From the Archives Blog

From the Archives allows us in the Humanist Library and Archives to share some of our wonderful items and our learning with you!

It also includes entries from the former A2R (Alternatives to Religion) blog, a collaborative project between Conway Hall and Bishopsgate Institute which sparked exploration of some of the ways people have tried to make sense of the world and live together ethically without the need for faith in a God or gods. The key themes linking this broad movement are Freethought, Ethics, Humanism, Rationalism and Secularism. Material for these entries came from the British Humanist Association, The National Secular Society and Conway Hall Ethical Society. Posts were written by archivists, Nicky Hilton and Carl Harrison.

A duty of free enquiry

The charismatic William Johnson Fox, Minister of Parliament Court Chapel and South Place Chapel (forerunners of Conway Hall Ethical Society) addressed his radical congregation on 27 March 1842.


In 1876 A.J. Waterlow discovered a scrap of paper in the hand of William Johnson Fox, Minister of South Place Chapel (later South Place Ethical Society).

South Place pioneering congregation

This colourful diagram of the seating in South Place Chapel from Conway Hall Ethical Society archives is just one of the ways to identify the early members of the pioneering congregation at South Place.

Old London – South Place

Now the location of Finsbury Circus House, (opposite South Place Hotel), this 1820s plan gives a fascinating glimpse into old London by revealing the exact location of South Place Chapel (later, South Place Ethical Society).

The building of South Place Chapel, 1821

In 1821 the congregation of William Johnson Fox were in the process of commissioning the Unitarian Chapel at South Place, Finsbury, which would later become the home of South Place Ethical Society.

The minute books created by the predecessors of CHES

Here are just few of the minute books created by the predecessors of CHES. The minutes start in 1807 and trace the evolution of the ethical movement from a congregation of Unitarians and Presbyterians to the humanist membership of the Society today.

late twentieth-century leaflets

Here are three beautifully designed late twentieth-century leaflets from the British Humanist Association archives advertising humanist ceremonies for birth, partnerships and death.

The Student Humanist Federation

The Student Humanist Federation (formerly the University Humanist Federation) brought a strong youth presence to the British Humanist Association in the 1960s.

Council minutes

Delving into the British Humanist Association archive, the first surviving minute book of the Union of Ethical Societies (forerunner of the Association) creates an image of a thriving, growing organisation with widespread interest in the Ethical Movement.

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