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,
16 Fairfields,
Kirton in Lindsey,
Gainsborough,
Lincolnshire.
DN21 4GA.

Email: faithandfreedom@btinternet.com

Alternatively you can pay via PayPal by clicking here.

 

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.

What do those stones mean to you? The 400th anniversary of the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth

“But before he had spent so much time in Oxford as he could have wished that he might have done; the People in Toxteth, whose Children had been taught by him, sent to him, desiring that he would return unto them to instruct not so much their Children as themselves, and that not in meer Humane Literature, but in the things of God. This Call, after due Consideration, for weighty Reasons he accepted of. Being then returned to Toxteth, he Preached his first Sermon November 30. 1618. There was a very great Concourse of people to hear him, and his Labours were highly accepted of by the judicious.”

…part of the reading given by Beryl Black at the 400th anniversary service of the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth on Sunday, 25th November. This section of the reading (from: The Life and Death of That Reverend Man of GOD, Mr. Richard Mather Teacher of the Church in Dorchester in New-England by Increase Mather, Cambridge Mass. 1670) was also reproduced on the back page of the printed order of service.

 

Ancient Chapel 25 November 04

At the opening of worship (Photo: Sue Steers)

It was a tremendous occasion; well attended and enthusiastically received by all who were present. Readings were also given by Graham Murphy, Annette Butler and Leslie Gabriel while Cliff Barton played the organ.

Ancient Chapel 25 November 03

Graham Murphy gives a reading (Photo: Sue Steers)

In addition to the above reading there were readings from T.S. Eliot’s Little Gidding, from Robert Griffith’s The History of the Royal and Ancient Park of Toxteth, Liverpool (1907) and from Joshua ch.4 v.1-9 and John ch.4 v.31-38.

A message was also read from the First Parish Dorchester, Massachusetts, to which place Richard Mather, emigrated in 1635.

Ancient Chapel 25 November 16

Reading the message from Dorchester (Photo: Sue Steers)

The message from Dorchester:

Dear Members of the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth:

First Parish Dorchester sends you our heartfelt greetings and best wishes upon the occasion of your 400th anniversary of your founding. It is rare for us to know a Unitarian congregation older than ours, as we will not mark our 400th anniversary until 2030!  Rev Richard Mather, your first minister and our third minister (1636-1669),  certainly sowed good seeds in our two long-standing faith communities.

It may interest you to know that First Parish Dorchester established the oldest elementary public school in the United States, which is situated right next to the church- and it is called the Mather School!

In our weekly service, we have a time when we light candles of celebration or concern. This Sunday, November 25th, I will light a candle for the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth, in celebration of your four centuries as a gathered community. We rejoice with you in spirit.

Faithfully,

Rev Patricia Brennan

Interim Minister

First Parish Dorchester

Massachusetts

Yo can read more about the Ancient Chapel via these links:

Then and now pictures

Richard Mather and the Ancient Chapel

Jeremiah Horrocks and the Ancient Chapel

Jeremiah Horrocks and the transit of Venus

Two views of a junction in Toxteth

This post has been made on the day of the 400th anniversary of Richard Mather’s first sermon in Toxteth.

With special thanks to Jim Kenny who devised the logo used for the 400th anniversary.

ACoT landscape logo

 

Seven Churches in Liverpool in 1859 viewed from the air

Glen Huntley has posted another fascinating and informative piece on his blog, this time about three houses which once stood close to the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth. These are Elm House, Chapelville and Cooper’s Folly. All three houses long disappeared to make way for the Victorian Tram Sheds and the later twentieth-century extension. The Tram Sheds themselves were demolished in 1993. But you can read Glen Huntley’s excellent post here:

https://theprioryandthecastironshore.wordpress.com/2018/10/04/robert-griffiths-toxteth-park-elm-house-chapelville-and-coopers-folly/

William Roscoe, the famous Unitarian and abolitionist is believed to have lived at Elm House, although his connection with this particular house doesn’t seem to have been proved conclusively. The ‘Dingle’ was the inspiration for one of his poems and he certainly did live locally at one point. He was definitely a member of the Ancient Chapel as well, I have the original ‘call’ issued to the Rev John Porter in 1827 and it includes William Roscoe’s signature.

