All Souls’ Church, Belfast built 1896

All Souls’ Church, Belfast exterior is modelled on Croyland Abbey in Lincolnshire. Built by the architect Walter Planck and opened for worship in 1896 it is the only church designed by that architect in Ireland. But it is interesting to note how closely the interior resembles the interiors of a number of fifteenth-century English parish churches. The arches, pillars, chancel, east window, clerestory windows all are reminiscent of a number of such places. I realised this when I saw a picture of the interior of the Church of St Mary in North Petherton. An Edwardian postcard of this interior  looks almost identical to All Souls’. Even the pews in All Souls’ underline this effect, the pews were brought in from the old meeting house on Rosemary Street when that church was vacated. These originally dated from the 1870s and a lot of Victorian parish churches would have installed new, modern pews at that time. The choice of this kind of architecture was quite deliberate by the minister, the Rev Edgar Innes Fripp in 1896. He was reaching back to medieval England to establish the kind of devotion he thought was most truly authentic. But architecturally it is a marvel. John McLachlan (in The Unitarian Heritage) says it is “unique in Irish Non-Subscribing church architecture”. But there is nothing like it in English Unitarian church architecture either which has a lot of remarkable gothic buildings.

All Souls ext construction 02

Simon Walker (Historic Ulster Churches) says “it would be as fitting in a rural English setting as in Belfast’s busy University area”. Richard Oram (Expressions of Faith Ulster’s Church Heritage) notes that “It is a unique and beautiful, little building”. Paul Larmour (Belfast: an illustrated architectural guide) calls it “a gem of Victorian architecture”.

All Souls int construction 01

The pictures on this page show the church under construction and soon after it was built, plus a view of the chancel taken before the NSPCI Sunday School service held there on 7th June 2019.

All Souls ext completed 01

All Souls June 2019

Liverpool Tram, Brompton Avenue c.1900

Having written about the tram travelling up Park Road and past the Ancient Chapel recently (click here to view that post) I recently acquired this modern print of a photograph dating from about the same period of a tram taken on Croxteth Road.

For me it is very easy to identify this as being taken on Croxteth Road just at the junction with Brompton Avenue. Just out of shot on the right was Sefton Park Presbyterian Church, then still the church of John Watson, otherwise known as best selling author Ian Maclaren. This tram stop was, according to a number of accounts, identified by the conductor to passengers as “Dr Watson’s Church”. I have written about this Church before here.

Tram Brompton Avenue 03 crop 01

It must have been an important junction, the trams seem to have made relatively long stops there, they certainly appear on postcards of Sefton Park Church, the crew happily posing for the photographer, so they must have had reason to hang around.

spcdetail

Detail of a postcard view of Sefton Park Church, showing a tram waiting in the same spot

There are also clearly extra crew members included here in the photograph, with an inspector stepping on to the tram. Was this, perhaps, a place where crews changed over? On the top deck you can see the seats that could be pushed to face the other way when the tram got to the end of the line.

Tram Brompton Avenue 03 crop 03

And to the right of the tram stand an elegant Edwardian couple.

Tram Brompton Avenue 03 crop 04

 

Faith and Freedom Spring and Summer 2019

Faith and Freedom, Spring and Summer (volume 72 part 1) issue 188, is now available.

Articles include:

Towards Third Millennium Christianity Activism, Nonviolence and the Mystical Imperative by Alastair McIntosh

Pic C - Alastair spks at Rawt, 23.3.19 close

Alastair McIntosh lecturing at Rawtenstall. This photo and the one above courtesy of John Hewerdine

Described by the BBC as ‘one of the world’s leading environmental campaigners’ Alastair McIntosh is a pioneer of modern land reform in Scotland and an honorary fellow of the School of Divinity at Edinburgh University and an honorary professor at Glasgow University. This is a challenging and far-reaching lecture originally given at Rawtenstall Unitarian Church, Lancashire in March 2019 as part of the ‘Future of Faith’ lecture series organised by Unitarians of the Lancashire Collaborative Ministry and Pendle Hill Quakers, supported by the Progressive Christianity Network.

