Written by Maurice Large, Acting Secretary and Chairman of the Management Committee, August 2016.
From the outset of his ministry in Newcastle, Richard Gilpin was not on his own. Although, as we have seen in an earlier article, there were four Puritan Non-conformists in Newcastle (Durant, Gilpin, Pringle and Leaver) they appeared to have organised themselves into three congregations, with Durant in a Congregational organisation and the other three preferring Presbyterian systems. They also, as the Bishop of Durham frequently complained, gathered together. We read, for example, that on the 25th November 1668 “they held out with preaching and praying from eight of clock in the morning till four in the evening, the work being held forth by their four chief leaders and abettors, Mr Gilpine, Mr Durant, Mr Leaver and Mr Pringle”.
Nonetheless, Gilpin, with the larger numbers, formed an association from the outset with John Pringle. We do not know exactly when these four men finally all arrived in Newcastle, but they were certainly all settled in the town by 1668, as can be seen by the bishop’s complaint.
Little is recorded about Pringle. He was the vicar of St Maurice’s church in Eglingham (north-west of Alnwick) and was ejected in 1662 for failing to conform. He made his way to Newcastle and became an associate of Gilpin’s. Like Gilpin, he was also qualified as a physician, by which means he made a living while secretly ministering to his flock alongside Gilpin.
On November 8 1669 Bishop Cosin referred to an unlawful gathering which had taken place the Sunday before “at Mr Pringle’s lodgings at Mrs Shaftoe’s house, from four to eight o’clock in the morning”. (It would be nice to think that this was Mrs Bobby Shaftoe, but I can’t make any connection!)
Pringle appears to have remained in Newcastle as assistant to Richard Gilpin until his death in 1694, leaving Gilpin to find a replacement.
William Pell (1694-1698)
William Pell came to Newcastle in 1694 aged 60 to assist Richard Gilpin, having had a long career in the church. He was educated at Rotherham Grammar School and Magdalene College Cambridge. A native of Sheffield, he was an Oriental scholar of some eminence. He married Elizabeth Lilburn of Sunderland, whose uncle Robert was one of the signatories to the death warrant of Charles I. William was Minister at Easington (County Durham) during the Commonwealth until the Restoration, when the previous incumbent was reinstated, whereupon he was installed at Great Stainton, only to be ejected for failing to conform to the Act of Uniformity.
He suffered imprisonment for preaching as a nonconformist, but received an indulgence in 1672 and preached at Tattershall in Lincolnshire, where he was domestic steward to the Earl of Lincoln. In 1687 he moved to Boston, Lincolnshire, and in 1694 became Gilpin’s assistant in Newcastle. Sadly, he did not outlive his Principal. He died in 1698 and was buried in St Nicholas’ Church. It would thus appear that by that time the nonconformists were being allowed burial in consecrated ground.
Timothy Manlove (1699 – 1699)
A native of Derbyshire, Timothy Manlove was born in 1663. He first qualified as a physician and then decided on the ministry. He was ordained in 1688 and served as private chaplain to Sir Philip Gell of Hopton Hall, Derbyshire(1).
In July 1689 with the passing of the Toleration Act, Manlove qualified himself as a Nonconformist preacher and became minister at Durham, where he was much respected by the general church community, perhaps to the detriment of his own congregation. In June 1693 he accepted an invitation to move to Pontefract, but then the pulpit at Mill Hill Chapel, Leeds came vacant and Richard Gilpin persuaded him to move there, rather than Pontefract, on the basis of being more generally serviceable at Leeds.
While at Leeds, Manlove published pamphlets, but came into conflict with Ralph Thoresby, an antiquary who had been instrumental in his appointment and who wished to continue to hear Anglican sermons from the Mill Hill pulpit. He also came into dispute over his stipend of £60 a year, and on the death of William Pell he was persuaded to come to Newcastle in 1699 for lighter duties at a stipend of £80 per annum. Sadly, shortly after his arrival he caught a fever and died on 31st August 1699 at the age of thirty-five.
Thomas Bradbury (1699-1703)
Bradbury was destined never to realise his ambition of succeeding Richard Gilpin. Appointed in 1699 following Manlove’s death, he had been an assistant and personal chaplain in Leeds and then a supply in Beverley. Only 22, he came to Newcastle and when Gilpin died the following year, Bradbury hoped for at least a co-pastorate. However he remained as assistant to Benjamin Bennett (who was appointed in 1700) until he left in 1703 to become assistant pastor in Stepney.
Bradbury boasted of being the first to proclaim George I, which he did on Sunday, 1 August 1714, being apprised, while in his pulpit, of the death of Queen Anne by the agreed signal of a handkerchief. The report was current (although probably apocryphal) that he preached from 2 Kings ix. 34, “Go, see now this cursed woman and bury her, for she is a king’s daughter”(3).
It is interesting to note that in 1719, while in London he became involved, on invitation, in a dispute between the trustees of four meeting houses in Exeter and three of the ministers over the issue of the divinity of Jesus. Bradbury proposed that the letter designed to restore peace should be amended to include a clause affirming belief in the Trinity.
Bradbury died, aged 82, on 9 September 1759. and is buried in Bunhill Fields Cemetery in Islington, where also lie many notable people, including John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe and William Blake.
(1)Hopton Hall remained in the Gell family until 1989. It now runs a business letting holiday cottages in the grounds.
(2) The Latin inscription below the portrait can be translated as, “Timothy Manlove, Licentiate of Medicine. Messenger of the Divine spirit, and elegant interpreter of the immortal soul: what he once claimed, now he knows. August 3rd 1699, he died at age 37. Untimely fate fell.”
(3) Gordon, Alexander (1886). “Bradbury, Thomas”. Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 150–153.