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Church Missionary Society

Church Missionary Society

This watercolour comes from the papers of Samuel Crowther junior, Native lay agent in charge of the dispensary and cotton store at Ake (Abeokuta) 1851-1861. This image was sent to the Church Missionary Society to accompany his journal extracts for the quarter 25th December 1855. His journal for this period reads;

“In one of my letters to Mr Thos Clagg dated December 7th 1855 I pressed very much the necessity of a small press of any simple construction at Lagos; the idea of one having been first impressed on my mind by Mr Consul Campbell of Lagos after his return from a visit to Abbeokuta, he has seen the cotton store & gins at work, and also a cotton store of Ogubouna (?) in course of erection, all of which he expressed his decided satisfaction; he then urged the necessity of such a press at Lago the cost of which would be about £30. He desired me. After the description, to make a small sketch of it, which I send subjoined”.

After working at Ake Samuel went on to be in charge of the cotton warehouse in Lagos from 1861 to 1862 and his letter and reports give a fascinating insight into his life, his family and the operation of the cotton store and local conditions and work at the time.

With an estimated 2,000,000 items, the Church Missionary Society Collection is by far the largest collection held by the University Special Collection, and is the most well used. It has been received in instalments from 1979, and papers from the Society's foundation in 1799 up to 1949 are currently open for scholarly study. The collection is a rich source of information not only for ecclesiastical history and missiology but for the secular history and anthropology of the many countries, particularly in Asia and Africa, in which the Society has operated. Included are records of the Society's home administration (minute books, ledgers, correspondence and publications) and of the work of individual missions, amongst them letters and diaries kept by missionaries. Over the years the Society has absorbed three other missionary societies, and their archives too now form part of the collection; they are the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society (founded 1880), the Female Education Society (founded 1834), and the Loochoo Naval Mission (founded 1843). The University continues to add complimentary material to this collection by acquiring the papers of individual missionaries.

For fuller accounts of the collection see Rosemary Keen, "The Church Missionary Society archives", Catholic Archives, No. 12, 1992, pp. 21-31, and Rosemary Seton and Emily Naish, A preliminary guide to the archives of British missionary societies (London: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1992), pp. 19-32, 58-9, 86-7.


For further information about the Church Missionary Society and other collections held by the University of Birmingham Special Collections go to





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