Social History of Hull and Nearby Unitarianism

Relevant sections: to see more, go to the URLs given below. About a 35 mb free download.



being a Thesis submitted for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
in the University of Hull


John Seed B. A. (CNAA)

December 1981


Click here to download the Ph.D




[page 11, .PDF page 24] The old Presbyterian congregation at Bowl Alley Lane Chapel in Hull, provides another typical instance of gradualist transition. From 1757 the minister was John Beverley and at his ordination the sermon had been preached by William Graham, one of the most heterodox ministers in the county. Yet Beverley avoided theological controversy and kept his own opinions to himself. In 1788 Hadley - an Anglican and a Tory - noted of Bowl Alley Lane that: "The tenets adopted here are represented by most to be Arian, but by some to be Socinian"; but he went on to qualify even this and said that this kind of Dissenter: "assumes the privilege of expounding them according to his own ideas, and few coinciding in every particular". 31 A local Calvinist minister wrote in his diary on the death of John Beverley in 1812:

"He was a man of amiable and peaceful disposition; if decided, not very clear in his religious sentiments, far from being explicit in public; and in private intimating that all good men meant the same thing. Several of his hearers did not believe that he denied the divinity or atonement of Christ. If he disbelieved them he did not show it openly........ "32

From 1799 Beverley had lived in retirement in Hull. But even his immediate successors at Bowl Alley Lane avoided disturbing the harmony of different positions by avowing Unitarianism from the pulpit. In 1805 Richard Wright preached there:

"To my surprise, I was told by a respectable gentlemen,, a leading member of the congregation, that I was the first person who had openly preached Unitarianism in that Chapel: what excited my surprise at hearing this, was my knowing that the ministers who had officiated there for many years had been Unitarians". 33

In many cases a congregation moved relatively smoothly into Unitarianism in the later 18th century in this way, often preserving the older Presbyterian vagueness while in other respects not disguising Unitarian tenets.

32. Quoted in W. Whitaker One Line of the Puritan Tradition in Hull: Bowl Alley Lane Chapel (1910) pp 129-30

33. A Review of the Missionary Life and Labours of Richard Wright, written by himself (1824) pp. 81-2

[page 12, .PDF 25] However, this inclusive coalition of different positions within the broad tradition of Protestant Dissent began to disintegrate in the last quarter of the century. On the one hand the development towards a much more coherent Unitarian position alienated a section of many Presbyterian congregations - they seceded as a group to found a Calvinist congregation or drifted away individually to other chapels. On the other hand the evangelical revival affected part of protestant dissent and revitalised [page 13] Calvinism. 36 Ministers who continued to evince the older rationalism were dismissed from their posts or, more often, replaced after their deaths or removals by orthodox ministers. Thus the development of Unitarianism was in many cases resisted and successfully repulsed. Leading Independent and Baptist preachers opposed the whole intellectual culture of rationalism and denounced the Unitarians as heretics, Deists, infidels and worse. 37

This process can be illustrated by a description of changes in dissent in the south-east corner of Yorkshire in the second half of the 18th century. 38

36. One West Riding Dissenting minister was complaining in 1765 about "the unhappy Divisions in almost all the Congregations in the Kingdom chiefly occasioned by Methodistical Delusions". Quoted in R. T. Jones Congregationalism in England: 1662-1962 (1962) p. 160-1

37. This persistent antagonism has given rise to historical misrepresen-tation of what actually occurred in this period of transition for dissent. In 1812 the Dissenting historians Bogue and Bennett, spoke of the emergence of Unitarianism as "a devouring pestilence". And this has often been the language in which more scrupulous historians have spoken of Unitarianism in this period. Skeats spoke of 18th century Presbyterianism as being "tainted" by Arianism, followed by a "lapse" into Unitarianism. Clark wrote of "the contagion of heresy" and even an outsider like Elie Halevy picked up the idiom, describing how Unitarianism "infected" the Presbyterian body. In recent years Alan Gilbert has suggested that Unitarianism "usurped the original English Presbyterian tradition". I have attempted in this account to suggest that both Unitarians and the evangelical Independents and Baptists preserved different parts of the tradition of old dissent just as both in their different ways broke with it. David Bogue and James Bennett History of Dissenters from the Revolution in 1688 to the year 1808 Vol. IV (1812) p. 319. H. S. Skeats History of the Free Church of England (revised edition with C. S. Miall: 1891) p. 752; Henry W. Clark History of English Nonconformity (2nd edition New York 1965) Vol. II p. 196; Elie Halevy A History of-the English People in the 19th Century: England in 1815 (2nd revised edition 1949) p. 405; Alan D. Gilbert Religion and Society in Industrial England: Church, Chapel and Social Change 1740-1914 (1976) p. 48

38. The following paragraph is based on J. G. Miall Congregationalism in Yorkshire (1868) 'Appendix Synoptical History of Yorkshire Churches'; Whitaker op. cit., passim; John G. Patton A Country Independent Chapel: Swanland, East Yorkshire, Congregational Church (1943) esp. pp. 33-7

