Following completion of the Birmingham and Warwickshire Quakers cataloguing project, funded by a cataloguing grant from the National Archives and a bequest from a member of Bull Street Quaker Meeting, the catalogue of Central England Area Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends is now available to view on our online catalogue and in hardcopy in the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research.
Covering the establishment of Quakerism in the area in the mid-17th century to the present day, the collection includes records of the county’s umbrella organisation, Warwickshire Monthly Meeting and its predecessors, and the records of the regional Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Leicestershire Quarterly Meeting which reported to the head of the Quaker Church, the Yearly Meeting in London. It also includes records of local Quaker Meetings in Birmingham such as Bull Street, Bournville, Cotteridge, Edgbaston, Selly Oak and Kings Heath, as well as those further afield such as Warwick, Coventry, Barnt Green and Redditch, Stourbridge, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield and Walsall. Records for meetings which no longer exist such as Gooch Street, Farm Street, Longbridge, Dudley, Stirchley, Shipston-on-Stour, Baddsley Ensor, Fulford Heath and Wigginshill are also in the archive.
The collection is predominantly made up of minutes relating to the running of the church, but it also has reports, correspondence, financial records, property records, records of trusts, membership records and statistics, birth, marriage and burial records, records of sufferings (relating to the persecution of Quakers). In addition to these, from the mid-19th century onwards, there are many records of committees established to deal with areas of specific interest or concern to Quakers. These include committees relating to peace, temperance, the education of young Quakers, housing, unemployment, penal reform, care of the elderly, conscientious objection and enlistment during World War One, war relief during the Spanish Civil War, the evacuation and care of young children and the welfare of refugees at home and abroad during World War Two. There are also records of Severn Street and Moseley Road adult schools, the Friends Sunday School Union, Young Friends groups, the Friends Reading Society, the Friends Essay Society, the Friends Library at Bull Street and Friends Halls and Institutes in Bull Street, Moseley Road, Cotteridge, Northfield and Farm Street.
The Central England Area Meeting archive is one of the most important collections to have come into the archives in recent years, particularly when combined with the personal, business and family papers of local Quakers already held by Birmingham Archives and Collections, such as those of the Cadbury, Sturge, Southall, Albright, Galton, Pumphrey, Gibbins and Lloyd families. It is of interest to those wanting to research religious history, trace the progression of Quakerism in Birmingham and the West Midlands, or uncover their Quaker ancestry. For those researching diverse topics such as adult education, penal affairs, housing conditions, peace and conscientious objection, refugee work in the UK and abroad, unemployment and temperance, the collection provides details of how West Midlands Quakers were involved, both locally and nationally. When combined with other Quaker collections held by Archives and Collections it also provides researchers with the opportunity to compare the official, organisational archive with how Quaker lives were lived in practice.
You can get an idea of some of the themes and records which appear in the Central England Area Meeting archive by clicking on ‘Quakers’ or ‘Religious Society of Friends’ in the tag cloud on the right of this page to see previous posts about the collection and you can search the online catalogue under the collection reference SF here.
Eleanor, Project Archivist