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London Metropolitan Archives



Reference code(s): 0074 LMA/4632

Held at: London Metropolitan Archives


Date(s): 1902-2010

Level of description: collection

Extent: 18 linear metres

Name of creator(s): The Pilgrims of Great Britain


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Pilgrims of Great Britain and its sister society, the Pilgrims of the United States, are the two oldest Anglo-American organisations in existence. Over more than a century the Pilgrims have played an important role in cementing good relations between the two countries, and have acted as one of the principal custodians of what has come to be known as the Special Relationship.

On 16th July 1902 an informal meeting took place at the Carlton Hotel in London, at which the decision was taken to establish The Pilgrims of Great Britain. Those present included General Joseph Wheeler, the famous cavalry leader of the Confederate Army during the American Civil War; Colonel (later General Sir) Bryan Mahon, who had commanded the troops relieving Mafeking in 1900; the Hon Charles Rolls of Rolls-Royce fame and a notable aviation pioneer, and Harry, later Sir Harry Brittain. The title of the Pilgrims, not to be confused with the Pilgrim Trust, had nothing to do with the 'Mayflower' and the Pilgrim Fathers of 1620, but was chosen as a short and concise name which would express the idea of members of the English-speaking world travelling from one country to another. The main objective of the Pilgrims was and still is, the encouragement of Anglo-American good fellowship.

The Pilgrims of the United States came into being at a meeting at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in new York on 13th January 1903, and have reciprocal membership with the Pilgrims of Great Britain. By tradition the Pilgrims join together in a single toast 'His/Her Majesty the King/Queen and the President of the United States', and the first speech on British soil by a new American Ambassador to the United Kingdom is to the PIlgrims of Great Britain and vice versa.

In 1994 it was decided to establish an annual Sir Harry Brittain Memorial Lecture in memory of Sir Harry Brittain (1873 - 1974), the British journalist and Conservative politician who tried to foster closer Anglo-American relations and was the principal founder of the Pilgrims. For seventeen years, first as Honorary Secretary and then as Chairman, he steered the society through its early life. He resigned the chairmanship in 1918 because of his Parliamentary duties, and became its senior Vice President and the only Pilgrim Emeritus.

The roll-call of distinguished guest speakers at Pilgrim's events includes Lord Curzon, Mark Twain, Admiral Peary, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), Stanley Baldwin, Ramsey MacDonald, George Marshall, Dean Acheson, Anthony Eden, Archbishop Fisher, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Henry Kissinger, Caspar Weinberger, HRH The Princess Royal and General Lord Dannatt.

[Introductory information from the website]


Scope and content/abstract:

The collection comprises administrative records of the Society including Executive Committee minutes 1917-2009 (with gaps); Membership Committee 1979-2008; Programme Committee 1991-1997; Financial records from 1906 including annual finacial statements and members subscription books 1974-1997; membership papers including a good set of members rules and byelaws 1902-2002 as well as American members annual meetings 1966-2001 and rules and regulations of The Pilgrims of the United States 1912-2000 (with gaps). There is also an almost complete set of nominations papers from 1913-1984 and an interesting series of members correspondence 1902-1967. The largest series is that covering events. These comprise detailed files of all the dinners, lunches and functions held by the Pilgrims from 1902, and usualy include menus, invitations, table plans, photographs books of speeches and newspaper cuttings.

There is also a small series of publications consisting of research material used for the publication of 'The Pilgrims of Great Britain - A Centennial History' by Anne Baker published in 2002 and a run of The Pilgrims Newsletter 1994-2010.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

The collection is arranged as follows:
LMA/4632/A Adminstration;
LMA/4632/B Finance;
LMA/4632/C Membership;
LMA/4632/D Events;
LMA/4632/E Publications

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright is held by the City of London.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited in March 2012


DESCRIPTION NOTES Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997

Date(s) of descriptions: Added August 2013

Societies | Associations | Organizations
International relations

Personal names

Corporate names
Pilgrims of Great Britain