Dissenters and Nonconformists (2): 
Academies ~ Presbyterians, Independents, Congregationalists

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As noted on the previous page, 'Presbyterian', 'Congregational' and 'Independent' remained fluid terms for some time. In 1691 a 'Happy Union' between Congregationalists and Presbyerians was proposed, but failed - it took nearly 300 more years for this to come about, with the formation of the United Reformed Church, bringing together English Congregationalists and Presbyterians, and subsequently the Churches of Christ.


A key part of the 18th century picture was the establishment of dissenting schools and academies. The Clarendon Code and other Restoration legislation closed Oxbridge to dissenters, since they could not or would not sign up to Anglican formularies; the grammar schools also taught Anglican-based theology.

There were three phases of academies.

Coward's Academy, Wellclose Square
William Coward (d1738) was a merchant with property in Jamaica. He retired to Walthamstow (a favourite retreat for dissenters) to tend his house and gardens, maintaining strict and eccentric domestic arrangements (the doors were locked at 8pm, and he was said to have several bees in his bonnet - cramps in his legs, and crotchets in his head said one account). He established a meeting house there, with Hugh Farmer as minister (who published three extended of lectures). In 1834 he tried to found a college to educate dissenters' children for ministry - offering the post to Doddridge - but it came to nothing (though he continued to support families, and the academy which Doddridge set up in 1729 in Market Harborough, and later Northampton). When Coward died, aged 90, most of his £150,000 wealth was left in trust for the education and training up of young men....between 15 and 22, in order to qualify them for the ministry of the gospel among the protestant dissenters. Four trustees (including Isaac Watts and Daniel Neal) were appointed to ensure that teaching was according to the assembly's catechism, and in that method of church discipline which is practised by the congregational churches. The Northampton academy, and a smaller new establishment in Wellclose Square (replacing the 'Fund Academy' in Moorfields), were fully run and maintained by the trust. The Coward Trust continues to provide grants and funding for sabbaticals for URC and Congregationalist ministers.

In Wellclose Square (1744-62), students boarded with families, and attended lectures at the house and library of Dr Samuel Morton Savage (1721-91), who was the classical and mathematical tutor - appointed, despite his youth, on the insistence of the Principal and theological tutor, Dr David Jennings (1691-1762). Both were moderate Calvinists. Jennings was the brother of John Jennings (Doddridge's tutor) and published a well-regarded course of lectures on Jewish Antiquities, as well as a series of New Year's sermons for young people on The Beauty and Benefit of Early Piety. He also taught scientific subjects - see this work first published the year after his death [title page & chart right] - and was pastor from 1718-62 of the Independent congregation in Old Gravel Lane, Wapping. Savage's paternal grandfather was John Savage, pastor of the Mill Yard Seventh Day Baptists, and his maternal grandfather Abraham Toulmin.

When Jennings died, the Academy moved to Hoxton, where there was residential accommodation, and Morton became the theological tutor. F.D. Maurice's father Michael Maurice was a student at that time. But of the other staff appointed, Dr Andrew Kippis was an Socinian and Dr Abraham Rees an Arian, and tensions arose with the trustees. All three staff resigned in 1784-5 and the institution merged with the Northamptonshire Academy (now moved to Daventry). After two further moves, it came to Byng Place in London as 'Coward College' (1833-50), in grand premises by Thomas Cubitt. It then merged with Homerton and Highbury Colleges to form New College - which in 1936 became part of the University of London.


Great Alie Street Presbyterian Church
Samuel Pomfret, who had trained at the Presbyterian Academy in Islington, gathered a congregation at a large, galleried wooden meeting house in Gravel Lane, Hounsditch, which opened around 1688. (It was here that in 1691 David Crosley, the young evangelist of Yorkshire and Lancashire who later fell into some kind of disgrace, preached a famous sermon on Samson as a type of Christ (Judges 14.5), still treasured in certain quarters.) Pomfret was a popular preacher, at one time claiming 800 communicants. This brief biography recounts his travels to Smyrna as a young man, when among other things he distributed £50-worth of hats to sailors on condition that they should no longer profane the name of God. His Anglican namesake, who was a clergyman-poet described as far from being in the least tinctured with fanaticism, was pained at being regularly confused with one whom he believed held destructive tenets.

Pomfret and his assistant William Hocker both died in 1721, and were succeeded by Joseph Denham who came from a church in Gloucester which had split, those remaining calling themselves 'Christians only' (a precursor of the term Unitarian). In 1747, the congregation, somewhat reduced in numbers, moved to Great Alie Street, on the corner of Somerset Street [now the northern part of Mansell Street]; the Houndsditch chapel became a wool warehouse. In 1730 William May became Denham's assistant: he was the author of The Family Prayer-book: Or, Prayers to be Used in Families Every Morning and Evening. To which are Added, Some Distinct Forms for More Special and Extraordinary Occasions (1743). In 1740 May was appointed joint pastor with Caleb Fleming at Bartholomew Close, but perhaps continued at Great Alie Street as well, for he preached here on The Vanity of Human Confidence Considered in a Sermon Occasioned by the Much Lamented Death of His Royal Highness Frederick Prince of Wales: Who Died March 20, 1750. May died in 1755, Denham in 1757.