[page 14] Here in the early 18th century there had been substantial Presbyterian congregations at Hull, Beverley, South Cave, Swanland, Howden, Ottringham and Bridlington. By the end of the century only the most important - the Chapel at Bowl Alley Lane in Hull remained. Elsewhere the impulse towards Unitarianism was resisted and defeated. At Cottingham the minister from 1756 to 65 Benjamin Clegg, was an Arian. His successor Edward Dewhurst caused a split in the congregation by his liberalism and the separatists were preached to by local Calvinist ministers. After Dewhurst's death in 1784 - his headstone was placed upside-down by his bearers, testament of the degree of bitterness against him - the congregation re-united in Calvinist orthodoxy. At Swanland the liberal John Angier - who had preached at Bowl Alley Lane on many occasions - was succeeded in the 1770s by an orthodox Calvinist called Bottomley. A number of members seceded but the congregation remained henceforth locked against heterodoxy. At Bridlington in the 1750s the minister's anti-trinitarianism caused a split and he was subsequently excluded by the trustees. In the 1770s the Arian minister at South Cave was compelled to resign. The liberal element at Beverley were defeated and the congregation moved into the Calvinist Independents by the 1730s. At Howden the minister, Jotham Fouljambe, successfully overcame resistance to his Unitarianism, but members drifted away, numbers declined and the chapel was eventually closed down. Elsewhere the same development occurred again and again in the late 18th century: a minister moving beyond the majority of his hearers in theological rationalism, resulting secessions and withdrawals leading to serious numerical decline -a reassertion of Calvinism with a new minister and growing affiliation to the Independents... The main point here is to stress the complex and uneven emergence of Unitarianism from the old Presbyterian body.

[page 16] When [Richard] Wright first joined the General Baptist Assembly in the 1790s they included a majority of antitrinitarians, some who had gone as far as rigorous Unitarianism and a few who remained trinitarians: "Since that time the assembly at large has become Unitarian. "41 By the early 19th century the General Baptists were frequently affiliating to Unitarian organizations, looking on Unitarian periodicals such as the 'Monthly Repository' and the 'Christian Reformer' as their own and in some cases - in Hull, York and Newcastle-upon-Tyne for instance - fusing with larger and more prosperous Unitarian congregations of Presbyterian descent. At the same time they preserved elements of their own identity. They continued to gather at the General Baptist Assembly in London each year and many General Baptist congregations preserved their own autonomy quite separate from the Unitarians. 42

No other section of religious dissent provided an institutional environment in which Unitarianism could prosper. Nevertheless within the ranks of orthodox Calvinism there was a continuing undercurrent of rationalism.

42. For the broader Baptist context in this period see A. C. Underwood A History of English Baptists (1947)

[page 17] In 1793 William Vidler and his congregation were expelled from Calvinistic Baptists for their acceptance of universalism. Moving to London Vidler became an important figure in radical dissent in the late 1790s preaching, writing, editing a universalist magazine, bookselling - all in the cause of anti-Calvinism. At the same time he shifted closer to the Unitarians and in 1802 publicly declared his rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity. 45 Vidler was simply the best known of a number of Calvinistic Baptist ministers in these years, who suffered expulsion for preaching universalism and/or Unitarianism and who founded new Unitarian groups among some of their hearers, for instance John Platts at Boston expelled in 1803, James Lyons forced to resign as Hull in 1807, Kay at Kendal in 1810; Thomas Finch expelled from King's Lynn in 1811 and so on.

Among the Methodists similarly universalism was often a factor in the splitting away of a number of autonomous groups who subsequently formed new Unitarian congregations. Richard Wright - who had himself moved from strict Calvinism through various kinds of heretical dissent to Unitarianism by the 1790s - found many cases of universalism and antitrinitarianism among the Methodists and in 1814 argued: "The Methodists have in a considerable degree prepared the way for the Unitarians". 46 In 1806 several hundred Wesleyans left their churches in the Rochdale area after the expulsion of a local preacher Joseph Cooke, for preaching against original sin and the atonement. They established a number of autonomous congregations and went

45. Ibid. pp. 210-12; M. D. Conway Centenary of the South Place Society (1894) pp. 11-21

46. Richard Wright 'Missionary Tour in Cornwall' MR Vol. X (1815) p. 770

[page 18] on to abandon the doctrine of the trinity, becoming known as the 'Methodist Unitarians'. In 1811 expulsions from the Wesleyans in Cornwall led to the founding of new Unitarian congregations at Falmouth and Flushing. At Alnwick in Northumberland in 1816 an independent congregation was formed out of a Methodist New Connexion Chapel and before long embraced an uncompromising Unitarianism.

[page 44] 'The Hull, East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire Unitarian Association' (1818). By the 1820s the country was criss-crossed by a variety of uncoordinated associations at various levels.

[page 57] The whole county of Lincolnshire could not claim a single important congregation: its five Unitarian chapels included [page 58] three which could not raise more than 30 hearers at any service and only one - at Boston - which could scrape into treble figures. The average Unitarian attendance in the county was a meagre 47. In the North of England - outside the industrial areas - Unitarianism was no stronger than elsewhere. There were six congregations in the East and North Riding -but apart from the old Bowl Alley Lane congregation in Hull - none of them reached treble figures at any service.

