Manuscripts and Special Collections

Did your ancestors attend chapel?

February 9th, 2011 at 08:02

If so, there is a chance that some references to them might be found in the nonconformist church records held at The University of Nottingham.

Researchers and family historians are used to going to local county or diocesan record offices such as Nottinghamshire Archives to see the registers and records from Anglican parish churches. Nottinghamshire Archives also holds extensive material from nonconformist denominations, particularly the Methodist Church. But many people may be surprised to know that The University of Nottingham is to place to come to find about the history of many local Congregational, Presbyterian, United Reformed, Baptist and Unitarian churches.

We have been collecting nonconformist church records since 1962, when the records of High Pavement Chapel were deposited at the University. High Pavement is one of the oldest dissenting chapels in Nottingham, with a history stretching back to the mid-17th century. The records of Castle Gate Congregational Church in Nottingham also go back to the mid-17th century. Castle Gate was a busy and popular church in the mid-19th century, and opened a number of ‘daughter churches’ in Nottingham suburbs to cater for all of its worshippers, before merging with St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in 1975 to become St Andrew’s-with-Castle Gate United Reformed Church. The University of Nottingham holds records which document the life of Castle Gate, St Andrew’s and associated churches from the 17th right through to the 21st century. We also hold records relating to the Old Meeting House in Mansfield, Friary Congregational Church in West Bridgford, Mansfield Road Baptist Church in Nottingham, and Retford Congregational Church.

The records range from the core documents referring to the congregation – baptism, marriage and burial registers, and lists of members – to minutes, financial papers, Sunday School records, church magazines, newsletters, photographs, title deeds and correspondence.  Records of church clubs and organisations give a vivid impression of the community and social life of the congregations.

The catalogue descriptions for Castle Gate (CU), St Andrew’s (AU), St Andrew’s-with-Castle Gate (CAA), Old Meeting House (OL) and Friary Congregational Church (Fy) have recently been upgraded with details of archive material received by The University of Nottingham since the 1990s. So if you think you are already familiar with these collections, you might like to take another look at the catalogues, as many more documents are now available for researchers to see in our Reading Rooms at King’s Meadow Campus.

You can find out more about the collections by looking at a new set of web pages, Nonconformist Churches, part of the ‘Collections in Context’ area of our website. The web pages include histories of all the churches for which we hold records, and link through to detailed descriptions on our Manuscripts Online Catalogue of the records relating to each church.

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