The successor was the eminent and elderly Dr William Prior, who lived in Great Alie Street, and was also one of the annual lecturers at Salters' Hall - a series suspected by some of supporting antinomianism. It seems that for a time the Goodman's Field chapel was not recognised by other Independents and Presbyterians - when Prior preached for the Society for the Relief of the Necessitous Widows and Fatherless Children of Protestant Dissenting Ministers (run by the three denominations of Presbyterians, Independents and Baptists) a line is drawn in the column of the list denoting 'denomination'. On Prior's death in 1768 (or 1774?) he was succeeded by Thomas Morgan LLD, who remained in office until his death in 1821.  Morgan, a Welshman who had trained at the Hoxton Academy, maintained the Salters' Hall link, was an active reviewer of 'foreign and domestic literature' and produced a hymnal. The New Monthly Magazine records that Dr. Morgan was a man of liberal sentiments in religion; a Protestant Dissenter on principle, yet without bigotry; and in his relations and character as a man and a Christian, was distinguished for the love of order and peace, which he connected with independence of mind and high sense of honour.

Isaac Smith (1734-1805), clerk of the chapel at this time, published A Collection of Psalm Tunes (various editions 1779-95), which are in very general use among Dissenters, and some of them in many churches (Psalmo-Doxologia 1822). It includes some still in use, such as Abridge (which Anglicans sing to 'Be thou my guardian and my guide'). He is alleged to be the first dissenting clerk to receive a salary, of £20 a year, having left his employment as a draper. The 19th century Baptist historian Joseph Ivimey claims him as a Baptist despite his book's lack of any distinctive Baptist characteristics; however, this is no doubt because at this time the chapel was in Presbyterian hands (where a position as clerk would have been more normal).

But because of the continuing tensions over doctrinal issues, the congregation declined, and after Morgan's death it was dissolved (the last recorded baptisms were in 1817, and the last burials in 1826). As detailed here, the building was taken over by a Baptist congregation in 1808. Oddly, it is shown on Horwood's map of 1792-9 as a 'Dutch church' - and had a burial ground.

Rosemary Lane Presbyterian Church
Information is needed about this congregation, whose minister in 1718 is recorded as Samuel Evans (who had previously been in Hammersmith, at a church allegedly built by Cromwell's Presbyterian soldiers). He was followed by Isaac Bates MA, who left in 1721 when the church was 'dissolved'. From 1693 he had been chaplain to Thomas Westby, a leading Puritan, at Ravenfield Park, Yorkshire (who subsequently moved to London). On 25 Jan 1707/8 he had preached a sermon at 'the late Reverend Mr Matthew Sylvester's meeting place in Blackfriars' on Not death, but immortality, the desir'd relief of the burthen'd Christian. He was one of the first trustees of Dr William's Library (created after the death of Daniel Williams in 1715/6 (in his will Williams left £30 to Samuel Pomfret, above), and corresponded with Williams and others about plans to train English dissenting ministers at the Scottish universities; the current work of the library is described here.


Pell Street Meeting, Ratcliff Highway

This is a complex story! In the late 17th century, a congregation gathered at Nightingale Lane, Wapping around John Knowles, who had been ejected from a preaching post in Bristol - though John Slater (or Slaughter) senior may have preceded him as their minister. They continued here with Mr Loyd (died 1721) and John Mitchell (1719-22) as ministers, rebuilding on the same site in 1722. Thomas Toller was minister from 1875-60, and then Henry Mayo DD LLD (1733-93, minister from 1762 until his death).

Dr Mayo - who is not to be confused with Dr Herbert Mayo, Rector at the parish church during this period - was from Plymouth, and trained at the Independent Academy in Mile End Road. From his house in Wellclose Square he became a became a notable in the literary establishment of the day: he knew Dr Samuel Johnson at the Dilly brothers' bookshop in Poultry (though one account says they only met twice), and entertained Johnson and Boswell on one occasion at his regular Monday evening dinners. Boswell's Journal for 1781 records
....Then came home to Mr. Dilly's, and he and I and the Revd. Mr. Davis of Islington drove in a hackney coach, through a great part of the city which I never saw before, to Wellclose Square, where we and my brother, and Mr. Braithwait of the Post Office, and Captain Boyd, a Kilmarnock man in the Canada trade, all dined with the Reverend Dr. Mayo, who gave a dinner to some of his friends every Monday, and dines abroad all the other days of the week... It was curious to think that this was an independent teacher.

In connection with debate on liberty of conscience, Boswell said Dr. Mayo's calm temper and steady perseverance rendered him an admirable subject for the exercise of Dr. Johnson's powerful abilities. He never flinched; but, after reiterated blows, remained seemingly unmoved as at first. The scintillations of Johnson's genius flashed every time he was struck, without his receiving any injury. Hence he obtained the epithet of 'The Literary Anvil' (Life of Johnson, ed Hill, vol ii pages 247-55); an example here. In 1785 Mayo became professor of rhetoric and belles lettres at the Academy, which had moved to Hoxton in 1772. The 'celebrated and ingenious' Dr Turnbull, also of Wellclose Square - who pioneered resuscitation techniques - was a deacon at the church at around this time.