An Appearance of Francis David: A Chautauqua Performance  by Kevin Murphy, Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Nevada, Reno

Francis David 01

Ferenc Dávid’s Address to the 1568 Diet of Torda by Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch

A Chautauqua Performance is the portrayal of an historical figure talking about their lives and views as if they had just appeared from the past. Through it Dr Murphy gives tremendous insight into the life, sufferings and achievements of this neglected figure of the Transylvanian reformation. 

What do these stones mean to you? by David Steers, editor Faith and Freedom

Toxteth

The cover picture of the new issue of Faith and Freedom. Rural Toxteth in 1821 showing the Ancient Chapel and the view along Park Road, from an original lithograph by Samuel & George Nicholson

A sermon delivered at the 400th anniversary service of the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth, Liverpool in November 2018. In 1611: At a place called Toxteth Park near Liverpool, there dwelt a wise and Religious People, who being desirous of the good of themselves and their Posterity, intended to erect a School amongst them. A few years later they built a chapel which has continued to be used for worship through four centuries. This sermon celebrates the life and history of the congregation.

International Association for Religious Freedom: Our Vision for the Future

A new statement issued by the International Council, meeting in Tokyo in March 2019.

Plus a collection of fascinating reviews by Marcus Braybrooke, Peter B. Godfrey, Bob Janis-Dillon, Jim Corrigall, David Steers, John W. Nelson.

Books reviewed:

Richard Burridge and Jonathan Sacks (eds), Confronting Religious Violence: A Counter-narrative(SCM Press)

Marcus Braybrooke, Faiths Together for the Future, The story of the World Congress of Faiths and the growing global interfaith movement to heal the world, (Braybrooke Press)

Marcus Braybrooke, Sikhism, A Christian Approach, (Braybrooke Press)

Stan Hazell, A Long Way from Adi Ghehad: Journey of an asylum seeker: Dr Teame Mebrahtu, (Shepheard-Walwyn)

W. Jamieson, A World in Two Minds, Why we must change our thinking to change our future, (Shepheard-Walwyn)

Paul E. Hill, The Urban Myths of Popular Modern Atheism. How Christian Faith Can Be Intelligent, (Christian Alternative)

Robert Llewelyn, Why Pray? (Darton, Longman & Todd)

Dan C. West, Causeway To A Bigger World, (Mountain Arbor Press)

David Steers (ed.), First World War Roll of Honour of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, (First Presbyterian [Non-Subscribing] Church, Downpatrick)

Peter C. Humphreys, Four Hundred Years of English Congregational and Welsh Independent Churches in Liverpool (1618-2018), (Kilmainham Congregational Publishing, Dublin)

An annual subscription for each volume (two issues) costs £15.00 (postage included) in the United Kingdom. Single copies can be ordered at a cost of £8.00 each (postage included). Cheques should be made out to Faith and Freedom and sent to the business manager:

Nigel Clarke,
Business Manager, Faith and Freedom,
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Kirton in Lindsey,
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Email: faithandfreedom@btinternet.com

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The Ancient Chapel of Toxteth and an early electric tram

I was very pleased to pick up this picture on an ever-popular internet auction site. It was sold as a Victorian photograph, but I thought it possibly wasn’t quite that old and might, in any case, be a print that was made much later. However, I think it is a genuine old photograph, probably dating from the earliest years of the twentieth century. It is only a very small print, about two and a half inches by three and a half inches, but it is curiously interesting too.

It wasn’t very costly and I half expected it to command a much higher price appealing, as it does, to a number of different constituencies – those with an interest in old chapels, enthusiasts for Liverpool history, and aficionados of trams and transport.

Clearly it is a view looking towards the end of Park Road. There on the left is the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth, complete with ivy and a corporation road name plate. There are a few pedestrians wandering past: a lady in a long dress and another lady pushing a pram outside the chapel. On the right is tram car number 10A climbing the slight incline of Park Road, on its way to the Pier Head.

Ancient Chapel Tram 03

The size of the print would suggest a photograph taken after 1901 on a Box Brownie No.2, so probably not quite Victorian. The clothes worn by the ladies in the photograph would suggest a point at around that date. The driver of the tram is wearing a double-breasted overcoat with an oval badge on his chest and on his hat. The badge on his chest would be his licence and this particular style of wear apparently indicates the way the uniform of the driver (or motorman as he would have been called) was worn prior to 1904, or so I read on Ashley Birch’s very informative British Tramway Company Badges and Buttons site.