1775 - 1800

[Notes start again, page added for above]

[page 70, .PDF page 84 (+1 from Part 1)] ii. HULL

In the mid-18th century the Presbyterian congregation in Bowl Alley Lane in Hull had included a number of influential figures in the town: Benjamin Blaydes, head of the town's largest shipbuilding business, a merchant, a shipowner, owner of a ropemaking business and three times Mayor of Hull; Ralph Peacock, wealthy merchant and member of Trinity House; Joseph Pease, who introduced linseed crushing into the town, set up Hull's first bank in 1754 and was wealthy enough to loan £1000 to Hull Corporation in 1770. From mid-century, however, the congregation entered a period of gradual numerical decline. Socially too there was change as [page 71] successful merchants were assimilated into the Anglican social elite. Thus, after the death of Blaydes in 1771, his sons moved into landed society and the Church of England. 28

Nevertheless in the 1770s and 80s Bowl Alley Lane Chapel was still a focus of social and economic influence. The most influential member - a trustee and chairman of the congregational committee which managed chapel business - was Joseph Robinson Pease. Born in 1752, he was the first and only child of Joseph Pease's daughter Mary. She had married Robert Robinson - a Manchester merchant and member of the network of families gathering at Cross Street Chapel. Orphaned at the age of five Joseph Robinson was brought up by his father's brother in Manchester and from 1764 educated at the Warrington Academy. 29 Taken under the patronage of his grandfather in Hull, he was sent in 1769 to Holland to undergo the rigours of a commercial apprenticeship. 30 Within a year Pease's unmarried son Robert died and Joseph Robinson, adding the name Pease, became heir to the Pease business. When his grandfather died, aged 90, in 1778 he became the head of one of Hull's most substantial merchant houses.

Over the next 30 years he developed the family's interests. As well as holding the major share of 'Pease's Old Bank' he had a concern in two seed-crushing businesses and in the whale industry. He invested heavily in inland transport. In the 1790s he was the second largest shareholder in the Calder-Hebble Navigation, with an investment of £6,000; he had £3,800 in the Driffield Navigation, as well as lesser sums in the Rochdale Canal and in local turnpike schemes. 31 He played a part in the development

28. William Whitaker One Line of the Puritan Tradition in Hull: Bowl Alley Lane Chapel (1910) p. 95; Gordon Jackson Hull in the Eighteenth Century (Oxford 1972) pp. 180-3; K. J. Allinson (ed) The Victoria County History: York, East Riding Vol. 1 (1969) p. 312

29. T. Tindall Wildridge Old and New Hull (Hull 1884) pp. 155-8; V. F. 'Historical Account of Students educated in the Warrington Academy' MR Vol. IX (1814) p. 265.

30. There are interesting letters from Pease in Holland throughout the years 1769 to 71 in Pease Mss 138 in Wilberforce House, Hull.

31. Jackson op. cit. pp. 111-12, 191-2

[page 72] of the town with heavy investments in a number of housing projects; for instance a group of three large merchant houses in Charlotte Street. And he continued to buy further land in the town. 32 He inherited his uncle Robert's country estate at Hessle and added to it. In 1790 he totally rebuilt the old house. Though there was a working farm on his Hesslewood estate - in his will he left to his wife a cart and draught horse, all his corn, hay and poultry, and the choice of any three of his milch cows - land-owning was largely peripheral in economic terms. A 1793 enclosure award shows that Pease owned a relatively modest 190 acres at Hessle. 33 It has been estimated that only 16% of his income in the mid-90s came from land and most of this not from Hesslewood but from his town properties. 34 With this kind of range of economic interest Pease was clearly part of Hull's social elite. In 1780 he served on the Grand Jury at York. In 1783 he was Deputy Lieutenant of the East Riding. Despite his affiliation to rational dissent, Joseph Robinson Pease appears to have been a conventional gentleman-merchant of his day. Politically inactive, unintellectual, he married the Anglican daughter of a Derbyshire squire. A catalogue of his books reveals a small library, slightly Whiggish in content - the familiar light reading of any liberal patrician - a History of the Reformation, Plutarch, Butler's Hudibras, the novels of Sterne, eight volumes of The Spectator, Ferguson's Lectures, some miscellaneous volumes of topography and light verse. 35

32. K. J. Allinson (ed) op. cit. pp 447-51

33. F. C. Heaven 'Notebooks: Vols 2 and 3' in Hull University Archives DX 37/26 and 27; Will of J. R. Pease in Borthwick Institute, York: Prerog April 1807

34. Jackson op. cit. pp. 111,115

35. 'Memorandum Book 1780-88' pp.. 53-4 in Pease Mss 136, loc. cit.

[page 73] Pease was the most opulent rational dissenter in the late 18th century in Hull. Baptismal registers of the period suggest that the bulk of the congregation were made up of tradesmen, shopkeepers, craftsmen, mariners and various kinds of skilled labour. 36 At the same time there were three physicians (all MD) -John Alderson, William Chambers Darling and Alexander.

PROFESSIONAL 4 3 doctors, 1 attorney
MERCHANTS 4 4 merchants
SMALL DEALERS, RETAILERS 13 1 haberdasher, 1 grocer, 1 goldsmith, 1 tobacconist, 1 confectioner, 1 butcher, 2 shopkeepers, 1 innkeeper, 1 linen-draper, 1 apothecary, 1 baker, 1 brewer
CLERICAL 1 1 excise officer
ARTISANS, SKILLED & SEMI-SKILLED LABOUR 44 8 tailors, 7 shoemakers, 5 ropemakers, 2 joiners, 1 cartman, 1 painter, 2 carvers, 1 brickmaker, 2 bricklayers, 1 cabinet-maker, 1 miller, 3 carpenters, 1 wheelwright, 1 skinner, 1 oil-miller, 1 chairmaker, 1 blockmaker, 1 sail-cloth maker, 1 gardener, 2 husbandmen, 1 weaver
MARINERS 30 29 mariners, 1 sailor
GENERAL LABOUR 13 13 labourers
TOTAL 125 Plus 3 soldiers, 4 tide-waiters, 1 out-pensioner and 1 ale-draper (? ), 3 invalids.

