The Third Order was originally formed in 1930 as the English branch of the Third Order of the Christa Seva Sangha (CSS), a Christian ashram in India, and was under the guidance of Father Algy of the Brotherhood of the Love of Christ at St. Ives and its co-founder Dorothy L. Swayne. The society was composed of priests and laity who wished to live under a simple rule of religious life following the Evangelical Counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. Many of its members however were not particularly connected with the Franciscan mission in India and in 1930 it was suggested by Br. Douglas Downes that the English Third Order be united with other tertiary groups within the society.
This led to the creation of the Fellowship of the Way in 1931 (also known as the Fellowship of St. Francis), which provided a rule of daily prayer and communion for members but did not require members to take vows. The following years saw a debate between tertiaries seeking a simpler rule of life and those wanting a fully formed Third Order with a novitiate and professed members under vows. In 1933 it was decided that the CSS tertiaries in Britain should become affiliated with other Third Order communities in England. The Fellowship of the Way was dissolved and replaced with the council of the Society of Saint Francis. In 1937, with the formation of the First Order of the Society of Saint Francis, it was decided that the affiliated tertiary communities should become the Third Order of the newly unified Society of Saint Francis.
The collection includes communications and correspondence with members of the order around the world, rules, statues, minutes and reports of governing bodies and schedules of events.