeams". Was this really about Calvinism? He did like to ensure that whatever he prepared and delivered would find its way into print. Quietly spoken, and attentive in any conversation, he was appreciative of assistance given, less patient when correspondence was not answered as quickly as might have been anticipated. A casual approach to dress was not for him, but a complementary jacket and tie and highly polished shoes. His death follows several years of treatment and periods of remission, in which he continued to work and write, supported by his immediate family. In a recent email, he wrote, "I seem to be a not very straightforward case, and hence find myself teasing the medics from time to time. I am grateful for all that is being done for me, and I remain cheerful". Understated perhaps, but also an illustration of the inner strength of faith, for he would have described himself first and foremost as a minister of the Gospel.


History of the Association of Denominational Historical Societies and Cognate Libraries

Before the world wide web, in late 1989-1999. Alan Sell began to correspond (from Canada) with those who might be interested in forming an umbrella Association which would encourage cooperative research between the several historical societies, would involve relevant libraries, and would hold an annual lecture and occasional conferences without clashing with the programmes of the societies. Alan says:

"I hoped that such an association would counteract that tendency towards tunnel vision which can afflict denominational historical societies."
Preliminary meetings of representatives of societies and libraries were held at Dr Williams's Library in Gordon Square, London on 14.11.1991 and 29.10.1992. At the first, nine points of cooperation were agreed and at the second representatives reported on their societies' and libraries' responses to the points and considered the formation of an Association, for which a draft constitution was proposed.  

"the minutes of that meeting in 1992, remind me just how recent is the development of online union catalogues, internat access and cooperative projects providing instant availability of bibliographical information, which in those days had to be provided by the exchange of disks or purchase of microfiches." (Sue Mills 2004)

A constitution was adopted and the Association was formally constituted on 23.10.1993. Its stated objectives to facilitate the exchange of information among members by means of a newsletter, an annual meeting, and occasional conferences, and to encourage research into the denominational and related traditions, with special reference to projects which encompass more than one tradition.

Founder members included the Baptist, Congregational, Friends', Unitarian, United Reformed, Welsh Baptist, Welsh Independents', Welsh Presbyterian and Wesley historical societies, together with such bodies having related interests as the Chapels Society, the Huguenot Society, and the Religious Archives Group of the Society of Archivists. Library members included Dr. Williams's Library, The Library of the Religious Society of Friends, The Huguenot Library, The John Rylands University Library of Manchester, the Angus Library Regent's Park College, Oxford, the Wesley Historical Society Library, and the libraries of Manchester and Mansfield Colleges, Oxford, Westminster College, Cambridge, and Wesley College, Bristol. Links to societies and libraries are provided on this website.

A pattern was established of an annual lecture at the Association's October Annual General Meeting. Unitarian historian Jeremy Goring is listed without a title in 1993. In 1994 Roger Hayden, Secretary and later President of the Baptist Historical Society spoke to the title:

"'A sprightly tune': eighteenth-century Baptist hymnody and evangelical experience."

From the start it was agreed that the Association should aim to arrange a conference at approximately five yearly intervals, on a theme of historical interest across denominational boundaries. These conferences have led to the publication of books.

The themes have been Protestant Nonconformists in the West Midlands - Protestant Nonconformity in the Twentieth Century - The National Sunday School Union - Protestant Nonconformity and Christian Missions - and (forthcoming) Nonconformist attitudes to war and peace in the long twentieth century

The major publishing project to date is the four-volume series, Protestant nonconformist texts. It took ten years to get published and Alan Sell joked:

As a person of faith, I believe the series will indeed be published, but, not a betting person, I will not lay odds on when that will be!


Alan Sell was Convenor from the outset until 2001; John Briggs served from 2001-2004, when Martin Wellings took over; He was followed in 2011 by Andrew Worth. Following his sudden death on 23rd April 2014 the AGM on 16th October 2014 chose the Rev. Dr. David Ceri Jones as the new Convenor.

The Treasurers: David J. Hall (Quaker), Margaret Thompson, Michael Hopkins (both URC) until autumn 2012. Pauline Johns as Acting Treasurer has now been followed by Rev. Hugh Graham.

The Secretaries: Malcolm Thomas, Howard Gregg, Heather Rowland, (all Quakers), now followed by Pauline Johns (Baptist).


The history of the Association has been largely developed from a history by Sue Mills in the Bulletin of the Association of British Theological and Philosophical Libraries, Volume 11, number 2, June 2004.

The Association of Denominational Historical Societies
and Cognate Libraries

Conference Publications

Conferences were held in 1995 - 2000 - 2004 and 2010. Each of them led to a publication

First Conference: Westhill College, Birmingham, 28 - 30 July 1995 Protestant Nonconformists in the West Midlands of England

Publication: Protestant Nonconformists and the West Midlands of England (1996) edited by Alan P F Sell, Keele, Keele University Press ISBN-13: 978-1- 85331-173-4

Examining the contribution of Protestant Nonconformity to society in England's industrial heartland in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this study shows how a commitment to social transformation linked, amongst others, Quakers, Unitarians and Primitive Methodists.