Ancient Chapel Tram crop 02

So we have a well composed photograph, probably dating to between 1901 and 1904, which I am sure is meant to contrast the old – in this case a place of worship dating back to 1618 – with the new, an electric tram, the most up to date and exciting form of public transport available.

Electric trams were introduced to Liverpool in 1898, so they would still be a relatively new phenomenon by 1904. A large dent on the front right-hand side of the tramcar points to this not being a brand new tram when this photo was taken but still it is a picture taken fairly close to the inauguration of the tram system in Liverpool. Another site (Ron’s Liverpool Tram Site) tells me that according to the number this was a Brill ‘Philadephia’ Car, built in America, and the picture does correspond with this type of vehicle.

Ancient Chapel Tram crop 01

The original tram depot was just around the corner from the chapel so this vehicle had only just begun its journey. The depot was built in 1898 and was a building that survived long after the tram system closed, I knew it well, or at least was aware of it but never gave its original purpose a second’s thought. The same would be true of the Smithdown Road depot opened in 1899 but still there until relatively recently. It’s curious how these buildings survived for such a long time before seeming to just melt away.

Another curious thing is how this corner of Toxteth became such a hub for transport. Once the most remote part of an ancient royal hunting park it became the site of an early seventeenth-century chapel for the convenience of the local farmers and was far away from the prying eyes of government or ecclesiastical hierarchy. The Chapel was situated really on the road to nowhere when it was built. Centuries later the Chapel found itself in between the first electric tram depot built on one side of it and the last station of the Liverpool Overhead Railway situated immediately opposite it on Park Road. The Dingle station of the Overhead Railway would have been just to the right of the tram in this picture. Impressively the Dingle Overhead Railway Station was built underground and is one of the few surviving features of that railway which closed the year before the trams were stopped in 1957. It is a significant junction which I have blogged about before:

Two views of a junction in Toxteth

ACT Ext 05

The view across the Chapel graveyard. The garage visible on the left was the site of the Dingle station of the Overhead Railway. The Dingle tram terminus was to the right of the picture.

It is curious too how trams were marked out as old-fashioned and unsustainable in the 1950s but came back into fashion in the twenty-first century. Today cities like Manchester, Edinburgh, Dublin and many more appreciate their value. Of course, most major European cities never took them away and have always had the benefit of these types of transit systems.

But it is easy to have a romanticised or sentimental view of this informative and attractive little photograph. It seems a long time ago as well. But when I was assistant minister of Cross Street Chapel in Manchester in the 1980s one of the oldest members was in his 90s. He had worked as a tram driver in Manchester before the First World War. He told me there was no covering above his head when he was driving and the rain would pour down his back in bad weather. In the end he was forced to give up due to ill-health and had a lifetime of difficulty with his back as a result. But maybe things were better in Liverpool, this driver certainly looks well enough protected at the front of his car.

No pictures or text may be reproduced from this site without the express permission of the author.

Buildings of South County Down

I was very pleased to be among those invited to the launch of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society’s  new book Buildings of South County Down at Ballydugan Mill on 1st May 2019. It is a splendid book written by Philip Smith and beautifully illustrated throughout in colour by Alan Turkington. It describes itself as not claiming ‘to be an exhaustive record of its particular area, but rather a selection giving a broad overview of the built heritage of the southern half of Down’ and it is a very comprehensive collection of significant buildings both large and small, public and private.

Ballydugan Mill on the day of the book launch

The churches section numbers 25 buildings and contains no less than three Non-Subscribing Presbyterian churches which is a very significant representation and indicates the historical importance of what is, nevertheless, quite a small denomination. Both Downpatrick and Clough feature in the book, the Clough meeting house being photographed just before its recent repainting which means it doesn’t look its best but that can’t be helped. Leafing through the book it is interesting to see the number of other buildings that have a link with Downpatrick and Clough churches – the Murland Mausoleum has a photograph and a number of houses appear which were once the homes of prominent members including the homes of the Murlands themselves and the nearby houses of Nutgrove and Mount Panther, once the dwelling places of leading members of the church. Both Nutgrove and Mount Panther are painted on the First World War memorial in Clough.