Wilson - a lawyer and a number of merchants, including members of the Briggs family involved in shipowning, trading and insurance. In 1788 George Hadley - a Tory Anglican with no sympathy for dissent of any kind - described the congregation as "the genteelest in town". 37

36. Baptismal Registers of Bowl Alley Lane Chapel 1744-1827 in PRO: Non-Parochial Registers RG4/3752

37. George Hadley A New and Complete History of the Town and County of the Town of Kingston-upon-Hull (Hull 1788) p. 801

[page 89] Among the students [of the Warrington Academy - from the late 1750s until the year 1780] were representatives of the Cookson family of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the Milnes family of Wakefield, the Fentons of Leeds, the Cromptons of Derby and York, the Heywoods of Liverpool and Wakefield, the Pease family of Hull, the Rayners of Leeds, the Shores of Sheffield, the Hothams of York. However there were also a substantial number of sons from liberal gentry families. While a third of the Warrington students subsequently became merchants, bankers or manufacturers, nearly as many went on to become gentlemen - including Lord Ennismore, Sir William Strickland and Sir James Ibbetson. Four students went on to become Anglican vicars and three to become army officers. 94

94. V. F. op. cit. passim.

[page 195] iii) EAST YORKSHIRE.

If in Lancashire working class Unitarianism in the early years of the 19th century emerged with a Methodist form, in rural East Yorkshire it was linked closely to Baptist conventions. In the late 1770s, a group of York artisans, practising Anglicans, formed themselves into an autonomous religious society which was over the next half century to undergo a remarkable evolution and to spawn a number of smaller groups in various parts of East Yorkshire. 45 At first they had attended various churches and chapels in York, being most impressed with the Wesleyans. However the affiliation of Wesleyans to the Church of England was a problem as they began to criticise the worldliness of the clergy, the Church's vestigial Roman Catholicism and its general lack of a coherent and active morality. They became Calvinists and for some time were served by young visiting preachers from Lady Huntingdon's Connexion. However they had begun to read and study theology - questions and doubts multiplied. They accepted the Baptist doctrine of adult baptism and found some like-minded people among the Baptists. Still they questioned, broke with Calvanism and found affinities with the followers of John Johnson, an heretical Baptist writer in Liverpool. Finally the York group decided to abandon the whole field of

45. The following paragraph is based on David Eaton Scripture the only Guide to Religious Truth: A Narrative of the Proceedings of the Society of Baptists in York in Relinquishing the Popular Systems of Religion, from the Study of the Scriptures etc... (York 1800)

[page 196] doctrinal dispute -"to lay aside all men and their books, of whatever sort they might be, and to study and follow the scriptures only... " Hence they broke with doctrinal authority and, like rational dissenters, tested the Bible against empirical evidence and common sense: "thus we became rational creatures" David Eaton, one of their number, recalled. 46 They soon came to reject the doctrines of original sin and the depravity of man, affirming the inherent worth of all men and the power of the human mind to achieve both virtue and wisdom. They also abandoned ortho-dox forms of discipline -wrote their own hymns, conducted their own services and allowed each of their number to freely follow his own reason in any direction the text of the Bible seemed to warrant. By the 1790s they were both in theology and in practice Unitarians. Yet they had - like the Rochdale followers of Cooke - reached this position quite indepen-dently. Eaton wrote: "so wholly ignorant were they of Unitarians and their writings, that it was not till some years after their receiving their more rational views, that they knew any person held sentiments similar to their own". 47 From the late 1790s they were in touch with Charles Wellbeloved, Unitarian minister at the old St. Saviourgate Chapel in York, who wrote to another minister in October 1800: "Our society here is very small and not very zealous, but Unitarianism is not without its advocates in this city, and, you will be glad to hear, is making no inconsiderable progress. A Society of Baptists are very ardent in the support of Scripture truth, and very assiduous in extending it". 48 Their leading preacher - a York cord-wainer called Francis Mason - preached far and wide in East Yorkshire and initiated a number of groups. Similarly David Eaton, a shoemaker, preached regularly in and around York. The Baptismal Registers of the society,

46. Ibid. pp. 21-2

47. 'Mr. Eaton's Account of the Rise and Progress of the Unitarian Fund' in MR Vol. XX (1825) p. 479

48. Wellbeloved to Richard Fry 14 xi 1800 in Fry Mss printed in E. D. Priestley Evans A History of the New Meeting House, Kidderminster 1782-1900 (Kidderminster 1900) p. 114

[page 197] from their commencement in 1780 until the 1820s, reveal that the group had adherents at Selby, Cawood, Kirk Hammerton, Hull, Bilton, Sutton, Acaster and Malton. 49

49. Register Book of York General Baptists in PRO Non-parochial registers RG4/3518

[page 200] At nearby Malton an old Presbyterian congregation apparently safe within the Independent fold was disturbed when its Calvinist minister was converted to Unitarianism. Tension resulted in a secession of the orthodox and in 1815 they opened their own Independent Chapel, leaving a declining group of Unitarians. The students reported in 1824: "though the attendance may not much increase at Malton for the present yet there are evident marks of a growing 60 spirit of solid practical religion amongst the few Unitarians there". Despite difficulties the congregation survived with regular congregations of between fifty and one hundred. Further away at Hull there were three small Unitarian Baptist groups in these years.