But another thing Glen incorporates into this post is some detail from an aerial view of Liverpool by John R. Isaac in 1859 and published in New York. This is a view from a hot air balloon and can be viewed on the Library of Congress site at https://www.loc.gov/resource/g5754l.ct007678/?r=0.035,0.095,1.051,0.668,0

The image is fully zoomable and gives some remarkable detail of the city in the middle of the nineteenth century. The city without the cathedrals, the Liver Buildings and some other landmarks has a different look to it and it is not always easy to find your way about. However, Glen has found the Ancient Chapel and Elm House, Chapelville and Cooper’s Folly and includes an annotated close up of that part of the picture similar to this one:

Ancient Chapel from air

The tall church on the right is St Paul’s Church which is another place I intend to return to on this blog at some point. (The Ancient Chapel can be seen in the bottom left hand corner behind the stage coach).

But looking at the map I discovered another group of churches in Liverpool which must be a unique image of some long-lost buildings.

If you zoom in to the centre of the picture (and it is amazing how much detail can be uncovered there) you get this view:

Hope Street from air

It’s interesting because it shows a collection of now almost all vanished churches still clean and complete: unstained by the smoke and pollution that would gradually turn their stone work black and still with their towers and steeples.

At the centre of this scene is Hope Street Unitarian Church. Once the church of James Martineau and demolished in the 1960s. I blogged about Hope Street on a number of occasions but primarily here:

https://velvethummingbee.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/the-church-on-hope-street/

and according to the statistics one of the most frequently read pages on this blog.

Behind Hope Street you can see Myrtle Street Baptist Church, the church of Hugh Stowell Brown (soon to be the subject of a new biography). I have written about that church here:

https://velvethummingbee.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/hugh-stowell-brown-and-myrtle-street-chapel/

and again it is interesting to see a church looking clean and bright when every photograph of it shows it as black and grimy. The same is true of Canning Street Presbyterian Church in the bottom right hand corner of the image, also demolished in the 1960s and now the site of a modern German Church. To the left of this church is the Catholic Apostolic Church, still with its tower in place, a remarkable building, burnt down in the 1980s.

The long building without a tower in the bottom left corner is St Bride’s Church of England, still there today. St Bride’s can be seen in a rare film of 1901 on the BFI Player. Although the church is not identified it clearly is St Bride’s:

https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-liverpool-church-parade-and-inspection-1901-1901-online

In the top left hand corner you can see Rodney Street Church of Scotland, a building saved from destruction but now flats, and just in front is St Philip’s Church Hardman Street, a ‘cast iron’ church like St Michael’s in the Hamlet which disappeared inside another building in 1882 only to be partly uncovered again when that building was knocked down in 2017! You can read about that remarkable discovery on this very interesting blog:

https://liverpool1207blog.wordpress.com/2018/01/02/st-philips-church-hardman-st-liverpool-1816-2017/

But seven accurate looking representations of different churches, only two of which still exist, taken from a hot air balloon in 1859.

 

Ancient Chapel of Toxteth 400th Anniversary

Ancient Chapel of Toxteth celebrates 400 years of worship and witness

Two images of the Chapel separated by about 120 years:

ACT Victorian 02

ACT Ext 05

 

Service to Commemorate the

400th Anniversary

of the

Ancient Chapel of Toxteth

Sunday, 25th November 2018

2.30 pm

Please note the service to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth will be held on Sunday, 25th November as advertised. However, the time of the start of the service has been changed it will now commence at 2.30 pm and not at the previously stated time.

ACT Ext 07

Preparing for worship

ACoT landscape logo

400th Anniversary of the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth

 

The Ancient Chapel of Toxteth was built in 1618 during the ministry of the Rev Richard Mather in the former royal deer park of Toxteth by Puritans who desired to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience. Originally situated in a remote rural community the Chapel is now in the midst of a heavily built-up suburb of Liverpool. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the Chapel which has been in continuous use since 1618. A special service to celebrate this 400th anniversary of this historic Chapel will be held on Sunday, 25th November at 2.30 pm.

ACoT portrait logo

Please note – if you are thinking of attending this service – that the time has been changed from 3.00 pm to 2.30 pm – as shown above.