Dr Edward McParland, Vice-President of Ulster Architectural Heritage introduces the book

The book contains much information that is new to me. I didn’t know that the now ruined but still impressive edifice of Mount Panther was named after the ‘local legend of the “Great Cat of Clough” a monstrous feline said to have once terrorized the area’. I also did not know anything about Marlborough House which seems to have originally been built by Rev Thomas Nevin sometime before 1728. The entry on the Downpatrick Church states that ‘the church is said to have been built in 1711 at the beginning of the ministry of the Rev Thomas Nevin’ but it seems clear from the presbytery minutes that the new building and the new ministry did coincide quite closely. However, one interesting thing about Marlborough House is that it was built quite near to the site of the original seventeenth-century meeting house, although Buildings of South County Down says that Nevin acquired the land from Brice Magee, a local apothecary, so it can’t have been the site of the original manse.

The other Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in the book is Rademon which has a number of very attractive photographs included with its account. The photograph of the interior of Downpatrick taken by Alan Turkington did not make the final cut but it is interesting to look at the interiors of Downpatrick and Rademon. Although the buildings are separated by over 75 years and it is not at all difficult to differentiate one from the other it is instructive to compare the two interiors which are very similar in layout and design and probably also dimensions:

Interior of Downpatrick (Photo: Alan Turkington)
Interior of Rademon (Photo: Alan Turkington) page 30

But the book contains much more than churches. As well as houses (grand, middling-sized and small) there are antiquities and fortification, public buildings, commercial buildings, follies, monuments and memorials. Anyone who enjoys looking at the built environment around them will enjoy this book and find plenty to enlighten them about buildings in the locality of south Down.

Unitarian Historical Society 2019

The cover of our latest issue of the Transactions which is on its way to all subscribers and which is available to order by new subscribers now:

Cover 2019

You can read more about the contents HERE

The Tercentenary of the Salters’ Hall Debates can be read HERE

The Annual General Meeting of the Society for 2019 will take place at 14.55 on Wednesday 17 April at the Birmingham Hilton Metropole Hotel during the meetings of the General Assembly. This will be followed by a lecture by Dr Rachel Eckersley on ‘Benefactions in the form of books: the development of the Northern Dissenting Academies and their libraries during the 18th and 19th centuries’.

Unitarian Theology

In 2016 and 2018 Faith and Freedom published two well-received supplements based on the Unitarian Theology Conferences organised by Jim Corrigall, Jo James and Stephen Lingwood and held at Cross Street Chapel, Manchester in May 2016 and at Mill HIll Chapel, Leeds in October, 2017. Both are now available for free download from here. Click on the links below to download the booklets.

UTI Cover

Click on this link to download the booklet: Unitarian Theology I

UT2 Cover

Click on this link to download the booklet: Unitarian Theology II

 

Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society Vol. 27 No. 1 April 2019

The new issue of the Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society is out now and will be arriving with subscribers shortly. If you aren’t already a subscriber details of how to sign up can be found below.

St Saviourgate Door

Entrance to St Saviourgate Chapel, York. Catharine Cappe’s congregation

In this issue Andrew M. Hill looks at A Pattern of York Feminism: Catharine Cappe as spinster, wife and widow. His article gives a tremendous amount of insight to this woman, born in 1744 who died in 1821, and who Andrew discusses broadly in terms of three categories:

  • as a woman making efforts to escape conventional female roles;
  • as the companion and colleague of her husband and
  • as a social reformer with a burning zeal.

 

The Christian Examiner and Theological Review

A review (from ‘The Christian Examiner’ of 1825) of Richard Wright’s most famous book. The Northiam Library borrowing book at the time records 122 pamphlets being borrowed, mostly written by Richard Wright, Unitarian Missionary 

Valerie Smith examines Late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Unitarian Readership particularly through the surviving library records of a number of chapels, including Newcastle, Northiam, Bridport and Lewes and looks at the reading habits of lay men and women from ‘lower levels of society’ within Rational Dissent.

