Order with this ReferenceMMS/Special Series/Biographical/Home/Box 1391
Ref NoMMS/17/02/00/03
TitleRev Dr Thomas Coke
Date(s) of Creation1772-1986
Level of DescriptionSub-Sub-Series
Extent1 box
Name of CreatorCoke; Thomas (1747-1814); minister, missionary, author
Administrative & Biographical HistoryThe Rev Dr Thomas Coke was born on the 28th September 1747 in Brecon, Wales, the son of Bartholomew & Anne Coke, his father being a prosperous apothecary and local official. The young Coke was educated at the local grammar school before attending Jesus College, Oxford, ultimately obtaining a doctorate in Civil Law.

In 1770 Coke was ordained as a deacon and two years later as a priest, having been appointed a curate in 1771 at South Petherton in Somerset. Coke became interested in and influenced by the writings of John Fletcher and John Wesley (whom he met in August 1776) and embraced Methodism which led to his removal from the curacy at South Petherton in 1777. Thirty years later Coke returned to preach to a crowd of 2,000. By June of 1777 Coke was working with John Wesley and became a key figure in the growth of Methodism in the United Kingdom, frequently acting as Wesley's deputy and resolving local disputes. He was also, perhaps, the most important figure in the transition period after Wesley's death in 1791, including serving as President of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference in 1797 and 1805.

In 1784 Wesley sent Coke on the first of his many visits to America where Coke became a central figure in the foundation and growth of Methodism in America. Coke sought to further spread Methodism overseas and in 1786 delivered his 'address' encouraging the establishment of missions in the West Indies, British North America and the Channel Islands. Coke worked tirelessly to establish missions by raising money (sometimes even spending his own), visiting potential mission areas, recruiting missionaries and supervising and supporting their work.

Coke's long term ambition was to establish missions in the East. As early as 1784 Coke had harboured a desire to establish missions in India but the influence of the East India Company prevented this. In 1811 Conference agreed to his proposal to establish a mission to Ceylon [Sri Lanka] but the death of his second wife (Anne) delayed this venture. The renewal of the charter for the East India Company in 1813 opened up the opportunity of missions to India and Conference reluctantly agreed (and only after Coke promised to financially underwrite the mission himself) to this. It was planned that Coke and his colleagues would first travel to Ceylon [Sri Lanka] to establish missions with Coke then continuing onto India to seek to establish missions there.

Coke with his 6 colleagues and two of their wives left England aboard the Lady Melville and the Cabalava on 30th December 1813. The voyage was a troubled one hit by storms and the loss of ships, ill health and the death of one of the party, Mrs Ault. Furthermore, on the morning of the 3rd May 1814 Coke was found dead in his cabin from apoplexy, and was buried at sea in the Indian Ocean that afternoon. The remaining missionaries continued on their journey to Bombay [Mumbai] and then to Ceylon [Sri Lanka] where they founded missions. Within a few years missions were founded in India, although the spread of Methodism through India took longer than Coke had envisaged.

Further Reading (selected):
Coke, Thomas, An address to the pious and benevolent, proposing an annual subscription for the support of missionaries in the Highlands and adjacent Islands of Scotland, the Isles of Jersey, Guernsey, and Newfoundland, the West Indies, and the Provinces of Nova Scotia and Quebec (1786);
Coke, Thomas, An address to the subscribers for their support of the missions carried on by voluntary contributions for the benefit of the negroes in the British islands, in the West-Indies (1790);
Coke, Thomas, A history of the West Indies: containing the natural, civil, and ecclesiastical history of each island, with an account of the missions instituted in those islands, from the commencement of their civilization, but more especially of the missions which have been established in that archipelago by the Society late in connexion with the Rev. John Wesley (1808-1811);
Coke, Thomas, Extracts of the journals comprising several visits to north-America and the west-Indies, his tour through a part of Ireland, and his nearly finished voyage to Bombay in the east-Indies: to which is prefixed, a life of the doctor (1816);
Davey, Cyril J, Mad about mission: the story of Dr Thomas Coke (1985);
Davey, Cyril J, The man who wanted the world: the story of Thomas Coke (1947);
Drew, S T, The life of the Rev. Thomas Coke (1817);
Sowton, Stanley, Thomas Coke (1955);
Vickers, John A, Thomas Coke: Apostle of Methodism (1969);
Vickers, John A, Thomas Coke and World Methodism (1976);
Vickers, John A (ed), The letters of Dr. Thomas Coke (2013).
Held at:SOAS University of London
Source of AcquisitionDeposited by the Methodist Church, 12 May 2015
DescriptionPapers of Rev Dr Thomas Coke principally consisting of correspondence written by him regarding his Methodist work in the United Kingdom as well as his work (or planned work) overseas. Further correspondence includes a small number of letters written about him or the acquisition of some items in this collection.
Additional material includes: partial copy of his journal recording his journey to and travelling in America during 1784 and 1785 along with printed extracts from his journals; a few of his manuscript sermons; a few printed items promoting or reporting on missions; images of Coke or buildings, places, etc, associated with him.
System of ArrangementThe collection has been arranged into four sections: correspondence; manuscripts; publications and printed material; visual material. Sub-divisions have been made, as appropriate, and where possible items have been catalogued within them chronologically.
Access StatusRestrictions Apply
Conditions Governing AccessWhilst all original items are available for consultation some are very fragile. Please do not remove an item from a melinex sleeve where there is a note stating that it must remain in said sleeve.
CopyrightCopyright mostly held by Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes
Conditions Governing ReproductionFor permission to publish, please contact Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library in the first instance
Language(s) of MaterialEnglish
Script(s) of MaterialLatin
Related MaterialA significant amount of the letters for the first ten years of the Home correspondence within the (Wesleyan) Methodist Missionary Society archive was written by the Rev Dr Thomas Coke, General Superintendent of the Missions, or was for his consideration (MMS/Home & General/Correspondence/Home/FBN 1). For an overview please see the Home incoming correspondence section of this catalogue and for details please consult the handlist in the SCRR.

The University of Manchester, Methodist Archive and Research Centre has a collection of Thomas Coke Papers (PLP/28), although many of the missionary related items are copies of letters, etc, held here at SOAS.
Publication NoteAll of the letters written here by the Rev Dr Thomas Coke should appear as transcriptions in 'The letters of Dr. Thomas Coke' edited by John A. Vickers (2013).
Access Points - Person, Corporate & Family Names
Name CodePerson, Corporate or Family NameType of Entity
GB/SOASNAF/P1225Coke; Thomas (1747-1814); minister, missionary, authorPerson
GB/SOASNAF/P1234Coke; Anne (1756-1812); née LoxdalePerson
GB/SOASNAF/P1235Walker; Frank Deaville (1878-1945); author, photographer, administratorPerson
Access Points - Places
Place CodePlace Name
1227603Sri Lanka
6255149North America
2635167United Kingdom
7729883Northern Europe
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