The Panacea Collection
The majority of the archives in this collection relate to the period 1918 to the end of the 1930s, when Octavia, the founder of The Panacea Society, was still alive and the Society was at its most active.
The archives contain information on the aims and objectives of the Society and how it was run. It also contains the personal papers and diaries of each individual member, thus providing an excellent insight to life not just within a religious community, but in Edwardian England generally.
Archives pre-1918 largely relate to the personal papers of Mabel Barltrop and other members of the Barltrop family. There is also a significant amount of material relating to the relationships and correspondences between Rachel Fox, Alice Seymour, Helen Shepstone, Kate Firth and Mabel Barltrop discussing their common interest in the teachings of Joanna Southcott – which led to the eventual formation of The Panacea Society.
The Society remained active after Octavia died, but with each decade membership declined, as did the amount of correspondence between members. Much of the material during this period consists of accounts of meetings, financial reports and administrative records etc. However, the Society also followed world affairs and kept scrap-books of newspaper cuttings, etc.
The policy of the Society was not to throw anything away as it was considered “sacred” material. In doing so, they left a rich resource for people to research not just on theological debate, but also on the social history of women during a period of world-wide social and economic change.