In 1798 - when John Knight had become the minister - the congregation moved a short distance into Mulberry Garden Chapel, but keeping the name 'Nightingale Lane Meeting'. This was because Allens Brewery, who owned both buildings, wanted the Nightingale Lane site to enlarge their operations, and did not want to renew the Countess of Huntingdon's lease, which had expired, on the other building. Instead, they proposed an exchange of buildings, and refitted the Mulberry Garden chapel ('a little contracted') for the Independents. Sermons on the opening day were on 1 Kings 8.57 and Haggai 2.9. 

Then came the building of the Docks, and the Independents became 'Pell Street Meeting' in 1805, occupying a former mariners' chapel, seating 350 people, and just twelve yards away from the Countess of Huntingdon's New Mulberry Gardens Chapel. A few years later some members of her congregation made temporary links with Pell Street Meeting while they were engaged in legal disputes over the governance of their own chapel.

The minister of Pell Street meeting from 1806 was Thomas Cloutt. The following year he was admitted a member of the Board of Congregational Ministers.  He aspired to publish various theological works, and over three years (1823-26) published the complete works of Dr John Owen in  21 volumes; he completed the late William Orme's work on a Memoir of the Life and Times of Richard Baxter, and in 1831 began a series republishing the writings of English and Scottish Reformers, but  this was abandoned after the third volume. He also published An Appendix to Dr Watt's Psalms & Hymns, which was used by about 40 congregations but was eschewed by others because of the frequent and great alterations which he thought it necessary to make in successive impressions. 

His published sermons attracted a mixed press: one commenatator noted simply he did not achieve popularity as a preacher. Here are some comments on three of his published Pell Street sermons:

Christian Sympathy weeping over the Calamities of War....being the Day appointed for a Fast throughout Great Britain [26 February 1806]
- the Eclectic Review said
Wholesome doctrines, and interesting sentiments, are here displayed in handsome perspicuous language. We suspect the preacher to be yet in his novitiate, and therefore presume to advise him to employ his respectable talents, in the culture of principles rather than of ornaments, and to think every discourse deficient, which is not calculated to make known the Redeemer, for the obedience of faith.
The Critical Review, however, said Mr. Cloutt's sermon is as good as the above; i.e. good for nothing.
Righteousness the Dignity and Ornament of Old Age....being the Day on which his Majesty King George the Third entered the fiftieth Year of his Reign [25 October 1809]
The Monthly Review said loftily
As this preacher has quoted from Cicero's 'Cato Major', (though incorrectly,) we are surprized that he did not take the passage which echoes the sentiment of the text: "Aptissima arma senectutis sunt artes exercitationesque virtutum." Having pointedly contrasted the miseries of an impious and vicious old age, with the pleasures reserved for the hoary head that is found in the way of righteousness, Mr. Cloutt, with unaffected loyalty, delineates the personal virtue of our aged Sovereign, and subjoins an ardent prayer that his successors may copy his example. The general exhortations are such at naturally flow from the subject; and to illustrate the importance of the kingly example, he makes the following apposite quotation from Claudian: 'Componitur orbis / Regis ad exemplum; nec sic infelctere sensus / Humanos edicata valent, quam vita regentis.'

[ However, in the Critical Review a colleague's sermon on the same theme fares rather worse: 
The above are two sermons preached by dissenters, who, on this occasion, have vied with the most zealous ministers of the establishment, in the tribute of respect which they have offered to the aged monarch on the throne. Mr. Greig of the Scots church, Crown Court, says, that 'from the moment of his majesty's accession to the throne, the dew of divine goodness has distilled upon his sacred head, and gently descended even to the skirts of his empire.' The ludicrous impropriety of this kind of language may not be remarked, when it is delivered with oratorical fervour before a mixed audience; but we would advise Mr. Greig to avoid it when he prepares another sermon for the press. Ministers on serious subjects should be particularly careful against employing terms which may involuntarily excite ridiculous or disgusting associations of ideas. ]

Cloutt was charged with making, in this sermon, a calumnious aspersion of the members of the Established Church. His published reply said:
In truth, so far am I from possessing the smallest inclination to calumniate the Church of England, as by law established, that all my youthful prejudices, feelings and habits are strongly in favour of it. I was baptized in her communion, nourished in her bosom, confirmed by one of her Bishops. My grandfather was what is termed a High-Churchman and, I suppose, would scarcely have entered a meeting or a conventicle, as he would have called it, for the world. My father was a liberal Churchman, who, while he continued steadfast in his preference of the Church of England, was a lover of good men of every denomination of Christians. Though I have not wholly walked in his steps, yet those principles of moderation, which I early imbibed, towards those from whom I differ, (I speak with gratitude to Providence,) have never forsaken me, amidst the various situations in which I have been placed, or the persons with whom I have associated. To this day, it is my uniform practice, when I visit my native village, to attend at the parish church in the morning, and to preach at the Dissenting meeting in the evening, where I know that among my hearers are those members of the Establishment who seldom, if ever, enter the meeting on any other occasion. And I may add, (if thie folly of speaking of myself can be pardoned,) that during the ten years in which I have attempted, according to my abilities, to instruct others in the principles of virtue and religion, I fear no contradiction when I assert, that from the pulpit I never uttered a single invective against the members of the Established Church, or any other denomination of Christians, who profess to 'fear God, honour the King, and love the brotherhood.'

