Digitisation Projects in the Christian Brethren Archive

I’m delighted to announce the completion of several digitisation projects of material from the Christian Brethren Archive, with special thanks to the Photography and Imaging cataloguing teams.

The first item is a photo album from the Geoffrey Taylor Bull collection. Bull was a brethren mission worker, and after the Second World War, he travelled to China and spent three years on the border with Tibet learning Mandarin and Tibetan, and preaching. In 1950, Bull was captured by the Chinese during their campaign to retake Tibet. He was imprisoned for the next three years, and tortured in an attempt to convert him to the Communist cause. Bull was released in 1953, and would later state that it was his faith which enabled him to resist and endure the ‘reform programme’ he was subjected to.

Geoffrey Taylor Bull

The album which has been digitised dates from 1947, and documents Bull’s experiences in Kuling, China and Tibet. A link to the images from the album can be found here. The catalogue for the papers of Geoffrey Taylor Bull can be found here.

The next addition to our digitised material are portraits of John Nelson Darby and William Graeme Rhind. There are two portraits of Darby, one of the founder members of the brethren movement, the first of which is a watercolour painting. The label on the reverse of the painting reads: ‘J.N.D. had an objection to being photographed, but consented to sit to a brother, an artist, who was in poor circumstances, with a view to helping him.’ The second portrait is a pencil illustration by the poet Edmund Gosse, a former member of the brethren, and is labelled ‘Darby in meditation during the breaking of bread one Sunday morning, drawn shortly before his death (in 1881)’.

William Graeme Rhind

The third portrait, a pencil illustration, depicts William Graeme Rhind, another early leader of the brethren movement, preaching to a crowd of people. The portraits can be found here.

The third set of material is a selection of late 19th and early 20th century directories of brethren assemblies in Britain, Europe, North and South America, Africa, Australasia and Asia. The directories were published in 1873, 1897, 1904 and 1933. The 1873 edition lists Exclusive brethren assemblies, whilst the other three directories relate to assemblies of the Open brethren. They were compiled with the intention of assisting members of the brethren who were travelling or moving to find assemblies in their new location. It was the custom for members of the brethren to travel with a letter of commendation from their own/previous assembly.

Brethren list of meetings 1873

The directories published by 1897 and 1904 was compiled by J.W. Jordan of Greenwich, and the 1933 edition was edited by HYP (Henry Pickering). There is a significant increase in size and number of assemblies in the 1933 edition when compared to the 1897 list, providing evidence of the continuing growth of the brethren movement in the 35 years between the editions. The directories can be accessed here.

The final additions to our digital holdings is a set of images of prominent members of the brethren, which formerly adorned the walls of Merrion Hall, Dublin.

Merrion Hall, Dublin

Dublin was the birthplace of the bible study meetings which would lead to the formation of the first brethren assemblies, and Merrion Hall was the first public meeting place for the movement. It opened in 1863, and could seat a congregation of 2,500 people. The photographs in this collection hung on the walls of the Merrion Hall until its sale by the brethren in 1988, and features brethren figures of the 19th and 20th centuries, including Reverend J. Denham Smith and W.H. Fry. Access to this material can be gained here.

The digitisation projects for the Christian Brethren Archive are made possible by the support and funding provided by the J.W. Laing Trust.

2 comments on “Digitisation Projects in the Christian Brethren Archive

  1. I was interested to read of the recent addition to the archive of Geoffrrey Bull’s photo album. If I may be allowed to comment on a possible error in the introduction in that I believe Bull was born in Eltham, London and although he married in Scotland and eventually lived and died there, I believe he was English.
    As an aside I grew up in Lockerbie, Dumfriesshire and as a family attended the Brethren Assembly there. My father had been reading Bull’s ‘When Iron Gates Yield’ which contained a photograph of the author. One Sunday morning at the Breaking of Bread service he found himself sitting opposite a young couple visiting the assembly. He was most surprised to recognise the young man as Geoffrey Bull. He and his wife were had been married the previous day and had spent their first night at Lockerbie House Hotel. I suppose today there would be requests for a ‘selfie’, on that occasion a handshake sufficed, and a memory was created.
    With thanks, Robert McAdam

    • Jessica Smith

      Thank you Robert, for the information, and what a wonderful memory for your father, thanks for sharing with us.

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