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The Library & Archive

Union Chapel was founded in 1795 and moved to Compton Terrace in 1806. It is not known, at the moment, when Union Chapel Library started but by 1837 the Evangelical Register reports that "A Reading Society is kept up among the members of the congregation and supplied with the most interesting and profitable publications of the day: a Circulating Library is also provided in the vestry for the use of the poor". Both these collections were probably quite small. None of the books from them survives. 

In 1875 the Building Works subcommittee directing the construction of the new chapel decreed that one bay of the Sunday School gallery was to be set aside and fitted out as the library and it remains there today together with many of the books from this period. Successive ministers and members have left their books in the collection.  There are numerous bibles and hymn books from many dates.

Between 1970 and 1985 the library declined badly and many documents and books were lost. In 2006 new security and shelving was provided for the library and one compartment beside it and all the documents and books scattered throughout the chapel were collected and partly catalogued in this space. A diagram of the shelving can be downloaded here.

Archives
Union Chapel has rich archives. There are substantial records of the congrega­tion, including minute books of the congregation's and the deacons' meetings going back to the 1835, baptismal records going back even further to 1805, records of members, and collections of press cuttings recording events in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century.

Recording the building of the present Chapel in 1875, there are minutes of meetings of the congregation, the building works sub-committee and deacons, books of copies of letters written on behalf of the buildings committee to the architect and contractors, bills of quantities, and press cuttings. There is also an interesting plan of the previous building of 1866 which was demolished to make way for the present building.

The printed books include a history published in 1899, the centenary of the con­gregation's foundation, called Union Chapel, the Story of a Hundred Years, and a volume of the sermons preached at the dedication of the present building in December 1877. Naturally there are also sermons preached by Dr Allon, and copies of the hymnals which he edited, and biographical material about him.

Page from the Band of Hope Pledge Book, 1879A copy of the Chapel trustees' petition to Parliament against the proposed Great Northern and City Railway (i.e. what is now the Finsbury Park to Moor-gate line via Drayton Park and Highbury and Islington) contains a summary of activities at the Chapel in 1892, including the information that there were ser­vices three times on a Sunday, congregation mostly about 1400, and that the school room was used twice every Sunday as a Sunday school, average attend­ance 450.

Some of the more miscellaneous items include a box of lantern slides of places in the north-eastern USA from the early twentieth century, the Band of Hope Pledge Book 1879-1921 in which people pledged to abstain from drinking alcohol and copies of the programmes for evenings of songs, humorous sketches, etc in the schoolroom in the 1895, called Evenings for the People.

 

 

The chapel library archive continues to expand. There is probably more printed ephemera produced today that at any time in the past.  The Library Archive Project aims to catalogue and conserve this so that the library and archive continues to reflect the life of the chapel. It aims to make this available to historians, genealogists, school and university groups and Union Chapel members.

Hand List of Contents
A Hand List of the contents of the Library & Archive in MS Word can be downloaded by clicking here.

Richard Wallington

 

Registered Charity No. 288545

Date: 10/2012