Preparation for the Day of Judgment, Preached... on the Death of Mrs. Ann Phillips, who died June 7, 1818, in the 72nd year of her age [13 June 1818]; the Baptist Magazine said
This discourse is founded on Amos iv. 12, "Prepare to meet thy God!" The preacher observes, 1. That a solemn meeting will take place between God and all his intelligent creatures. 2. That God himself commands us to prepare to meet him. 3. That he has provided us the means of preparing to meet him. 4. That a timely regard to the commands of God will secure a happy meeting between him and ourselves. These observations are so judiciously and evangelically illustrated, and so affectionately and faithfully applied, that it is impossible to peruse them, with any degree of seriousness, without being impressed and improved.

In 1823 Cloutt changed his surname to Russell, by royal licence. The Christian's Pocket Magazine and Anti-Sceptic, vol IX no V (November 1823) includes this picture, and reports
The Rev. Thomas Russell, M.A.. the son of Mr William Cloutt, of Marden, Kent, has recently taken the former name, being the maiden name of his deceased mother, for whose memory he cherishes the warmest affection. He was born at the above place, November 5, 1781, and entered Hoxton College, September 1800. At midsummer 1803, he relinquished his studies, and, owing to a delicate state of health, for some time desisted from preaching. He resumed his pulpit services occasionally in 1805. In May 1806 he was settled over a respectable congregation of Dissenters, in Pell-Street, then recently removed from Nightingale-Lane, and was ordained, Sept. 4th of the same year. Among this small, but affectionate charge, he still continues to labour... [his published sermons are listed; plus] ... An Appendix to Dr Watts's Psalms and Hymns, Eighth Edition, 1823, which has been highly commended in many Reviews, and which is used in about forty congregations. Mr. R. is also editing the whole works of Dr. Owen.

He was the Secretary of the Society for the Relief of Aged and Infirm Dissenting Protestant Ministers. His son, Arthur Tozer Russell, trained for the Unitarian ministry and then became an Anglican, and prolific hymn writer. On the closure of the chapel around 1833 (the last recorded burials were in 1829) he became the minister of a dissenting congregation at Baker Street, Enfield, until his death in 1846.

The premises were then bought at auction by Robert Stodhart, the minister of New Mulberry Gardens Chapel, in an attempt to prevent inappropriate use. It seems as though it was then used by various other groups. In 1835 it is described as 'the Baptist Meeting House, Pell Street' and on 22 September Dr Daniel Whitaker, the minister of Red Cross Street, Cripplegate preached here to the Association of Baptist Ministers on The Nature and Design of Gospel Intentions, which was published along with the Doctrinal Articles of the Association.

In 1838 John Craig, a Presbyterian, after ten years as a minister at Brechin, resigning in 1833 (see here for his difficulties there) began a preaching station on his own account in Pell Street, which was afterwards formed into a congregation. But at a weekday service there was a sudden collapse in his capacity to go on, and it ended his connection with the work there and with the exercise of the Christian ministry. He died in Glasgow in 1847.

However, a congregation seems to have continued, for according to the United Secession Magazine for 1844 they held their annual soirée to bid farewell to the Revd Andrew G. Hogg, who had ministered there for twenty months and was leaving to become a missionary at the propsperious Secession mission station in New Broughton, Jamaica, established in 1835 by James Paterson. The report ends A resolution was then unanimously carried, expressing the high estimation in which both his public ministrations and private deportment are held by the people of Pell Street — their sincere regret that he is separated from them by a higher call — and their determination ever to follow him in faith, and aid him by their prayers. The strength of the attachment was sufficiently manifest at the dote of the meeting by the eagerness of all present —those belonging to the sister congregations, as well as those immediately connected with Pell Street — to give the last shake of the hand, and say the last kind wish. This congregation has struggled long and well; Mr Hogg's departure is a new trial; and it is earnestly to be desired that some one may be raised up, like-minded, who will naturally care for their state.

Andrew Hogg ministered in Jamaica until 1882, when he returned to England and died four years later. His letters to Broughton Place Missionary Society, Edinburgh, which supported his work, describe health and financial problems, and also give a detailed description of the killing of Baron von Ketelhodt, Rev Herschell and the commander of volunteers at ourbreak of the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1866. He comments on its leaders and causes. He also expresses appreciation of Sir John Peter Grant, described by our aristocracy as a fine Negro governor (though he was white), and of one of his elders, John Pusey (who was black).

Coincidentally, the following item in the United Secession magazine is an obituary of the Revd Dr Duncan, minister of mid-Calder, whose son Robert Dick Duncan became an Anglican and served at St Mark Whitechapel from 1869-83. The United Secession had split from the Church of Scotland in 1732. In 1847 it joined with the Relief Church (which has split in 1761) to form 'The United Church of Secession and Relief', which later became the 'United Presbyterian Church of Scotland'. In the Union proposals, Pell Street is listed as one of the four churches of the London Presbytery, and without a minister. In the event, questions were raised about continuing here or moving elsewhere; the connection ceased, and the chapel finally closed.