Captain Philip Hirsch VC
Captain Philip Hirsch VC

Alan Ruston continues his work on Unitarian engagement with the First World War with 1919 – a re-evaluation of the part played by Unitarians in the First World War, looking at casualties, the Belgian Hospital Fund and the work of Rose Allen and some of the publications from the First World War which are only now being rediscovered.

Sue Killoran’s paper given to the annual general meeting of the society on The Library and Archives at Harris Manchester College, Oxford completes the main articles. This is an edited version of her lecture given in 2017 which can also be viewed online here:

 

In the Record Section Alan Ruston introduces some further research into Unitarians and the First World War with Ann McMellan’s and Lesley Dean’s initial findings from The Pearson Papers in Dr Williams’s Library, some First World War examples. They are working on some 25,000 papers connected with Rev J. Arthur Pearson (1870-1947), London District Minister from 1908 to 1944 and popularly known as ‘the Bishop’.

 

Salters' Hall scan crop

Salters’ Hall in the early nineteenth century

In addition we have two notes: The Tercentenary of the Salters’ Hall Debates by David Steers marks the anniversary of this important early eighteenth-century controversy (the text of which can be read online by clicking here) and Rob Whiteman discusses the career of the Rev Helen Phillips, a much overlooked pioneer within the Unitarian ministry who became the second woman to become a minister (following Gertrude von Petzold) in 1916 and who lived until 1961 but has attracted very little notice from historians until now.

St Saviourgate Interior 03

The interior of St Saviourgate Chapel, York which houses the memorial to Catharine Cappe which reads:

Her whole life

was a beautiful, instructive & encouraging example

of Piety and Benevolence:

Piety – ardent, rational and unostentatious,

manifested in uniform obedience

to the law of God,

and in cheerful submission

to all dispensations of his providence:

Benevolence – pure, active and persevering,

directed by a sound judgement

and unlimited by its exercise by any regard

to personal ease or party distinctions.

Annual membership of the UHS costs only £10, each member receiving a copy of the Transactions. Membership can be obtained from the treasurer, Rev Dr Rob Whiteman, 10 Greenside Court, St Andrews, KY16 9UG, to whom cheques (made payable to the Unitarian Historical Society) should be sent.

St Andrew’s Church of Scotland, Rodney Street, Liverpool

One of the most impressive church buildings surviving from the first half of the nineteenth century in Liverpool is undoubtedly St Andrew’s Church of Scotland on Rodney Street. These days it is really little more than a façade but it is remarkable that so much has survived given its turbulent history since the congregation left in 1975 and the fact that it was virtually in ruins for many years.

Rodney Street view front from right 02 cropped

There were plans, at one point, for the building to become a library for one of the universities which would have been a very good usage for such an imposing and well sited building. But that didn’t happen and one of the towers was demolished as the whole building faced complete destruction at one point. The tower had to be re-instated, which is just as well, and the shell of the church now houses flats. Fortunately, this means that St Andrew’s is maintained in the streetscape of Rodney Street, you can still enjoy the dramatic vista looking along this Georgian street, now with the Anglican Cathedral standing at the conclusion of the view.

Rodney Street vista

It is one of the few surviving buildings designed by local architect John Foster junior and never fails to impress with its massive ionic columns. There were a great number of churches in Liverpool which were built by Scottish immigrants to the city but St Andrew’s was by far the most prominent and long-lasting of those affiliated with the Church of Scotland.

Rodney Street view front from left

It was opened for worship in December 1824 and the first minister was the Rev David Thom who was called as minister to a breakaway group from the original Church of Scotland on Oldham Street in 1823. The congregation met initially in the former Music Hall on Bold Street but even before they had moved to their grand new church doctrinal divisions had become apparent and, unable to remove Mr Thom, the congregation had called another minister as colleague. By June 1825 Thom was being charged with deviating from the Westminster Confession and was subsequently removed from his charge by the Presbytery of Glasgow. Rev David Thom DD, PhD was a Universalist and he went back to the old Music Hall on Bold Street with his followers and founded what he termed the Berean-Universalist Church, eventually building his own chapel on Crown Street in 1851. ‘Universalist’ was a reference to the belief that all people would eventually be saved, and Berean an allusion to the people of Beroea (Acts ch.17 v.11) who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (RSV).