Two views of a junction in Toxteth

Park Road postcard

Park Road

Two views of the same place taken in Liverpool about 113 years apart. The postcard at the top is dated 1905 and was sent from Birkenhead to Miss D. Caulson at Grange over Sands. The view is of the Turner Memorial Home, a large hospital and nursing home built in 1884 on land originally owned by the Yates family. The Yates family were Unitarians and had links with the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth, the corner of which outside wall can be seen in both pictures on the left hand side. They were ministers, radicals, campaigners and major benefactors to the city, Richard Vaughan Yates donating Princes Park to the city in 1842.

It’s a curving corner junction in both images although once, long ago, before Toxteth was developed, it was a country track. In 1905 tramlines curl around the corner. In 2018 traffic lights and traffic islands keep pedestrians and traffic apart.

The road has been widened since 1905 and the post box taken away. Thirty-two years after the first picture was taken the Gaumont Cinema was opened on the right. A striking art deco cinema it is a sorry sight today having been abandoned for twenty years. Seating 1,500 people it once was a key venue for the people of the Dingle. Sold at auction in the early part of 2018 it was listed on the market at £75,000. It looks like a private house occupies that site in 1905. Just seven years after the card was posted the first cinema was built on that corner, the Dingle Picturedrome, the predecessor of the Gaumont.

The postcard and the photograph tell the viewer very little about the Turner Memorial Home, an endowed gift from Anne Turner in memory of her husband and son to provide residential care for the sick, an institution which has remained in continuous operation ever since.

It is really a postcard view of a road junction, and a junction in time.

 

The Ancient Chapel of Toxteth

ACT March 2017 exterior Sue photo

The Ancient Chapel of Toxteth (photo: Sue Steers)

I never like to pass up an opportunity to visit the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth. Anyone with an interest in Unitarian and Dissenting history, church architecture, or the history of Liverpool will not fail to be enthralled by such an evocative building. On Mothering Sunday I was very pleased to be able to join in Sunday worship there, a service conducted by lay preacher Graham Greenall who led an appropriate act of worship which weaved together themes for Mothers’ Day, peace and a reflection on the recent shocking events in Westminster.

The late Christopher Stell, who produced the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments inventory of chapels and meeting-houses in England, was a big fan of this chapel. Dating back to 1618 the building is really redolent of the late eighteenth century when it was restored. It is part of Toxteth but speaks of a continuity of worship that stretches from the puritan farmers who cleared the forest and built the chapel for their minister Richard Mather to the present day.

An examination of the interior always throws up new things. One thing that I learnt from Christopher Stell was that the chapel builders, although puritans, were also heirs to the Anglican tradition and almost certainly built a small chapel with a chancel on the lines of a parish church. Little remains to display this today but above the organ you can still see the chancel arch. At some point in the eighteenth century the chancel was turned into a schoolhouse, later still it was used to house the organ loft and the present porch.

In 2018 the congregation will celebrate 400 years of worship in their building and will mark that milestone with suitable events.

ACT March 2017 gallery view across

The view from the gallery

Richard Mather

Richard Mather

RM 1650

Mather family pew dating from 1650

ACT March 2017 pulpit preacher

Graham Greenall in the pulpit

ACT March 2017 chancel arch 02

The chancel arch in front of the organ

ACT March 2017 Sunday School corner

Sunday School corner, recently restored

ACT March 2017 Fifi 01 Sue

Fifi, who was also present, waiting patiently for some cake following the service (photo: Sue Steers)

Thy return posterity shall witness, years must roll away, but then at length the splendid sight again shall greet our distant children’s eyes

Back in August I wrote about the short but significant life of Jeremiah Horrocks (1618-1641) and his connection with the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth. You can read the post here:

 

https://velvethummingbee.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/jeremiah-horrocks-1618-1641/

 

Jeremiah Horrocks is interesting for a variety of reasons but it is a curious fact that as a scientist he has collected memorials in at least four churches around the country, including the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth in Liverpool and Westminster Abbey.

 

As I also mentioned in my last posting on this topic there are a number of other memorials and commemorations of him in different places, all of them dating from long after he lived. One of the most recent and impressive is near the Pier Head in Liverpool. This is an exciting installation, well-sited in front of the Liver Buildings amongst the ever-growing collection of statuary and memorials that is accumulating there.

