About the Manuscripts

The Wellington Valley mission papers consist of just under 1,000 pages of manuscript from the archives of the Church Missionary Society, housed in the Heslop Room of the library of the University of Birmingham.{1} A small proportion of this material was copied by the colonial antiquarian James Bonwick (1817-1906) as part of his transcriptions of British colonial records relating to Australia, now held in Mitchell library.{2} The Bonwick transcriptions of missionary records have been a significant source for historians of Australian missions ever since, though many historians have acknowledged their imperfect nature.

The bulk of the Wellington papers, excluding much of the General Secretary's correspondence, was copied onto microfilm in 1959 as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project miscellaneous series.{3} At this time, the Church Missionary Society papers were held at Partnership House, the London headquarters of the Church Missionary Society. The papers of the missions of the 'Africa' Committee, which included the New Zealand and New Holland missions of the Society, were recatalogued with great care and thoroughness by Rosemary Keen, who produced an exemplary, though unpublished, catalogue, dated 1981.{4} Keen made a number of changes to the arrangement of the papers, the most significant being the redistribution of the Mission Secretary's papers to the files of individual missionaries, as well as the reconstitution of the Corresponding Committee's papers.

These changes meant that the microfilm version of the Wellington Mission papers no longer represent a completely accurate view of the original archive. For this reason, this edition is based on the University of Birmingham manuscript, rather than the microfilm version of the Wellington papers, and citations refer to the original, rather than the microfilm copy. Nevertheless, because the researchers have been based at the University of Newcastle, with only the occasional opportunity to visit Birmingham, all transcripts were originally made from microfilm held in the library of the University of Newcastle, with final checking only being made against the original.

In addition to the copies of the missionary journals and correspondence which made their way to the CMS archives, a number of other papers were retained in Australia. There is a more or less complete copy of the journals of James Günther 1806-1879) held in Mitchell Library,{5} as well as some papers relating to William Watson (1793-1866).{6} The Watson papers held in Mitchell library are particularly interesting as they gives an account of the independent mission conducted by Watson after his final exodus from the CMS Mission station including reports of the Apsely mission, 1842-44, and a diary dated 1 August 1849 - 6 May 1850. The notebook came into the Mitchell Library in the 1950s when it was donated by the Offner family who owned the land on which Watson's Apsley mission once



  1. See Acknowledgements for full references and links to web sites of original archives.
  2. "Bonwick Transcripts", Boxes 29, 40, 51 - 54; Missionary Vol. 6. Mitchell Library, Sydney.
  3. Australian Joint Copying Project, Vol. 7 Miscellaneous series.
  4. Rosemary Keen, "Catalogue of the papers of the missions of the Africa (Group 3) Committee", Vol. 7 New Zealand Mission, 1981, CMS Archives, Birmingham University Library, Birmingham. Keen notes: "Unfortunately much of this material was out of order and some items totally misplaced. The present catalogue . . . has corrected this".
  5. Rev. J. Günther, "Correspondence 1826-78," ML A1450 (CY Reel 82); "Various Lectures and Correspondence," ML B503; "Papers on Wiradjuri Dialect," ML B505 (CY Reel 980), Mitchell Library, Sydney.
  6. Rev. William Watson, "Notebook, 1842-44 and Diary 1849-50," ML 331 (CY 1168), Mitchell Libary, Sydney.