Everyone with an interest in the religious history of Liverpool owes a debt to David Thom for his book Liverpool Churches and Chapels which began life as a series of lectures – Liverpool Churches and Chapels; their destruction, removal or alteration; with notices of clergymen, ministers and others – delivered to the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, of which society he was a Vice-President. He died in 1862 but the original Liverpool congregation of which he had briefly been minister continued in Rodney Street and then subsequently met in Liverpool Cathedral until closure a few years ago. A recent tablet attached to the front of the old church records their existence.

Rodney Street front gates

Main entrance

Rodney Street base of pillar

The base of one of the columns

Rodney Street surviving cupola

The surviving original tower

Rodney Street Sunday School

Former Sunday School rooms

Rodney Street pyramid

The pyramid tomb of William Mackenzie in the graveyard

Rodney Street view front from right

 

The Tercentenary of the Salters’ Hall Debates

February 2019 marked the 300th anniversary of the Salters’ Hall debates between leading London Dissenters. This anniversary has been observed by a number of articles in journals and online across the denominational divides[i] and rightly so because this event, although now rather distant and not obviously of great interest in the twenty-first century, was a key moment in the development of Dissent that helped to crystallise the different forms of church organisation and led ultimately, in England, to what became Unitarianism.[ii]

The famous slogan associated with these keenly contested discussions between ‘divines’ at Salters’ Hall in London[iii] was that ‘the Bible carried it by four’. A vote was taken on whether to enforce subscription to the doctrine of the Trinity as it was formulated in the Westminster Shorter Catechism and a majority of 57 to 53 opposed this suggestion. All groups of Dissenters were divided on this question although generally Presbyterians and General Baptists opposed subscription while Independents and Particular Baptists supported it, although this is something of an over simplification. But ‘subscription’ was a key question amongst Dissenters and remained so for centuries. Today the notion more readily calls to mind the situation in Ireland where The Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland preserves the whole question in its very name. But this controversy had ramifications all over Britain and Ireland and indeed all over Europe, and helped to mark out the way Dissenting churches would develop.

The whole question developed from disagreements that took place in the West Country where Arianism was perceived to be on the rise. The ordination of Hubert Stogdon as minister to the Presbyterian congregation at Shepton Mallet led to further suspicions alighting on some of the local ministers who had promoted his case, including Joseph Hallett and James Peirce. A heated and convoluted debate within the Exeter Assembly and between local ministers and the ‘Committee of Thirteen’, who had authority over the Dissenting interest in Exeter, led to appeals to the London Dissenting ministers to adjudicate, ultimately to ‘the Body of Protestant Dissenting Ministers in, and about, London’ who gathered on 19th February 1719 at Salters’ Hall. The topic for their discussion was a paper entitled ‘Advices for promoting Peace’[iv] which had been presented to them by the Committee of Three Denominations, in other words the body that had responsibility for oversight of the Presbyterians, Independents (or Congregationalists) and Baptists in London. This body was greatly involved in protecting the political interests of Dissenters and these debates occurred at a crucial time when they were agitating for the repeal of the Occasional Conformity Act and the Schism Act. The Schism Act had been passed in 1714 but never came into force because of the death of Queen Anne, had it done so it would have destroyed all Dissenting educational institutions in the country.

To try to minimise the damage caused by the dispute in Exeter the Committee of Three Denominations asked prominent Dissenting MP, John Shute Barrington, to provide the ‘Advices for promoting peace’. Barrington’s ‘Advices’ suggested that all accusations should be backed up by properly formulated witness statements and not just rumour and that any test of orthodoxy should be based on scripture as the sole rule of faith. These ‘Advices’ were approved by the Committee and then laid before the full body of London ministers.

This debate was asking a fundamental question about how Christianity should be defined which was heavily coloured by the spirit of the age. It was part of a European wide trend within the Reformed churches – in 1706 no less a place than Geneva, the very birth place of Calvinism, dropped the requirement of subscription for entrants to the ministry to the Formula Consensus Ecclesiarum Helveticarum (Helvetic Consensus), the Reformed statement agreed by the Swiss reformed cantons in 1675. The same debate was playing out in Ireland at the same time and representatives of both sides of the divide in Ireland were present in London and reporting back to their respective camps. The Church of Scotland struggled with some divisions over the same issue, although these generally remained underground, the Act of Union of 1707 gave the Westminster Confession of Faith such an unassailable legal place in Scottish life. In a further irony the Church of England was not free of such tensions following the example of Benjamin Hoadley who, as Bishop of Bangor, preached before the King in 1717 a latitudinarian sermon which placed stress on the right of individual judgement, implied the complete separation of religious matters from those of the state and argued for toleration of religious differences.[v]

For Dissenters, whose whole existence was based upon a rejection of Anglican authority, there was a reluctance to set up a new form of either institutional or theological authority based beyond the Bible and the person of Jesus. This was the key issue at the time, not the doctrine of the Trinity. For non-subscribers the dangers of suppressing the rights of individual conscience were deemed greater than the possibilities of heterodox beliefs developing. Arianism was a constant bogeyman but having rejected making subscription to the Trinity compulsory and having passed the ‘Advices for Peace’ the London ministers nevertheless also asserted their belief in the Trinity in a separate document. But a refusal to subscribe to what were termed humanly inspired formulations remained uppermost and can be seen throughout the eighteenth century, particularly in the writings of English Presbyterians. There is no doubt that non-subscription was a prime impulse within those churches that ultimately became Unitarian and within the institutions which they set up, including such academies as Manchester College. The development of a much more vigorously doctrinal Unitarianism early in the nineteenth century created a new set of tensions but the non-subscribing tendency can arguably be traced on through the thought of such figures as James Martineau and what came to be termed Free Christianity. But this lay someway ahead of 1719. At this point a major part of the Dissenting community in England, which had largely been created in the ejection of 1662, gave assent to non-subscription, they rejected creeds and emphasised the right of private judgment. The traditional criticisms that they had directed at the Anglican establishment were now being directed at the imposition of authority from within their own institutions. It was an important step that was not intended to promote heterodox beliefs such as Arianism but its effect, for those who followed this path, was to open up the possibilities of different interpretations of such doctrines co-existing alongside each other.

David Steers

[i] See for instance Robert Pope, ‘When Jesus Divided the Church’, Reform, February 2019. Stephen Copson, ‘The Salters’ Hall debates’, The Baptist Times, https://www.baptist.org.uk/Articles/542042/The_Salters_Hall.aspx. Martyn C. Cowan, The 300th anniversary of the Salters’ Hall debates, Union Theological College, https://www.union.ac.uk/discover/news-events/blog/58/the-300th-anniversary-of-the.

[ii] The most detailed account of the course of the controversy is probably still R. Thomas, ‘The non-subscription controversy amongst dissenters in 1719: the Salters’ Hall debate’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 4 (1953), pp.  162–86. See also David L. Wykes, ‘Subscribers and non-subscribers at the Salters’ Hall debate’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, published online 2009.

[iii] Salters’ Hall was the hall of the Salters’ Company of the City of London and contemporary publications name the venue simply as Salters’ Hall but it seems most likely that the debate will have taken place in the adjacent Salters’ Hall meeting house.

[iv] An Authentick Account of Several Things Done and agreed upon by the Dissenting Ministers lately assembled at Salters-Hall, (London 1719), includes the ‘Advices for Peace &c’.

[v] Benjamin Hoadly, The Nature of the Kingdom, or Church, of Christ. A Sermon Preach’d before the King, at the Royal Chapel at St James’s. On Sunday March 31, 1717, (London 1717).

This article appears in Volume 27, Number 1, April 2019 issue of the Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society which is available now. Annual membership of the UHS costs only £10, each member receiving a copy of the Transactions. Membership can be obtained from the treasurer: Rev Dr Rob Whiteman, 10 Greenside Court, St Andrews, KY16 9UG, to whom cheques (made payable to the Unitarian Historical Society) should be sent.