It is probable (but confirmation is needed) that this building became the Temperance Hall, Prince's Square.
Various meetings are recorded at a place of this name, said to be a former chapel. In 1841, The Teetotaler reported a meeting of a lecture by George Applegate calling for an end to the system whereby coal-whippers [those who unloaded coal from vessels - coal-backers were those who carried it, on their backs, on its next stage] were at the mercy of local publicans who had a vested interest in this trade - a call for justice rather than abstinence!  This report, and its aftermath, can be seen here. The Metropolitan Roman Catholic Total Abstinence Association met here on Wednesdays and Saturdays - they had a school close by - and also on Saturdays at at Glass House, East Smithfield: interesting, as teetotal organisations are more generally associated with the protestant cause. Their 1843 Virginia Street Temperance Festival met here, and Theobald Mathew (an Irish temperance campaigner) corresponded with The Tablet  from this address in 1847.

n 1851 a meeting of seamen of the Port of London was held here to protest against some of the provisions of the Mercantile Marine Act, which increased regulation of the Merchant Navy: the report in Charles Dickens' Household Words, under the heading 'Blue-Jacket Agitation', includes these comments on the premises before describing the issues in detail (full transcript here):
I soon turned through some dark streets, and ultimately arrived at Temperance Hall, Prince's Square. Here, I saw the company gathering—and many sailors of the coal and coasting trades beginning to fill the Hall. Some wore blue frocks, and seemed fresh from work—with clear, blue eyes shining through their dusty and blackened faces. One sailor would stand staring at the platform, in a long gaze of thirsty curiosity: another—whose bran-new hat, as shiny as an orange, indicated that he had just been paid off, and was setting up, pro tem., as a respectable civilian—kept his hands in his pockets, and looked about him, observingly—just as he would look to windward when the sun was setting, and wind rising, and it seemed wise to settle whether a reef shouldn't be taken in the topsails for the night. The Hall itself had once been a Chapel; and, what was very curious, as you glanced round the walls, your eye caught a glimpse of the top of a tablet, with the words SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF—here the remainder of the pious record was hidden by a huge piece of canvas, stretching half across the wall, displaying, in large black letters, the supplicating watchword of the movement, "USE US LIKE MEN!"

Independent / Congregational Chapel, Old Gravel Lane, Wapping

In 1704 a 'Separate Congregation and Church of Christ assembling....near Wapping Old Stairs' was established as an offshoot of the meeting at Bull Lane, Stepney with Thomas Simmons as minister. It built on the ministry of Edward Veal, whose Academy is described above. Simmons, described as his 'successor', preached at his funeral, held 'for convenience' in the parish church of St John Wapping.

In 1737 it moved to Love Lane, near the junction of Green Bank and Old Gravel [now Wapping] Lane: it was about 60' by 30' with a small burial ground. From 1718 to 1762 David Jennings DD was the minister, and also from 1744-62 the Principal of the Wellclose Square Academy. During his time he baptized all 18 children of Abraham Toulmin (1749-1821), who, though medically trained, ran a school in Old Gravel Lane, and was the uncle of Joshua who was a student at the Academy, and grandfather of Samuel Morton Savage. He also baptized John Newton [right], the former slave ship captain who was born in Red Lyon Street [now Reardon Path] in Wapping on 24 July 1725 and was baptized two days later. After his mother's death, his father John, also a sea captain, married again at St George-in-the-East. John Newton became an Anglican minister, most famous for his hymn Amazing grace, which he wrote at Olney at New Year 1773: see this website, which includes a video about the hymn and references to his unpublished diary which is being transcribed. It was snowing when he wrote his hymn, and the original version of the last verse is The earth shall soon dissolve like snow / the sun forbear to shine; / but God, who called me here below, / will be forever mine.

According to Daniel Lysons (1795), a plaque on the outside wall of the church read
Sacred to the memory of the Reverend David Jennings, D. D. upwards of 44 years pastor of this church, and 18 years tutor of a considerable academy for the education of young persons for the ministry among the Protestant diffenters. His learning, application, and confirmed health enabled him to adorn his station till ripe for heaven; and, his work finished, he fell asleep in Jesus Sept. 16, 1762, in the 72nd year of his age, expecting the rewards of a celestial crown; leaving to his family, his pupils, and his flock, a deep sense of their loss, and a grateful remembrance of his virtues. He was born at Lancton in the county of Leicester, May 18, 1692; his father, the Reverend Mr. John Jennings, having been ejected from the rectory of Hartley Wasphell in Hampshire, for non-conformity, in the year 1662.

On Jennings' death William Gordon became the pastor, but in 1771 because of his 'partiality to America' he left for a church in Jamaica Plain near Boston. The USA was not what he expected, and he returned to a pastorate in Ipswich. For 37 years, from 1772-1810, Noah Hill was the minister. His published sermons were commended by the London Congregational Magazine. John Hooper, a tutor at the Hoxton Academy, succeeded him, until 1828 (in 1814 John Skirven, local printer and former churchwarden at St George's, printed his Consolation for Bereaved Parents: A Sermon Preached at Old Gravel Lane, the 20th of March, 1814, to Improve the Death of Robert Sampson Hooper, who Died 12th March, 1814, Aged Three Years and Three Months: with an Address to Young People), and then Ebenezer Miller [left] from 1828-35, followed by William Kelly, and from 1858 Alexander Graham, both described as 'Congregationalist'. Baptism and burial registers up to 1837 are deposited at the Public Record Office, but the chapel continued beyond that date: G. Woodward, from New College, is listed as minister from 1866. It was finally demolished in the 1920s when the Prusom Street area was redeveloped.