Yet the long-term effect of this Unitarian activity in Yorkshire was not visible in solid and stable religious organizations with numerical weight in denominational terms. At York, Selby and Hull the new groups eventually joined Unitarian congregations with a long Presbyterian ancestry. Elsewhere a number of the groups proved transient, fading without trace. At Howden, for instance, the York students quickly gave up their preaching visits in 1824: "the gradual decrease of attention in the place and the discovery that most of those who professed to attend as members were in reality Deists and characters with whom it was disgraceful to be connected - led to their discontinuance". 61 At Thorne and Stainforth, Malton and Welburn the new groups survived as autonomous congregations but remained small. A movement which in East Yorkshire in the 1820s could be calculated

60. J. G. Miall Congregationalism in Yorkshire (1868) p. 313; Missionary Transactions MCO. See also the Records of the Malton Unitarian Chapel in the North Riding Record Office, Northallerton: R/1/ML/3.

61. Missionary Transactions MCO

[page 201] in terms of hundreds had sunk by the 1840s to a matter of dozens.

[page 204] Unitarian intellectualism confirmed their social exclusiveness. It was claimed in 1809 that there were many instances of servants begging their masters to be excused from attending Unitarian Chapels with them - and not because they disapproved of the doctrines but because they found the whole proceeding incomprehensible. The "untaught and ignorant" needed sermons appropriate to their situation in plain language: "I think it will be generally allowed, that the sermons usually given in Unitarian Chapels, are [page 205] in language far too refined for the comprehension of this part of the congregation: nor are the vices to which their condition in life renders them most liable, such as drunkenness, dishonesty and lying, often even touched upon; or if they are, it can be but slightly in these elegant discourses". 77 This was a point of acute tension among Unitarians who valued intellectual cogency as a sine qua non, distrusted emotional preaching and regarded with undisguised distaste the uneducated populace. Even an enthusiastic populariser of Unitarianism like William Severn, a former Wesleyan and minister at Hull from 1806 until his death in 1813, was deeply distrustful of the anti-intellectualism of evangelical strategies to gain popular attention. "The Methodists must have the influx of that class of society who are devoutly ignorant", he told a young Kidderminster Unitarian in 1809, criticising attempts there to attract a popular following to the New Meeting. The proper strategy was to preach straightforward Unitarianism and concentrate on "the thinking part of the young people amongst you", even though this would lead to no marked rise in numbers for ten or twenty years. 78 A few years earlier he had written that Unitarians were not "Philosophers by Fire" and refused on principle to compromise their intellectual rigour and rationalism by pandering to the uneducated and the superstitious:

"They do not attempt to induce the multitude to adopt their opinions, by the effervescence of an heated imagination, dis-played by vociferous pronunciation, violent action, and the denunciations of the everlasting flames of hell, to torture those who withhold their assent. In contrast therefore with such kind of WARM RELIGIONISTS they are undoubtedly COLD CHRISTIANS, or if you will, COLD PHILOSOPHIZING CHRISTIANS". 79

Even the new generation of militant Unitarians who rejected the com-placency of old rational dissent, men like William Severn, did not cross the barrier between the polite and the plebian cultures, between the educated and uneducated.

77. M. H. 'Popular Preaching Recommended to Unitarians' MR Vol. IV (1809) p. 321

78. William Severn to Joseph Hopkins 7 vi 1809 in Severn Mss in E. D. Priestley Evans op. cit. p. 76

79. William Severn A Vindication of the Unitarians, or Remarks upon a late Publication, entitled 'A Vindication of the Methodists'... (Hull 1806) p. 9

[page 206] In the 1880s a "sexagenarian layman" claimed: "I am old enough to remember when the Unitarian body included comparatively few of the artisan class or of any section of society below what are usually called the middle classes. We were commonly regarded as a very intellectual and for the most part a very well-to-do people and this was about the fact". 80

80. Christian Life 27 vii 1889

[page 224]

ii. HULL. The leading figure in Bowl Alley Lane congregation in the late 18th century, the banker Joseph Robinson Pease, remained an active member until his death in 1807. However his wife was an evangelical churchwoman and, though all the children were baptised in the chapel, her influence predominated in the family after Pease's death. The eldest son, also called Joseph Robinson Pease (b. 1789), matriculated a Fellow Commoner of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in 1807 and conformed to the Church of England under pressure from his mother: "The ceremony of confirmation is over, and I am initiated into the Church of England. It is according to your wishes, and I am sure I may affirm the same on my part", he wrote to her from Cambridge. 149 Pease subsequently became an important figure in early 19th century Hull - a churchman, a Tory, hostile to Catholic Emancipation, parliamentary reform, free trade. That his father was a rational dissenter and he himself baptised in a Unitarian Chapel were, a later generation learned, "facts your grandmother used to repeat when she particularly wished to aggravate your grandfather". 150 Other children of J. R. Pease the elder were similarly absorbed into the elite of Tory churchmen who dominated Hull - one of his sons, George, even became an Anglican clergyman. As in the late 18th century, artisans, tradesmen and skilled workmen of various kinds constituted the largest category in the congregation. However the substantial numbers of mariners and general labourers had faded significantly by the early 19th century. The Bowl Alley Lane congregation had become smaller but the propertied elite were proportionately more strongly represented. The managing elite of the congregational committee

149. J. R. Pease to Anne Pease 9 vi 1807 Pease Mss 35 in Wilberforce House Museum, Hull.

150. Letter of B. C. Pease Feb. 1887. Pease Mss 98; on Pease's later career see his obituary in Hull Advertiser 27 v 1866; T. Tindall Wildridge Old and New Hull (Hull 1884) pp. 155-8

[page 225]

