Gordon Taylor was an Anglican priest who served as a chaplain in the Royal Navy before becoming rector of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, London, in 1949, a position he held for fifty-one years. Taylor began his church guides collection as a schoolboy in the 1930s, and over the years enlisted friends and family to find guides on their holidays and excursions into the countryside. As he became known for his collection, he began to receive items in the mail and as bequests. His collection was acquired by Pitts Theology Library in 2003, adding substantially to the library's holdings of church histories and guides; the entire collection was named in his honor as a tribute to his work as a collector. The recent gift of about 7,000 guides from Susan Dalton is still being processed, and taken as a whole, these items provide important primary documentation of congregational life in Great Britain over the last two centuries.
The guides vary from one-sheet tracts to small booklets, and may cover a single parish or those of a region or an entire metropolitan area. The vast majority are pamphlets, and they are variously entitled "church guides," "church histories," and "parish church guides." Most come from English churches, though some are from Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Their religious denominations are varied. They include histories of parishes as well as guides to church buildings; some include descriptions of the church graveyards (and their occupants, as witnessed by the tombstones). Many are illustrated and include building plan diagrams. Some are meant to assist visitors with self-guided tours of the grounds. Others may concentrate on particular architectural or decorative features of the churches, such as paintings or mosaics. Some are practical in nature, describing church finances or the rules and regulations of Sunday school programs. Still others describe historical or even archaeological remains. Their authors include clergy, churchwardens, amateur historians, and theological luminaries such as E. B. Pusey.