William John Birkbeck (1859-1916) was a theologian and liturgical scholar concerned with relations between the Church of England and the Russian Orthodox Church. He travelled extensively through Russia exploring its history and culture. In 1895 he was involved in Viscount Halifax's ecumenical mission to Rome. In the same year, he published Russia and the English Church, consisting of the correspondence between the Rev. William Palmer, an Anglican divine, and Alexis Stepanovich Khomyakov, a Russian layman and theologian.
The collection comprises family papers and correspondence, diaries, study and lecture notes and covers Birkbeck's work on Church history, theology and liturgy, his involvement in the Anglo-Catholic movement and ecumenism.