Southern Methodist University

Thomas Coke letters

A Guide to the Collection


Creator: Coke, Thomas, 1747-1814.
Title: Thomas Coke letters
Dates: 1781-1813
Abstract: This manuscript collection comprises letters written by Thomas Coke (1747-1814) between 1781 and 1813. Coke was a British preacher, author, and missionary who joined the Methodist movement in 1777 and became a close associate of John Wesley. Representing Wesley, Coke crossed the Atlantic Ocean nine times between 1784 and 1803 to oversee Methodist work in North America.
Accession No: Collection BridColl 12
Extent: 1 box (1 linear foot)
Language: Material is in English
Repository Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

Biographical Note

Thomas Coke was born in Brecon, Wales in 1747 to Bartholomew and Anne Coke. He was educated at Jesus College, Oxford, earning a B.A. (1768), M.A. (1770), and Doctor of Civil Law (1775). In 1770 Coke was ordained a deacon in the Church of England, and two years later was ordained a priest. Coke served as a curate in South Petherton, Somerset, between 1771 and 1777. He married Penelope Goulding Smith in 1805, and his wife traveled with him and funded several of his missionary projects. After her death in January 1811, Coke married Ann Loxdale in December of the same year. She also traveled with her husband until her death in 1812.

Thomas Coke first met John Wesley in August 1776. Coke joined the Methodist movement the following year upon being dismissed from his Anglican curacy due to his increasingly Methodist style. Considered by many to be John Wesley’s chief assistant, Coke is credited with aiding the settlement of the “Conference plan” as well as drafting the Deed of Declaration (1784). Coke presided over Ireland’s first annual conference in 1782 and regularly thereafter until 1813. He also served as President of the British Wesleyan Conference in 1797 and 1805. He was a prolific writer, publishing numerous works including Commentary on the Bible (1801-1807) and History of the West Indies (1808-1811).

John Wesley consecrated Thomas Coke to the office of Superintendent on September 2, 1784. Over the next nineteen years, Coke made nine journeys to the United States of America to oversee the work of the Connection and to ordain ministers. Coke presided at the Christmas Conference of 1784, at which the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) was formed, as well as at the first General Conference of the MEC in 1792. Together with Francis Asbury as Joint Superintendents (called “Bishops” beginning in 1787), Coke led the fledgling church. However, Coke’s loyalty to Britain and his troubled relationship with Asbury created a stressful relationship with the American Methodists, leading the General Conference of 1808 to request that he remain in Europe and refrain from exercising the office of bishop in the United States unless recalled to the position.

Thomas Coke has been called the father of Methodist missions. Beginning in 1790 he served as head (later president) of the Methodist missionary committee. Under his leadership, and funded in part by Coke, the committee sent missionaries to the British West Indies, Gibraltar, Sierra Leone, Nova Scotia, and France. On May 3, 1814, while en route to India with six other Methodist preachers, Coke died and was buried at sea.


Drew, Samuel. Life of the Rev. Thomas Coke, LL.D. London: Thomas Cordeux, 1817.

Smith, Warren Thomas. Thomas Coke: The Foreign Minister of Methodism. Lake Junaluska, NC: World Methodist Council and American Association of Methodist Historical Societies, 1959.

Spellman, Norman W. “Thomas Coke and American Methodism” in The Encyclopedia of World Methodism. Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1974.

Vickers, John A. Thomas Coke and World Methodism. Sussex: World Methodist Historical Society, 1976.

Vickers, John A. Thomas Coke Revisited. Evesham, U.K.: Wesley Historical Society, 2010.

Vickers, John A. and Frederick Jeffrey. “Coke, Thomas” in The Encyclopedia of World Methodism. Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1974

Scope and Contents of the Collection

This collection comprises fifteen late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century letters written by Thomas Coke after he joined the Methodist movement. The letter to John Fletcher appears to be a nineteenth-century facsimile. All others are original manuscript documents.

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection contains a single series:
Series 1: Correspondence, 1781-1813


Access to Collection:

The collection is open for research use. Patrons must sign the Acknowledgement of Legal Responsibility and Privacy Rights form before using this collection.

Publication Rights:

Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Head of Special Collections of the Bridwell Library.

Copyright Statement:

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.

Sensitive Materials Statement:

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications for which Bridwell Library assumes no responsibility.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following terms in the Southern Methodist University Libraries' online catalog. Researchers desiring related materials may search the catalog using these terms.
Coke, Thomas, 1747-1814.
Methodist Church -- Clergy.
Letters -- 19th century.

Related Materials

British Methodist Documents and Images digital collection, Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University (

Thomas Coke-related materials at Bridwell Library were microfilmed in 1962 and are available for viewing on roll Theol. Film F16 no.87.

Collection on John Wesley, Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University (

Collection on Thomas Haweis, Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University (

Collection on British Wesleyan Conference Presidents, Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University (

Thomas Coke papers, John Rylands Library, University of Manchester accessed February 26, 2014)

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Thomas Coke letters, [box number], Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.

Acquisition Information

Acquired, ongoing.

Processing Information

Processed by Timothy S. G. Binkley, 2014. Biographical note written by Rebekah Rochte.

Finding aid written by

Timothy S. G. Binkley and Rebekah Rochte, 2014.

Encoded by

Encoded by Ada Negraru, 2014.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Correspondence, 1781-1813
15 Folders

This lone series is composed of letters written by Thomas Coke and addressed to Methodist leaders in England and in the United States. The correspondence is arranged chronologically. Digital copies of the letters may be viewed by activating the item hyperlinks provided below.
Box Folder
1 01 Thomas Coke letter to William Strahan, 1781 January 29
02 Thomas Coke letter to “Dear Sir,” 1781 August 8
03 Thomas Coke letter to James Creighton, 1783 August 29
04 Thomas Coke facsimile letter to John Fletcher with A Plan of the Society for the Establishment of Missions among the Heathens, 1784 January 6
05 Thomas Coke letter to John Moon, 1784 March 29
06 Thomas Coke letter to Walter Churchey, 1792 March 3
07 Thomas Coke letter to the Assistant or Resident Preacher at St. Austell, 1792 April 26
08 Thomas Coke letter to Walter Churchey, 1794 August 22
09 Thomas Coke letter to Thomas Haweis, 1798 October 26
10 Thomas Coke letter to Henry Dundas, 1798 November 8
11 Thomas Coke letter to Thomas Barber, 1800 August 7
12 Thomas Coke letter to Stith Mead, 1804 January 31
13 Thomas Coke letter to George Roberts, 1804 June 4
14 Thomas Coke letter to “Very dear friend and brother” (J. Otley Phillips?), 1813 February 18
15 Thomas Coke letter to Thomas Squance, 1813 August 1