 

Horrocks 04

 

Entitled Heaven and Earth and created by Andy Plant the work was installed in 2011. The base is inscribed with the words:

 

Thy return posterity shall witness, years must roll away, but then at length the splendid sight again shall greet our distant children’s eyes

a quotation from Jeremiah Horrocks’ posthumously published book on the transit of Venus.

 

Horrocks 02

 

The work is both a sculpture and an orrery. Andy Plant (http://www.andyplant.co.uk/recent-work/) himself describes Heaven and Earth in these terms:

The sculpture has a working hand powered mechanical orrery, the position of Venus has been replaced by a copper angel version of Jeremiah and as his wings flap he orbits the other planets. Inside the large telescope there is a video animation of the life of Jeremiah by Tim Hunkin.

 

Horrocks 05

 

Unfortunately when I visited the sculpture on a crisp January afternoon this year none of these features were working. They may not have been intended to function beyond the time of the original exhibition of which the sculpture formed a part, I don’t know. But Tim Hunkin is something of a genius and it is great to think that some of his work is part of the installation. In fact you can read about how Tim Hunkin created A Short Life of Jeremiah Horrocks and see the animation on his own website here:

 

http://www.timhunkin.com/a151_sawmill%20animation.htm

 

Heaven and Earth is another exciting addition to the Liverpool waterfront, and another fitting memorial to a remarkable person.

Horrocks 01

Jeremiah Horrocks 1618 – 1641

In his excellent short article on Jeremiah Horrocks in the book Liverpool Unitarians Faith and Action Bernard Cliffe is very cautious about making too many definite assertions about his life. As Bernard puts it “an account of the life of the boy and the young man has to be a matter of conjecture, with the generous use of qualifying words.” The truth is we have very few hard facts about the life of this pioneer astronomer who died at the young age of 22. Inevitably though this hasn’t stopped others from drawing all sorts of conclusions about his life.

One of the things we do know for sure was the extent of his achievement as a youthful astronomer – indeed there are some parallels here with the life of Clyde Tombaugh who first identified Pluto in his 20s. Clyde Tombaugh now has a feature on Pluto’s surface named after him while Jeremiah Horrocks himself has been memorialized in a number of places since his initial observation of the transit of Venus across the Sun.

Horrocks’s discoveries were only published posthumously and, gradually, in the centuries after that, places – and churches – were keen to claim him as one of their own. But his scientific importance is pretty well established. Allan Chapman (in ‘Jeremiah Horrocks, the transit of Venus and the ‘New Astronomy’ in early seventeenth-century England’, Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, 1990, 31) says that despite a scientific hagiography that has also built up around him “the plain fact [is] that his documented contributions to astronomy were formidable by any standard…he was one of the first men in England to grasp the significance of what was going on in contemporary European astronomy. Not only did he repeat many of the techniques of Kepler and Galileo, but he went on to develop the New Astronomy to produce conclusions which substantially advanced those of its continental founders” (pp.33-334).

A plaque in the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth records that Jeremiah Horrocks (or Horrox) “foretold, and was the first to observe the transit of Venus across the Sun’s disc on the 24. Nov. 1639”. But the plaque, which was put up in 1891, is, in fact, only one of four church memorials to him around the country.

A Victorian depiction of Jeremiah Horrocks observing the transit of Venus
A Victorian depiction of Jeremiah Horrocks observing the transit of Venus

Without doubt the best known of these is in Westminster Abbey erected opposite that of Isaac Newton (who had praised his work) in 1874 following a petition from the Council of the Royal Astronomical Society (actually inscribed on part of the marble monument to John Conduitt, who was married to the niece of Isaac Newton). Certainly the Abbey is a fitting place for a memorial to such a person. On it his scientific achievements are listed but it also states that he was “Curate of Hoole”. Now there is no doubt that Hoole is where Jeremiah Horrocks lived for a while and where he observed the transit of Venus. But there is no evidence that he was ever curate of Hoole, or indeed an ordained clergyman of any sort.