PROFESSIONAL 13 1 attorney; 1 physician; 1 newspaper editor
MERCHANTS 7 7 merchants
SMALL DEALERS, RETAILERS 7 1 bookseller; 1 grocer; 2 butchers; 2 tailors; 1 auctioneer
CLERICAL STAFF 2 2 banker's clerks
ARTISANS, SKILLED & SEMI-SKILLED LABOUR 13 3 shoemakers; 3 joiners; 1 carpenter; 1 paper-stainer; 1 builder; 1 hatter; 1 mast 1 bricklayer ship's 1 cordwainer; & block-maker;
MARINERS 5 4 mariners; 1 ship's master
LABOURERS 2 2 general labourers
included: three physicians, among them Dr. John Alderson; 152 four solicitors; the merchant, newspaper editor and writer on political economy William Spence; 153 George Lee, a Unitarian pastor to the Strutts at Belper who became a schoolmaster in Hull and then succeeded Spence as editor of the 'Hull Rockingham' newspaper; 154 Christopher Briggs, an insurance broker, a merchant, and a shipowner; 155 ten or so substantial merchants, among them Richard Tottie, involved in oil-milling! American Vice-Consul in Hull, agent to the Hamburg Steam Packet Company and in the 1830s a director of the Hull & Selby Railway Company. 156 Henry Blundell was a leading member
151. Bowl Alley Lane Baptismal Registers PRO: Non-parochial registers RG4/3752 and 143

152. DNB; J. Horsfall Turner Yorkshire Bibliographer (Bingley 1888) Vol. I pp. 36-7. For background of Alderson family see C. L. Brightwell Memorials of the Life of Amelia Opie (Norwich 1854) pp. 1-2. Details of the congregational committee are contained in the Minute Book of Bowl Alley Lane Chapel 1802-50 in Hull Local History Library.

153. For Spence: obituaries in The Inquirer (1860) p. 35 and Gent's Mag. Vol. CCVIII part i (1860) pp. 631-2; R. W. Corlass Sketches of Hull Authors (Hull 1879) pp. 105-9.

154. Obituary in CR new series Vol. IX (1842) pp. 532-3. See also Corlass op. cit. p. 108 and J. Horsfall Turner Halifax Books and Authors (Brighouse 1906) p. 218

155. The First Hull Directory 1791 (reprinted Hull 1885) p. 14; Battle's Hull and Beverley Directory 1814-15 (Hull 1813) p. 22; The Trade and Commerce of Hull and its Ships and Shipowners, Past and Present (reprinted from The Eastern Morning News: Hull 1878) p. 96

156. Battle's Directory 1813, p. 91 Battle's Hull Directory (1803)

[page 266] of the congregation from 1810 when he set up a brush-manufacturing business in the town - in the following year, in partnership with Spence he moved into paint-manufacturing and by 1851 he was one of the largest employers in Hull with 350 men. 157 Another member, Francis Stamp, was an auctioneer, appraiser, commission agent and wine and spirit merchant, as well as a bailiff for the unreformed Corporation. 158 Nothing like so large and opulent as Manchester Unitarianism, nevertheless the Bowl Alley Lane congregation in Hull was still a strategic grouping in the town's cultural and political life.

157. No author Blundell: of Liverpool, Lincoln and Hull (1906); John Leng Reminiscences of Hull Thirty Years Ago (Hull 1882) p. 6; No author The Blundell Book 1811-1951: A Short History (Hull 1951) esp. pp. 8-10

158. William White Hull and District Directory (Sheffield 1831); Bowl Alley Lane Register loc. cit.

[page 231] However, overshadowing the [Wakefield] congregation were two newcomers to the town, Benjamin and Daniel Gaskell. Born near Manchester in 1781 and 82 respectively, the sons of a merchant and trustee of Cross Street Chapel who died in 1788, 184 they were established in Wakefield as the heirs of their child-less uncle James Milnes. In 1805, they inherited his substantial wealth. 185 Benjamin at Thornes House and Daniel at nearby Lupset Hall became wealthy landed gentlemen, rentiers with considerable landholdings in various parts of the country: Benjamin owned the Clifton Estate near Manchester of 178 acres, an estate of several hundred acres near Wigan and various small parcels of land in Yorkshire. In 1808 he bought an estate of over 100 acres at Entwistle. 186 Daniel too, was keen to add to his property. In 1808 he bought an estate of 524 acres at Pennington, near Leigh and in 1813 was urging his solicitor to have overdue rent collected: "we wish much to have it invested in land". 187 However this dependence upon rents sometimes.-caused problems. Benjamin was making £130 per annum by renting a mill and

184. Thomas Baker op. cit. p. 89.

185. Will of James Milnes in WCL: JGL

186. Ibid.

187. Ibid. and letter of Daniel Gaskell 20 iv 1813 in same collection.

[page 232] surrounding premises on Beverley Road in Hull to the Unitarian manufacturer Henry Blundell.

[page 243 .PDF 258] Manchester, Hull, Wakefield, Leeds and Newcastle-upon-Tyne - five very different types of social and economic structure and in each case the Unitarian congregation reflected something of the urban context in which it was set.

[page 244] Hull, isolated in rural East Yorkshire, profitted as a port by national economic development but socially remained more traditional and conservative - here Bowl Alley Lane included a number of professional men and merchants, one of the town's few substantial manufacturers Henry Blundell, but there were no new liberal industrialists to invigorate declining rational dissent.