Congregational / Presbyterian / Scotch Chapel, Broad Street, Wapping

Another Independent congregation began to meet in Broad [now Reardon] Street, Wapping from 1669. John Ryther (p464 of link), born in York of Quaker parents, was twice ejected from Anglican parishes, and twice imprisoned in York for preaching as a dissenter, in the Bradford area. In 1669 he came to London and established a Congregationalist meeting house, where he preached until his early death, aged 49 - so did not live to see 'toleration'. He was much loved by seafarers, who dubbed him 'the seamen's preacher' because he identified with them and preached in a style so much adapted to their situation and taste (DNB). They protected him from further arrest when he was hounded by the magistrates' officers. He published several sermons on nautical themes, including A Plat for Mariners, or the Seaman's Preacher, in several sermons on Jonah's voyage (1672). After his death, government informers reported finding guns on the premises.

By 1700 William Bush was listed as the minister. In 1706 he published a funeral discourse An Antidote against Excessive Sorrow, and in 1722 two sermons, preached at Broad Street, on The Only Way for England to be sav'd from the Plague.  In 1719 an anonymous pamphlet 'as it is in Jesus, lover of the truth' appeared: Plain dealings: or A friendly reproof to the Reverend Mr. William Bush, and Mr. David Jennings, both dissenting ministers near Wapping; for refusing to subscribe the declaration for the ever Blessed Trinity. And also, a word of advice to the dissenting congregations in and about the city of London. With the black list of the rest of the non-subscribing ministers(This declaration - made at Salter's Hall in 1719, and the subject of much controversy and division - had been demanded in response to Arian teaching denying the full divinity of Christ; like others, Jennings and Bush probably refused to sign because they objected to the principle of such a declaration, rather than on doctrinal grounds.) This suggests that Bush and Jennings worked together, and shared the emerging 'rational' approach. Bush's wife Sarah died in 1731; a Presbyterian minister of over 50 years' service was buried at Enfield in 1777: was this him?

A breakaway congregation: Mill Yard c1705-38
A group of Presbyterians seceded and rented the Seventh Day Baptists' premises at Mill Yard. They were led by Samuel Harris, who had been a Congregationalist minister in Canterbury from 1691-96 before coming as a pastor to Broad Street. The reason for the split was presumably the 'Arian question' mentioned above, since Harris became a 'Salter's Hall Subscriber'. A Calvinist, and initially regarded as an acceptable preacher,  he became increasingly disabled and reclusive, losing friends and congregation, and unable to work with assistants, none of whom stayed long: these included John Lewis (1707-10, later minister of Redcross Street chapel, Cripplegate - a Particular Seventh-Day Baptist congregation), John Shuttlewood (1711), Samuel Stockwell ('Sam the Potter' - this was his trade - and 'Supralapsarian' who left after a misunderstanding with Harris, and took over the Redcross chapel in 1728 when Lewis' church was dissolved, until his death in 1753), one Clark (coming from Potterspury in Northamptonshire, an Independent congregation founded in 1690), and in 1728 Jenkin Lewis, who had previously assisted his father at Redcross Street - his connexion with [Harris] was very short.

Harris' published sermons include A Sermon Preach'd to the United Society: Meeting in Mill-Yard, in Goodman's-Fields; Sept. 25. 1709, At Their Evening-lecture, Held Every Lord's-day, for the Promoting of Psalmody (The 'United Society' was one of several organisations straddling the dissenting traditions, and not to be confused either with the 'United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing' (the Shakers) or the Anglican missionary society the '[United] Society for the Propagation of the Gospel' - now US); A blow to France. Or, a sermon preach'd at the meeting in Mill-Yard, in Good-man's-Fields; Nov. 22. 1709, Being the day appointed by Her Majesty, for a General Thanksgiving, listing him as 'S.T.P.' [Sacrae Theologiae Professor - an archaic abbreviation for a Doctor of Divinity]; and A funeral sermon on occasion of the death of Mrs. Ann Troward, who departed this life, the 20th of February, 1711/12, in the 60th year of her age. (An Anglican namesake (1683-1733) was the first Professor of Modern History at Cambridge, from 1724.)

Harris was succeeded by Joseph Waite, formerly of Saffron Walden and Romford - elderly when appointed, and with no pretensions to scholarship or culture, he was yet a preacher of no small courage and boldness. But it seems that this congregation dispersed elsewhere.

