Papers of George Harris

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 UCC/2/14
  • Former Reference
      GB 133 C15
  • Dates of Creation
      1819-1841
      n.d.
  • Physical Description
      1 item Poor condition: bundle of manuscripts originally sewn together and placed in leather binding. The sewing has deteriorated and the leather binding is detached. Dirty. Edges frayed.

Scope and Content

Large bundle of sermons and/or lectures attributed to George Harris. At some point they have been bound together into a large leather bound book. The cover has the tattered remains of a typed label on the front.

The contents are divided into 23 discrete bundles, some of which have writing (some illegible) on the front identifying the contents:

  • 'Acts: Apostles ... 9-43'.
  • 'Genesis 2 ... I know not ... day - my death'.
  • 'Delivered at Glasgow Sunday Morning, 21st March 1841, ... Sermon'.
  • 'Capital Punishments No I'.
  • 'On the Eloquence of the Pulpit Lecture IInd'.
  • 'Romans 1st [?] Cap: 16th Verse I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ'.
  • 'Acts 19th chap 1-2'.
  • [Untitled].
  • 'No 168 [?]'2' Corinthians 5th chap. 7th verse'. ['1 Peter I' added in pencil at top of page].
  • '2 Book of Kings 8 chap. 13 verse' '... But what is thy servant a dog that he should do this great thing'.
  • 'Isaiah 46th chap. 5th v.' 'To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?'
  • 'No 151 B Matthew 6th ch. 9v' 'Hallowed be thy name'. [Top of page 'Renham St. Chapel, May 2nd 1819'].
  • Loose sheet untitled.
  • 'No 48 B.' '1st epistle 1. Corinthians: 8th ch 6v. But to us there is but one God, the Father'.
  • Untitled, begins: 'Ladies and Gentlemen'.
  • Untitled, begins: 'Ladies and Gentlemen'.
  • 'Philippians 4 ch 6-9'.
  • 'John 4th chap. 34v' 'Jesus saith unto them my meat / do: will - Him who sent me / finish ... work'.
  • 'No 85 B' 'Acts 28th chap: 22nd For as concerning this sect we know that every where it is spoken against'.
  • 'No 83 B' 'Psalms 139th 23-24 verses. Search me O God and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts. And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting'.
  • No title. Black and white watercolour of religious gathering in building with preacher addressing a large crowd.
  • 'Ecclesiastes 12th chap 13-14 v' 'Let us hear: conclusion: whole matter. Fear God, keep commandments for: whole duty - man. For God shall bring work into judgement, ... secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil'.
  • '1 John, 4th chap. 16 v' 'And we have known believed: Love that God hath ... God Love. he ... dwelleth in Love, dwelleth in God. God in him'.

Administrative / Biographical History

George Harris was born on 15 May 1794 at Maidstone, Kent to Abraham and Hannah Harris. His father was the Unitarian minister at the Presbyterian chapel in Maidstone. He was educated at the school of Thomas Pine and at Maidstone Grammar School after which he was employed in the warehouse of relatives in Cheapside, London. Here he became involved with Thomas Belsham's Essex Street Chapel, and decided to become a Unitarian minister after hearing Richard Wright speak at a fundraising dinner. He studied at John Evans's academy in Islington before attending Glasgow University for three years from 1812; however he did not graduate, his time in Glasgow seems to have been devoted to organising Unitarian congregations in Greenock and Port Glasgow. He was invited to become a minister at Renshaw Street Chapel, Liverpool in 1817, moving to Moor Lane, Bolton in 1822, Union Street, Glasgow in 1825, St. Mark's, Edinburgh in 1841, and Hanover Square, Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1825, where he remained until his death in 1859.

Harris was a noted controversialist and a political activist for a variety of social causes. Remarks of his at an 1824 dinner gave rise to the 'Manchester Socinian controversy' which led to legal proceedings against Unitarian chapels and charities, and eventually resulted in the Dissenters' Chapels Act of 1844. He agitated for the 1832 Reform Act, the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, the repeal of the Corn Laws, teetotalism, and opposition to slavery and capital punishment. He was one of the first to recognise the value of journalism to Unitarianism and was responsible for setting up three magazines: the Christian Reflector (with F.B. Wright), the Christian Pioneer and the Christian Pilot. He was also noted for his missionary activities in Lancashire and Scotland where numerous Unitarian gatherings were set up at his instigation.

He married Elizabeth Agnes Auchinvole in 1821 and they had eight children, six of whom survived. He died on 24 December 1859 in Newcastle.

Bibliography

Andrew M. Hill, 'Harris, George (1794-1859)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Obituary, The Inquirer, 31 December, 1859.