[page 292] Even at a relatively substantial chapel, such as that in Hull, a young minister found it impossible to square his model of a respectable family life with a minister's wage. William Oke Manning resigned in 1805 because of "the smallness of the salary". It was said: "he wanted to marry a young lady in London... who had but very little fortune and he saw no prospect of being able to maintain a family. Therefore he has not only left Hull but has given up his profession, and is gone into trade as a Stock Broker..." 96
Birmingham New Meeting 1803 £150
Wakefield early 19th century £120
Leeds 1808 £160
Sheffield 1810 £180
Walmsley 1811 £90
Chesterfield 1813 £100
Bridgwater 1816 £90
Mosley Street, Manchester 1820 £200
Glasgow 1825 £250
Todmorden 1825 £100
Salford 1825 £120
Rivington 1826 £67
Halifax 1826 £144
Hull 1828 £110
North Shields 1832 £70
Liverpool 1832 £200
Sunderland 1835 £80
Malton 1838 £53
Yeovil 1839 £65
Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1841 £120
Tavistock 1842 £70
Kings Lynn 1843 £70
Huddersfield 1845 £60
Billingshurst 1851 £45
Salford 1851 £210
96 Mrs. Kenrick to J. H. Bransby 6 xii 1805 in Bransby Mss UC Mss: JRL

[page 305] The Chapel library at Bowl Alley Lane Chapel in Hull - dating from 1716 - included alongside works of theology and religious history editions of Horace, Juvenal, Cicero and a number of works of history, including Thoresby's 'Leeds' and Camden's 'Brittannia'. 141

141. H. McLachlan The Unitarian College Library: Its History, Contents and Character (Manchester 1939) p. 16

[page 323] In other northern towns small groupings of Unitarians were involved in the founding and maintenance of these kinds of cultural institutions: George Lee, John Alderson, William Spence, Henry Blundell, Rev. Edward Higginson and others, at Hull; Thomas Asline Ward, Henry Piper, Dr. Nathaniel Phillips, the Shores, Luke Palfreyman, Peter Wright, and others, at Sheffield; the Bischoffs, John Marshall, Luptons, Stansfelds, Luccocks, T. W. Tottie, and others, at Leeds; William and Rawdon Briggs, Dr. Richard Moulson, Rev. William Turner Jnr., Richard Kershaw, James Stansfeld, and others, at Halifax. These Unitarians figured prominently in the setting up, the management and financial support, and a good deal of the intellectual content of Subscription Libraries, book clubs, Literary and Philosophical Societies, Mechanics Institutes and other more specialised intellectual bodies.

[page 343] Among Whig supporters were a network of other Unitarians in urban centres where the Whig gentry had little direct influence: Benjamin and John Pemberton Heywood in Wakefield, Rawdon Briggs at Halifax, Thomas Asline Ward and the Shores at Sheffield, Samuel Martin at Hull.

[page 348] At Hull in 1808 a small group of Whigs and Unitarians celebrated the 1807 election victory of Lord Milton by setting up a newspaper called the Hull Rockingham. This was edited by William Spence until 1811 and George Lee from 1811 to 43, both members of Bowl Alley Lane Chapel - the latter had been a Unitarian minister for a number of years. Its name signalled its Whiggish affinities and Fitzwilliam's Hull agents Richard and Daniel Sykes were the main financial supporters initially. 162 Its prospectus claimed: "Though the votaries of certain political principles, they are independent of any personal influence, and not impelled by motives of faction." 163

162. William Andrews 'An Old Hull Newspaper' Hull Literary Club Magazine Vol. II (1899-1904) p. 62; G. Pryme Memoir of the Life of Daniel Sykes Esq. (Wakefield 1834) pp. 15,22; obituary of George Lee CR Vol. IX. (1842) pp. 532-3.

163. Prospectus printed in Hull Rockingham 7 v 1808.

[page 349] Certainly it became less Whiggish and in the 1820s the spokesman of urban liberalism.

[page 352] Such secular devoutness - when combined with wealth and the right kind of links with the Whig elite - brought its rewards and in the expansion of the oligarchy brought about by the Reform Bill of 1832 Unitarians were often well placed to profit. They swept into the parliamentary representation of several Northern towns, some of them newly-enfranchised: at Leeds John Marshall Junior; at Wakefield Daniel Gaskell; at Halifax Rawdon Briggs; at Manchester Mark Philips; in the new Southern Division of Lancashire G. W. Wood; Richard Potter at Wigan; and, from a less Whiggish direction, John Fielden at Oldham. At Hull the Unitarians, led by Henry Blundell and George Lee, dominated the Parliamentary Reform Association and got their candidate, the Unitarian M. D. Hill elected. "The revolution is made", said the Duke of Wellington: "power is transferred from one class of society, gentleman professing the faith of the Church of England, to another class of society, the shopkeepers, being Dissenters from the Church, many of them Socinians, atheists". 178 If the new men from the Unitarians were indeed Socinians in theology, they were not shopkeepers, with all that implied, but bankers, industrialists, professional men - educated gentleman as a rule, long entrenched in Whig circles, having less and less in common with the evangelical culture of the Independents, the Baptists and the Methodists. But the numerical weight of the latter - the evangelical shopocracy - began to prove as great a threat to the Unitarians in the new dispensation as to the traditional landed Churchman.

178. Quoted in R. V. Holt The Unitarian Contribution to Social Progress in England (2nd ed., 1952) p. 132

[page 353] At Hull too Unitarians entered the reformed Corporation in 1835, among them two new Aldermen, Henry Blundell and Richard Tottie [not Thomas William Tottie of Mill Hill Chapel].

