Reverend Gordon Taylor Collection of Church Histories

The Reverend Gordon Taylor Collection of Church Histories consists of more than 10,000 short works on English churches, monasteries, and cathedrals published from the early nineteenth century to the present.

Gordon Taylor was an Anglican priest who served as a chaplain in the Royal Navy before becoming rector of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, London, in 1949, a position he held for fifty-one years. A theological conservative and diligent pastor, he worked to rebuild St. Giles after the wartime blitz and to develop a ministry to downtown office workers as the city grew around the church; he also fought to keep urban growth from encroaching on the property, comparing the city's 1971 attempt to annex church property for a new road to the biblical story of Naboth's vineyard. He continued as a naval chaplain for thirty years after his active service, holding a membership in the Society for Nautical Research. He was also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and successfully combined these interests in his 1978 book The Sea Chaplains (in Pitts Library at VG25 .G7 T38), now the standard history of Royal Navy chaplains.

Taylor began his church guides collection as a schoolboy in the 1930s, and over the years enlisted friends and family to find guides on their holidays and excursions into the countryside. As he became known for his collection, he began to receive items in the mail and as bequests. His collection was acquired by Pitts Theology Library in 2003, adding substantially to the library's holdings of church histories and guides; the entire collection was named in his honor as a tribute to his work as a collector. The recent gift of about 7,000 guides from Susan Dalton is still being processed, and taken as a whole, these items provide important primary documentation of congregational life in Great Britian over the last two centuries. 

Worcester Cathedral Ground PlanThe guides vary from one-sheet tracts to small booklets, and may cover a single parish or those of a region or an entire metropolitan area. The vast majority are pamphlets, and they are variously entitled "church guides," "church histories," and "parish church guides." Most come from English churches, though some are from Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Their religious denominations are varied. They include histories of parishes as well as guides to church buildings; some include descriptions of the church graveyards (and their occupants, as witnessed by the tombstones). Many are illustrated and include building plan diagrams. Some are meant to assist visitors with self-guided tours of the grounds. Others may concentrate on particular architectural or decorative features of the churches, such as paintings or mosaics. Some are practical in nature, describing church finances or the rules and regulations of Sunday school programs. Still others describe historical or even archaeological remains. Their authors include clergy, churchwardens, amateur historians, and theological luminaries such as E. B. Pusey. One of the authors is Gordon Taylor himself, who wrote about his own church, St. Giles-in-the-Fields: Its Part in History (SPECIALCOL 1989 TAYL A). Many of these publications were produced as part of a parish anniversary celebration or some other special occasion. This collection represents just a portion of the vast amount of material in existence; Pitts may own no more than a third of the guides that have been published.

The collection complements Pitts' English Religious History Collection and gives researchers access to local information that may have escaped other histories, such as photographs of churches, floor plans, lists of clergy who served in the parish, notable historical events in the congregation's life, and tales of local church life. The collection is cataloged at the item level and made available to researchers via Emory's catalog. Most bibliographic entries include a geographical subject heading in order to facilitate those interested in a particular town or region.

Churches in Great Britain who are not currently represented in the Reverend Gordon Taylor Collection are invited to donate copies of their own parish histories and guides for inclusion in the collection; please contact the library director, M. Patrick Graham.

Browse the library catalog for items in the Rev. Gordon Taylor Collection of Church Histories.