The Victorians were not slow to extend or embellish their assessment of his religious affiliations. The church at Hoole has its own memorials too including a Horrocks Chapel, memorial windows, a weather vane and a plaque, although the website of St Michael’s Church, Hoole now describes the text of this plaque as “largely fictional”.

Jeremiah Horrocks seems to have spent about a year in Hoole. Rather than being a curate or holding any position in the church he was probably a tutor to the children of a local family, in whose home he observed the transit of Venus. But there can be little doubt that he will have attended the church at Hoole while he was resident there. At the time there will have been little difference in the theological outlook of Hoole and the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth. Both were centres of Puritanism – comprising earnest, godly, and devout parishioners, in both places members being technically part of the Church of England (there was little leeway to be anything else at the time) but possessing a no-nonsense approach to faith and a fair degree of suspicion of ecclesiastical hierarchies. During his time there the church was still a just a chapel of ease and the curate (later rector) was eventually ejected for non-conformity.

The staied glass window at Hoole Church and the title page of Horrocks' posthumous work
The stained glass window at Hoole Church and the title page of Horrocks’ posthumous work

Although no records of Horrocks’ baptism or burial survive he seems both to have been born and died in Toxteth where his family names illustrate the Puritanism of his background. The names of Horrocks and Aspinwall (his mother’s maiden name) were amongst those puritan settlers who arrived in Toxteth in the late sixteenth century and began clearing the hunting park and built the chapel. They were part of the group who called Richard Mather to be first their schoolmaster and then their minister. The same Richard Mather was reluctant to accept Episcopal ordination. He eventually did so but was alarmed after being ordained (so the story goes) when the bishop approached him and asked to speak to him in confidence. Fearing that some admonishment was imminent he was surprised instead to hear the bishop say “I have an earnest request unto you, and you must not deny me; it is that you will pray for me; for I know that the prayers of men that fear God will avail much, and such an one I believe you to be.” Despite this unusual alleged exchange with the bishop he was eventually suspended for nonconformity and subsequently left with many of his followers for New England.

Richard Mather
Richard Mather

It was probably here that Horrocks was educated and his religious opinions formed. From Toxteth he went to Emmanuel College, Cambridge as a sizar, basically the lowest form of student life, working as a college servant alongside his studies. He left without taking a degree but developed a passion for astronomy while there and was soon manufacturing his own astronomical instruments. Members of the Horrocks family, quite probably including his father, were watchmakers which must have been an assistance in developing precision instruments.

But following his death on 3rd January 1641 two hundred and fifty years were to pass before the Ancient Chapel erected its own memorial in his memory.

But this is not the only church memorial to Jeremiah Horrocks in Liverpool. In 1826 Moses Holden, described by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as a “popular astronomer,” used the proceeds of one of his lectures to pay for the erection of a memorial tablet in St Michael’s in the Hamlet church in Aigburth, not far from the Ancient Chapel. It may well have been awareness of this tablet that encouraged the Unitarians to put up their own. Holden seems himself to have been a Methodist lay preacher but was on good terms with the established church. Nevertheless Jeremiah Horrocks can never have had any connection with St Michael’s in the Hamlet, since it was not founded until 1815.

Horrocks is commemorated in other ways too – additional memorials in Hoole and Liverpool; an observatory; an institute of the University of Central Lancaster – but it is curious how a variety of religious traditions have all sought to harness him for their own adornment. All of them have some claim on him but – in my view at least – it is the memorial that is the least known and acknowledged, the one in the Unitarian Ancient Chapel of Toxteth, that is most appropriate. Not because he was a Unitarian – because he wasn’t, such an idea would have been absurd to him. Not because he was a dissenter, because he wasn’t that either. As I have suggested his own views were almost certainly very strongly puritan and he held them within the context (technically at least) of the Church of England. But the little chapel in Toxteth Park was the place where he grew up and was educated. He was therefore part of a particular religious community founded in the last years of the sixteenth century and continuing ever since. The memorial to Jeremiah Horrocks was unveiled on Sunday, 11th October 1891, the minister, the Rev Valentine D. Davis preaching a sermon based on Genesis ch.1 v.1,3:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

The Memorial to Jeremiah Horrocks in the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth
The Memorial to Jeremiah Horrocks in the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth, Liverpool