[page 354] Underpinning the gradual shift in the balance of power within dissent was a longer-term hostility between Unitarians and the rest of dissent. Theological hostility to Unitarian rationalism had from the 1790s found [page 355] expression not just in intermittent polemics and public abuse but in a degree of social and cultural apartheid. Unitarian Sunday Schools were, from 1819, excluded from the non-denominational Sunday School Union for instance. 188 Many other voluntary agencies, in which Independents, Baptists, Methodists and even some Churchmen cooperated, excluded Unitarians. In 1831 there were moves to exclude Unitarians from the British and Foreign Bible Society and in a number of local Bible Societies - among them Hull, York and Newcastle-upon-Tyne - Unitarian ministers were forced to resign. 189

188. William Henry Watson The Sunday School Union: its History and Work (1869) p. 23.

189. See detailed account of the British and Foreign Bible Society's annual meeting in CR Vol. XVII (1831) pp. 195-220.

[page 357] Thus attempts at Leeds in 1832 to use the Unitarianism of John Marshall Jnr. to harm his electoral chances were firmly rebutted by Baines in the Leeds Mercury and even a section of the Methodists placed the political policies of the liberal candidates above their dubious religious status. 196 Elsewhere too - at Hull and at Sheffield, for instance -evangelical moves to exploit the Unitarianism of reform candidates in the 1832 election were unsuccessful. 197

However on religious issues Unitarians were increasingly rebuffed by the rest of dissent. At Leeds in December 1833 the Independents and Baptists refused to let Unitarians participate in the sending of a petition to parliament against Church rates or in the standing committee that was subsequently set up. 198 Similarly at Hull the Unitarians were not invited to participate in a public meeting early in 1834 of the 'Associated Dissenting Congregations' to organize a campaign for relief from dissenting grievances. The Unitarian minister Edward Higginson and George Lee, editor of the Hull Rockingham attended but neither were called upon to speak or even acknowledged. Higginson complained bitterly, pointed to the consistent support of dissenting causes by Hull Unitarians and argued that their exclusion contravened the basic principles of religious dissent. 199 An anonymous Hull Unitarian argued that their

196. For instances of anti-Unitarianism during election see the editorial in the Leeds Patriot 1 xii 1832; Early Victorian Methodism: The Correspondence of Jabez Bunting 1830-58 ed. W. R. Ward (Oxford 1976) pp. 17-18. G. O. Trevalyan The Life and Letters of Lord Macauley (Popular Ed. 1889) pp. 204-5. See rebuttals in the Leeds Mercury 20 x 1832 and 11 xii 1832. As Hamilton stated: "Philosophy and Policy were grounds on which we were willing and anxious to meet and embrace the Socinian as our colleague and compatriot.. but we always knew when to draw the religious line, and to act upon the religious dissociation": R. W. Hamiton Animadversions upon the Rev. Dr. Hutton's pamphlet entitled 'Unitarian Christianity Vindicated' (1832) p. iii.

197. See Hull Advertiser 31 viii 1832, 26 x 1832; Hull Rockingham 3 xi 1832, 17 xi 1832. For Sheffield see Peeps into the Past: being passages from the Diary of Thomas Ashine Ward ed. A. B. Bell (Sheffield 1909) p. 299.

198. Leeds Mercury 7 xii 1833

199. Hull Rockingham 11 1 1833; Edward Higginson Unitarian Dissent permitted to speak for itself (Hull 1834) esp. pp. 18-20

[page 358] exclusion was engineered by Anglicans to weaken the dissenting campaign. 200

200. 'Nonconformist' Characteristics of the Present Controversy between the Church and the Dissenters (2nd ed. Hull 1834)

[page 376 .PDF 391] BIBLIOGRAPHY...

Hull, Local History Library: Minute Book of Bowl Alley Lane Chapel Hull 1802-52.

Hull, Wilberforce House Museum: Pease Mss.

The Hull Advertiser.

The Hull Rockingham.
[page 381] E. Higginson Unitarian dissent permitted to speak for itself (Hull 1834)

E. Higginson A Discourse on the Passing of the Dissenting Chapel's Act (Hull 1844)

E. Higginson Blasphemy: What is it; and on whom Chargeable: a Discourse (Hull 1832)

[page 382] G. Lee An Address delivered to the members of the Hull Mechanics Institute: 17th Nov. 1831 (Hull 1831)

[page 383] 'Nonconformist' Characteristics of the Present Controversy between the Church and the Dissenters (2nd ed. Hull 1834)

W. Severn A Vindication of the Unitarians, or Remarks upon a late Publication, entitled 'A Vindication of the Methodists'... (Hull 1806)
Anon The Blundell Book 1811-1951: A Short History (Hull 1951)
[page 393] C. E. Darwent The Story of Fish Street Church Hull (1899)

[page 396] W. Whitaker One Line of the Puritan Tradition in Hull: Bowl Alley Lane Chapel (1910)
[page 397] Anon The Trade and Commerce of Hull and its Ships and Shipowners, Past and Present (Hull 1878)

R. W. Corlass Sketches of Hull Authors (Hull 1879)

G. Hadley A New and Complete History of the Town and County of the Town of Kingston-upon-Hull (Hull 1788)

[page 398] John Leng Reminiscences of Hull Thirty Years Ago (Hull 1882)

[page 399] T. T. Wildridge Old and New Hull (Hull 1884)
[page 401] G. Jackson Hull in the 18th century (Oxford 1972)
W. Andrews 'An Old Hull Newspaper' Hull Literary Club Magazine Vol. II (1899-1904)


John Seed, Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful