Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)CMS/ACC1040
TitleAccession 1040: Papers relating to Alfred Morris Gelsthorpe DSO, DD, and Elfrida Gelsthorpe MB, BCh, MRCS, LRCP
Extentc 5 boxes
Thumbnail (Click this image to open a larger image)

CMS ACC1001-1500/CMS ACC1040 Z2 (1).jpg

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DescriptionPersonal and family papers predominantly relating to the Right Reverend (Alfred) Morris Gelsthorpe, curate 1919-1922, CMS missionary 1923-1953, Assistant Bishop to the Bishop on the Niger 1933-1938, Assistant Bishop to the Bishop in Egypt and the Sudan 1938-1945, first Bishop in Sudan 1945-1952, Rector of Bingham, and Assistant Bishop of Southwell 1953-1963. The papers relating to Dr Elfrida Gelsthorpe, former medical missionary [1929-1949], date from after her marriage to A. M. Gelsthorpe in 1949.

The collection largely concerns A. M. Gelsthorpe's ecclesiastical career 1919-1963. There are also miscellaneous records and printed literature relating to different aspects of his working and personal life, some dating back to his school days and others dating from after his death in 1968 including papers compiled by wider family members. With the exception of tributes written on her leaving Southwell Diocese Mothers' Union, and after her death in 1989, there is little relating to Elfrida Gelsthorpe's career. The collection includes papers which she may have assembled whilst writing her husband's biography.

Broadly comprising: A. M. Gelsthorpe's pocket diaries, 1908-1966; A. M. Gelsthorpe's official documents (ecclesiastical), 1919-1953; papers and personal correspondence relating to A. M. Gelsthorpe as Assistant Bishop in the Niger, 1932-1938; miscellaneous papers relating to A. M. Gelsthorpe’s consecration as the first Anglican Bishop in Sudan, 1949; a circular letter written in 1940 when he was Assistant to the Bishop in Egypt and the Sudan; a design for a memorial to Bishop Gelsthorpe in Bingham Parish Church, Nottinghamshire, 1972; records spanning different aspects of A. M. Gelsthorpe's working and personal life and continued after his death, including a family scrapbook 1908-c 1992, compilations of biographical ephemera, notes and correspondence c 1921-2009, and photographs 1902-c 1968. Also including papers relating to a Trust portfolio 1960s-1990s; relating to Gelsthorpe’s colleague and successor as Bishop in Sudan, the Rt Rev Oliver Allison, 1974; and two printed booklets.

The collection is an important source for researchers interested in the life of A. M. Gelsthorpe and the history of the Anglican Church in Nigeria and Sudan. The earlier photographs include Morris' school and college days, including sports events, pupils of the Royal St Anne's School, and King's School Canterbury Officer Training Corps; Morris, other Gelsthorpe family members, and fellow servicemen, during the First World War; the Durham County Rugby Union team 1920/1921. Other items of particular note are images by photographers in Nigeria, Uganda and Sudan; photographs of staff and pupils from schools in Nigeria pictured in 1938; and, in the family scrapbook, a group photograph of A. M. Gelsthorpe with Emperor Haile Selassie.

During sorting by the donors of the collection prior to deposit in the Cadbury Research Library the records were listed and numbered and adhesive labels giving numbers ranging from AMG 1-26 can be seen on the back of some of the records. The donor numbers are given in the 'Notes' field of the catalogue. Some numbers are missing from the sequence as the numbering included records which have not been deposited in the Cadbury Research Library. These numbers should not be used when requesting or citing the papers.
NotesThe three images shown are taken from one of the photograph albums in the collection (finding number CMS/ACC1040 Z2).
1. A full height snapshot of A. M. Gelsthorpe standing outdoors in suit and clerical collar.
2. 'Building the new house, Awka 1927': the exterior of a building under construction; approximately 35 men in working clothes are standing in front of the building, on scaffolding planks, and on the open roof.
3. 'Unloading cargo at the West African ports where the coast is [?smog]-bound': a closely bunched group of more than 15 small wooden boats, loaded with packages and tied together with rope, are moored alongside a large ship or building; five or more men are working on each boat in the heat.
ArrangementThis collection forms part of the 'Church Mission Society Unofficial Papers'. It is arranged in two series:
F: Family papers
Z: Miscellaneous papers
Access ConditionsThe majority of the collection is open to all registered researchers. Some records have been closed temporarily either for reasons of conservation or Data Protection. Details are given at file level.
Access StatusPartially closed
Administrative History(Alfred) Morris Gelsthorpe (1892-1968), also known as ‘Gelly’, was born in Pinxton, Derbyshire, 26 February, 1892. Son of John Gelsthorpe (d 1896) farmer and merchant, and Annie Gelsthorpe née Kendall. Brother to Harold Stuart, Frank Ira, Kate Olive, Ida Rowena, Lawrence, Bernard, Sydney Osborne, Rebecca, Walter Oliver, John Norman, Mabel Angela and Frances Mildred. After their father died of typhoid, their paternal aunt, Rebecca Webb née Gelsthorpe, assisted with the support of the children.

He was educated at the Royal St Anne’s Society School, Redhill, Surrey; King’s School, Canterbury; and Hatfield College, Durham University. He graduated (MA) from Durham in 1913. Whilst a student at Durham, he joined the University Officer Training Corps.

He enlisted in the army during the First World War. Between 1914 and 1919 he served in France and Mesopotamia [Iraq], in the Artists’ Rifles, the Durham Light Infantry, and the Machine Gun Corps. He attained the rank of Captain (acting Major), was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and mentioned in despatches in 1917 and 1919.

After resigning his army commission, he was ordained deacon in 1919 and priest in 1920, He served as Curate of St Gabriel's, Bishopwearmouth, Sunderland under the Rev Bertram Lasbrey, 1919-1922. Whilst working in Sunderland he applied to the Church Mission Society (CMS), 1920. On 11 May 1921, he was accepted as a CMS missionary on the understanding that he would conclude his commitments as curate and undertake a period of missionary training before beginning his service. He sailed out to Awka in Eastern Nigeria, 3 January 1923. Whilst in Nigeria, he would again be working with Bertram Lasbrey who had been appointed Bishop on the Niger in 1922. From 1928-1932, A. M. Gelsthorpe served as Principal of the CMS Awka Training College, and Examining Chaplain to the Bishop on the Niger 1929-1933.

In 1933, he was awarded Doctor of Divinity (Durham, June 1923) and consecrated as Assistant Bishop to the Bishop on the Niger. In 1938, was appointed as Assistant to the Bishop in Egypt and the Sudan. In 1945, when Sudan was created a separate diocese, he became the first Anglican Bishop in the Sudan. He remained in post in Sudan until 1952, and retired from service with CMS 10 February 1953.

After returning to England, he took up his final appointment as Rector of Bingham, Nottinghamshire, 1953-1963, and Assistant Bishop of Southwell.

He died in Nottinghamshire, 22 August 1968.

In 1949, he married Dr (Edith Victoria) Elfrida Whidborne (1901-1989), MB, BCh, MRCS, LRCP, CMS medical missionary in Egypt 1929-1930 and Sudan 1931-1949. The service was held at All Saints’ Cathedral, Khartoum, Sudan. After her husband’s death, Dr Gelsthorpe wrote his biography, 'A Corn of Wheat: the life and times of A. M. Gelsthorpe’, [c 1973].

He was a talented sportsman and before starting his missionary service, played rugby for Blackheath, Sunderland, and Durham County.

He was a founder member of Toc H, the International Christian movement which developed from a soldiers' rest and recreation centre in Belgium in December 1915. In 1921 he joined the Freemasons.

Sources: the records; Crockford’s Clerical Directory, 1963-1964; UK Foreign, and Overseas Registers of British Subjects, 1628-1969, the 1901 Census and United Grand Lodge of England Freemasons Membership Registers, available online at (accessed 18 March 2024); John Edwards ‘Durham at War project’ available online at (accessed 13 March 2024); James Lomole Simeon: Morris Gelsthorpe, 2003: Dictionary of African Christian Biography available online at (accessed March 2024); CMS Archive, University of Birmingham: candidate papers (CMS/ATm 2/77); General Secretary’s minutes (CMS/G/C1) and correspondence (CMS/G/Y/A3/3); CMS periodicals: ‘Church Missionary Outlook’ 1 March 1923 and April 1953.
Custodial HistoryThe papers have been in the care of family members since the death of the Rt Rev A. M. Gelsthorpe in 1968. They were cared for by his elder brother Frank Gelsthorpe (1878-1970) and then Frank’s son, John Michael Gelsthorpe (1932-2009), in the family home in Yelverton, Devon. After his death, John Michael’s cousin and her husband, saved from the house boxes of documents relating to the extended family and, after taking them in to their care, spent years sorting, transcribing and cataloguing them before selecting papers for donation to the Cadbury Research Library; when selecting papers for the archive, they also included some documents which they had received from Dr Elfrida Gelsthorpe (held in the archive as CMS/ACC1040 F12). Source: personal communication with the daughter of the donors, March 2024.
AcquisitionPresented to University of Birmingham: Cadbury Research Library, 11 March 2024. Additional papers were received in April 2024 (AccNo 2024/38) and added to the catalogue May 2024.
Related MaterialThere are papers relating to A. M. Gelsthorpe's service as a CMS missionary and activities as assistant bishop and bishop in the official archive of the Church Mission Society (GB 0150 CMS). There are two additional collections in the CMS Unofficial Papers relating to the Gelsthorpe family: CMS/ACC300 Papers of Morris Gelsthorpe, and CMS/ACC490 Papers of Elfrida Whidborne, as well as miscellaneous records within other CMS/ACC collections including a copy of 'A Corn of Wheat: The Life and Times of Alfred Morris Gelsthorpe' by Mrs Elfrida Gelsthorpe (CMS/ACC549 Z3). The Cadbury Research Library also hold records of Toc H (GB 0150 TOCH).
Associated MaterialsPapers relating to A. M. Gelsthorpe's war service are to be held by Durham Light Infantry Association prior to transfer to Durham Record Office.


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