Back to Wapping: in 1741 it became a 'Scotch Church', and therefore Presbyterian. Mr Muir was the minister in the 1770s. From 1780 until his death in 1818, aged 72, Thomas Rutledge DD ('at the church where Mr Ryther preached', notes one contemporary source) succeeded him - and also at Shakespeare's Walk, Shadwell.
Rutledge was also a tutor at the Mansion House Academy for young gentlemen in Camberwell, run by William Smith, a Church of Scotland minister; right are two silver badges of 1814 and 1815 presented to G.P. de Rabaudy, a master there - the motto crescam laude, 'I shall grow in esteem', is from Horace. (The Academy was housed in a handsome building by Inigo Jones which was demolished to make way for the London, Brighton and Chatham railway in the 1860s.) Rutledge published some Practical Sermons (1794) and an ordination sermon which prompted a reviewer's catty comment
Mr. Rutledge gives a very singular reason for not supplying the defects and rectifying the inaccuracies of this discourse, namely, that 'the doing so would have made it, in some measure, different from that which was delivered to the auditors, and which they desired to be printed.' The Public has certainly nothing to do with this apology: however, if it satisfied the congregation to whom it was delivered, it may be sufficient; for it is not very probable that the defects of the publication will be perceived far beyond the precinct of Crispin-street.

 In 1808 Ryther's Seaman's Preacher was re-published, with commendations by Rutledge and others who worked with seamen, and a preface by John Newton (the ex-seaman and slave trader, baptized in Wapping by Dr Jennings and at the time rector of St Mary Woolnoth in the City - another Hawksmoor church - see this link to a fascinating John Newton website). Some octavo copies 'on fine paper' were printed for the use of officers.

Elijah Goff, a coal merchant of Broad Street, was a member of the congregation - his five children were baptized here - though he served as churchwarden of St George-in-the-East 1797-98 (having failed to get elected in 1790): see more about his family here.

In 1823 the congregation moved to St Vincent Street, Stepney (an area by Arbour Square where the streets were named after the West Indies) as 'St Andrew's Scotch Chapel'. Records from 1741 to 1840 are extant.

Independent / Congregational Chapel Cannon Street Road, then Wycliffe Chapel, Philpot Street

This chapel traced its roots to one of the early Independent congregations which met from 1642 at Haydon's Yard, Minories, and then in Smithfield. The chapel in New Road [the original name of part of Cannon Street Road] was built in 1780, with a schoolroom added in 1785 and a Sunday School in 1790. It was long and narrow, allegedly seating up to 800 people though this is unlikely, and lit by brass chandeliers holding candles (which had to be trimmed mid-service). It had a large burial ground behind, whose story is recounted here and here. [Left - Horwood's map of 1792.]

Its minister from 1811 was the noted philanthropist Rev Dr Andrew Reed (1787-1862). In 1830 it was among the many churches that presented petitions for the abolition of slavery. In 1831 it moved to larger premises in a new building named Wycliffe Chapel, in Philpot Street [left], where the congregation grew from 100 to 2,000. The parish church acquired the New [Cannon Street] Road building in 1831 and for the next 25 years or so it was Trinity Episcopal Chapel; its final incarnation before demolition was as a Methodist chapel. The girls and infants division of Raine's School was then built on the site - Goad's 1899 insurance map [right] shows that part of the burial ground had become the playground, and the remainder Seaward Bros. carter's yard and Hasted & Sons' cooperage.

Reed had been a watchmaker's apprentice and worked at his parents' china shop in Butcher Row - Beaumont House, dating from 1581 and named for the French ambassador who lived there in the time of King James I; ornamented with roses, crowns, fleurs-le-lys and dragons, it was demolished in 1813. He became a member of the congregation when Thomas Bryson was the minister. Bryson's successor was Samuel Lyndall, trained at Rotherham Academy, and formerly a minister in Bridlington; in 1805 he published a sermon on Popery. Reed he trained at Hackney Congregational College. In 1813, from his home in St George's Place, the East London Orphan Asylum was established, initially based at a house in Clark[e]'s Terrace, Cannon Street Road. (A couple of years earlier, he had rescued three orphan apprentices, whose master, a shoemaker in Rosemary Lane [now Royal Mint Street] had become bankrupt - no doubt this was part of his inspiration).  Reed was adept at obtaining patrons (the Duke of Kent attended the inaugural dinner), and larger sites followed, first in Hackney Road for boys and Bethnal Green for girls, then at Clapton, then (following the cholera epidemic) at Watford, and now Reed's School in Cobham. He also founded an Infant Orphan Asylum, later called the Royal Wanstead School in 1827; the Asylum for Fatherless Children, later established in Purley and called Reedham School; and his church established the Tower Hamlets [later East London] Savings Bank, which in 1890 merged with Quekett's Penny Savings Bank as part of the Post Office Savings Bank. Although he was aware that providing Anglican instruction (particularly the Catechism) would attract greater patronage, he fought - not always successfully - for his institutions to be non-denominational. He and his wife Elizabeth were hymn-writers; his hymn Spirit divine, attend our prayers still features in some hymnals. In 1834 he visited the USA, and Yale University made him a Doctor of Divinity.

Controversy surrounded his religious novel No Fiction: A Narrative Founded on Recent and Interesting Facts (1819, remaining in print for many years, going through over 20 editions). Its characters were claimed to have been based on members of the congregation as well as Reed himself, and caused divisions in the congregation. Francis Barnett (Lefèvre in the book), who was unstable, entered into bitter exchanges, including The Hero of No Ficton, or, Memoirs of Francis Barnett, with letters and authentic documents (C. Ewer and T. Bedlington 1823) and spent some time in an asylum as a result. In November 1820 Reed published The Pastor's Acknowledgment - A Sermon occasioned by the occurrence of the 9th Anniversary of the Ordination.

