The Church Missionary Society for Africa and the Far East, established in 1799, has to date sent some nine thousand men and women to serve as missionaries throughout the world. The Society’s collected archives, housed in the Heslop Room of the library of the University of Birmingham {1}, includes the letters and journals sent by missionaries and correspondents from all corners of the globe over more than two hundred years, generally recognised as one of the world’s most important sources for colonial and religious history, as well as the ethnohistory of scores of societies.

The one mission conducted by the Society in the British colony of New South Wales during the early colonial period, was to the Wiradjuri people of Wellington Valley in the newly opened districts west of the Great Dividing Range. It was a relatively belated effort, and rather short lived. Nevertheless, from 1832 until its withdrawal amid acrimony and regret twelve years later in 1844, the four missionaries produced dozens of letters, in addition to around 1,000 manuscript pages of journals, diaries and reports which were returned to the Society in London.

The object of the Wellington Valley Project is to make available a full, critical edition of these records, which represent one of the largest and most important sources for the history of the colonial frontier in New South Wales. They are particularly significant for the account they provide of Wiradjuri society before the destruction of full ceremonial life. This alone would be justification for their publication in full, in both electronic and, it is anticipated, printed formats. Collectively, the Wellington Valley papers provide a wealth of information about the missionaries and their troubled encounter with a people staggering under the impact of European occupation. They also include considerable information about the pattern of European settlement in the Wellington Valley, which was, at the time the mission commenced, placed at the outermost limits of settlement.

The Wellington Valley mission papers reproduced in the Project are those kept by the Reverends J.C.S. Handt, William Watson and James Gunther, and by the mission `agriculturalist', Mr William Porter. The papers of each are contained separately in the Project's four volumes, together totalling 915 pages of manuscript. {2}



  1. See Acknowledgements for full references and links to web sites of original archives.
  2. See About the Manuscripts for further description of the original documents.