Second Conference: Westhill College, Birmingham, 26 - 29 July 2000 Protestant Nonconformity in the Twentieth Century

Publication: Protestant Nonconformity in the Twentieth Century (2003) edited by Alan P F Sell and Anthony R. Cross, Milton Keynes, Paternoster Press ISBN-13: 978-1-84227-221-3

Scholars representative of a number of Nonconformist traditions reflect thematically on Free Church life and witness during the twentieth century. Among the subjects reviewed are biblical studies, theology, worship, evangelism and spirituality, and ecumenism. Over and above its immediate interest, this collection will provide a marker to future scholars and others who may wish to know how some of their forebears assessed Nonconformity's contribution to a variety of fields during the century leading up to Christianity's third millennium.

Third Conference: Westminster College, Cambridge, 21 - 24 September 2004 The National Sunday School Union: an anniversary retrospective

Publication The Sunday School Movement (2007) edited by Stephen Orchard and John Briggs, Milton Keynes, Paternoster Press ISBN-13: 978-1-84227-360-0

Today's Sunday Schools are a pale shadow of what they were in the past. The churches have found other ways of serving children and young people and carrying out adult education. From an historical point of view the Sunday Schools have immense significance. As late as the 1950s something like half the children in the country were associated with Sunday Schools. In the nineteenth century Sunday Schools were part of general educational provision. With National, British and Ragged schools, Sunday Schools represented the Christian philanthropic impulse to provide a basic education to the population at large and at low cost. The role of the churches in educational provision is again a topic of public interest and the time is right to reflect on some of the lessons of the past. A range of experts have been asked to assess different aspects of the history of the Sunday School movement: Clyde Binfield, Faith Bowers, John H. Y. Briggs, Grayson Ditchfield, Hugh McLeod, Stephen Orchard, Jack Priestley, Geoff Robson and Doreen Rosman. They provide a remarkable survey of many aspects of Sunday Schools, from their origin to their re-invention, from teaching the catechism to promoting sport.

Fourth Conference: Luther King House, Manchester, 7 September-9 September 2010 Protestant Nonconformity and Christian Missions

Among the speakers were: Brian Stanley - Clyde Binfield - Tim Grass - Margaret Jones - John Darch - and J Gwynfor Jones

Publication: Protestant Nonconformity and Christian Missions (2013) edited by Martin Wellings, Milton Keynes, Paternoster Press ISBN-13: 978-1-84227-798-0

The conference celebrated the centenary of the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910, but the topics of the volume range more widely, covering missions in Britain and the wider world from the eighteenth to the twentieth century.

Protestant Nonconformist Texts is a series of four books designed to allow English and Welsh Protestant Nonconformists to tell their story from 1550 to 2000 in their own words. Under the General Editorship of Alan P F Sell, the volumes, sections and individual texts are introduced by the volume editors. Themes covered include philosophy, theology, social witness, Church and state, spirituality, evangelism and mission, and worship.    
  Volume one: 1550-1700, edited by R. Tudor Jones with Arthur Long and Rosemary Moore
ISBN-13: 978-0-7546-3864-3

Volume two: The Eighteenth Century, edited by Alan P F Sell with David J. Hall and Ian Sellers
ISBN-13: 978-0-7546-3853-7

Volume three: The Nineteenth Century, edited by D W Bebbington with Kenneth Dix and Alan Ruston
ISBN-13: 978-0-7546-3850-2

Volume four: The Twentieth Century, edited by David M Thompson with J H Y Briggs and John Munsey Turner
ISBN-13: 978-0-7546-4013-4


The books were published by Ashgate, Aldershot, between 2006 and 2007 and are now available in paperback from Wipf and Stock Publishers - Email for ordering

For delivery to the UK please mark your order "UK fulfilment".

Nonconformist Links
The Association of Denominational Historical Societies and Cognate Libraries network of members and others

ChurchesLibraries and ArchivesHistorical Societies
The Baptist Union
Grace Baptists
Gospel Standard Baptists
Angus Library, Regents Park College, Oxford
Centre for Baptist History and Heritage Regent's Park College, Oxford
Spurgeon's College Library, South Norwood
Gospel Standard Baptist Library
Bristol Baptist College Library
Baptist Historical Society

Strict Baptist Historical Society

United Reformed Church

Congregational Federation

Evangelical Fellowship of Congegational Churches

Mansfield College Library, Oxford

Congregational Library, London
In the same building as Dr Williams's Library. Its catalogue of books is included as part of the Dr Williams's Library Catalogue

Westminster College Library, Cambridge
Westminster College

United Reformed Church History Society

Congregational History Society

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
[Britain Yearly Meeting]

Library of the Religious Society of Friends (Euston Road)

Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre Library.

Friends' Historical Society
    The Huguenot Library Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland
Methodist Church

Wesleyan Reform Union

Methodist Collections Manchester University

Manchester Wesley Research Centre and Nazarene Theological College, Manchester

Wesley Historical Society Library

Wesley Historical Society
  Christian Brethren Archive Manchester University The Brethren Archivists and Historians Network
The New (Jerusalem) Church (Swedenborgians) - archive of Bristol history   New Church Historical Society Bulletin - archive
Unitarian and Free Christian Churches Harris Manchester College Library, Oxford
Luther King House Library
Unitarian Resources
Unitarian Historical Society
   Dr Williams's Library, 14 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury

      The Chapels Society
      Ecclesiastical History Society
      The Queen Mary Centre for Religion and Literature in English

After many years running this website, Robin Phillips is passing on the task to others. This is the link to the website Robin developed that is being used as the basis for this one.