It is surprising that Reed was not honoured in his lifetime, and is not better-known today. See further D Grist A Victorian Charity (R.V. Hatt 1974), Ian J. Shaw's biography The Greatest is Charity (Evangelical Press 2005) and James McMillan & Norman Alvey Faith is the Spur (Reed's School Cobham 1993 - the school has a Reed archive, and we gratefully acknowledge their help and interest).

He is pictured here, after his death in 1862, in the Illustrated London News of 8 March 1862. He provided his own epitaph:

I was born yesterday, I shall die tomorrow,
And I must not spend today in telling what I have done,
But in doing what I may for HIM who has done all for me.
I sprang from the people, I have lived for the people –
The most for the most unhappy; and the people when
They know it will not suffer me to die out of loving remembrance.

In 1820 Philip Phillips was convicted at the Old Bailey of stealing a gown, robes, writing desk, bible and a piece of carpet from the Cannon Street Road Chapel vestry while Reed was conducting a service, 'but not sacreligiously' because it was not an Anglican church! He was transported for seven years.

The 1886 religious census of London records attendances of 642 (morning) and 917 (evening), with C. Lemoine as minister. Charles Booth in 1902 commented that
the outward movement of the lower middle and tradesman class has left the Nonconformist churches in difficulty, but has not wiped them out, as in Spitalfields, and that this chapel holds an almost cathedral position for the body, and though the building is now 'a world too wide' for its shrunk congregation, its members refuse to make any change in their old-fashioned methods, and are probably right in taking this line.  However, in 1906 it closed, becoming Philpot Street Great Synagogue, founded for 'foreign Jews', sometimes oddly termed the 'cathedral' of the Federation of Synagogues - not to be confused with Philpot Street Sephardic Synagogue (c1904-55). It was refurbished and re-opened in 1923 in the presence of Sir Samuel Montague, and with a scandal described here. Its ministers included Rabbis A J Singer and J Adelman. Blitzed in 1940, worship continued in a hut in the ruins; it finally closed in 1962.

The London Metropolitan Archive holds the church's register of baptisms, 1792-1810; roll of membership, 1792-1810; and a letter of 1831 to Reverend R.J. Evans, enquiring about James Easton (1790-1831), with reply.

Independent / Congregational Chapel ~ now Coverdale & Ebenezer, Bigland Street

Ebenezer Chapel [left on map of 1862] was founded in 1785 and was just north of Ratcliff Highway, with a small burial ground (about 220 square yards); as G.A. Walker noted in Gatherings from Graveyards in 1839, it was overcharged with dead ... it is considered dangerous to open a grave; the neighbourhood is very populous. Mrs Holmes commented in 1897 that the chapel had been used as a school, but is now deserted; the small yard on the south side of it is used as a timber yard. It is now a grassed area adjoining St George's Pools. In the late 1870s it moved to rebuilt premises in Watney Street, on a site over the East London line between Union Street and Passage, opposite Tarling and Sheridan Streets - right on Goad's 1899 insurance map.

Benjamin Sackett (1834-1900) [right] was minister from 1880-1900, described initially as Independent and in latter years as Congregational (his family were mostly Methodists - including his brothers Jeremiah and Jabez). He had ten children. Andrew Mearns, who edited The Bitter Cry of Outcast London: An Enquiry into the Condition of the Abject Poor (James Clarke 1883) for the London Congregational Union spent a week observing his work. In the 1886 religious census of London attendances were recorded as 137 in the morning and 335 in the evening. There is an interview with Sackett in the Booth Archives. It was an East London Auxiliary of the National Sunday School Union - an interdenominational body of which Christ Church Watney Street was the only local Anglican member.

In 1866 a new chapel was built at 192-94 Whitechapel Road on the site of Zion Chapel, of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, which had burnt down two years previously; it was known as Sion (New) Chapel. Its minister at the time of the 1886
religious census was A.W. Bennett, when 101 morning and 147 evening attendances were recorded; Brunswick chapel [named after the historic chapel of 1640] in Limehouse, with William Hirst as minister, had 163 (morning) and 210 (evening). But decline set in; the Limehouse chapel closed, and in 1900 Sion was renamed Brunswick Hall, and discussions were held with the London School Board about adapting it for a special school. In 1902 Charles Booth noted that yielding to the changed condition of its neighbourhood, is now practically a mission church, serving the poor in many ways, but without inducing them to come regularly, if indeed at all, to any religious service. The work done lies mostly among the children. In the event, in 1906 it was sold to the Primitive Methodists of Whitechapel Mission - picture and more details here.

Brunswick and Sion, as is was then known, eventually merged into Coverdale and Ebenezer Congregational Church. Coverdale Congregational (formerly Independent) Chapel was on Commercial Road in Limehouse. Attendance in the 1886 religious census (when J. Lucas was the minister) was recorded as 172 (morning) and 344 (evening). The 1966-67 building (by S.N. Cooke & Partners) in Bigland Street brought the congregation back near to Ebenezer's former locations, creating a small church and a (non-residential) Care House [left]. There was local opposition to a plan to demolish this building; instead, flats were added above. Paul Beasley is the deacon and administrator. It is part of the Congregational Federation - churches which opted not to join the United Reformed Church in 1972, when English Congregationalists and Presbyterians came together.

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