Notes of Sermons by William Gaskell and other Unitarian ministers

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 1332
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      162 x 98 mm. 1 volume. 20 folios, paginated [1], 2-33, [34-40 blank]. Medium: wove paper, watermarked '1825'. Binding: marbled paper covers.
  • Location
      Collection available at John Rylands Library, Deansgate.

Scope and Content

This small notebook, compiled by an anonymous chapelgoer, contains notes taken at sermons given by John Gooch Robberds, William Gaskell and other Unitarian preachers, at Cross Street Chapel, Manchester, and elsewhere.

The volume begins with a trip to Bolton on 18 April 1824, to hear 'Mr Fox of London, he took his text from St Pauls address to the Athenians & made a powerful discourse, he alluded to the present struggle in which Greece is now engaged in with Turkey'. The next sermon was heard in Dublin, at the Eustace St Chapel (where James Martineau was later to be so notable a presence), on 27 June in the same year. This time the preacher was Mr Armstrong; and the next one, on 12 October 1824, at Cross St Chapel in Manchester, with John James Taylor the preacher. One or two other chapels are also mentioned over the next few years (Greengate chapel in Broughton, Salford and Essex St in London), but the focus remains the Cross St chapel in Manchester, where it is clear the compiler visited most frequently.

Among the preachers recorded at Cross St were John Gooch Robberds (1789-1854), a notable Unitarian minister, at least a dozen of whose sermons are recorded; Rev. John Relly Beard; Rev. Dr Drummond of Dublin; Rev. Henry Montgomery; and Rev. Henry Acton of Exeter. William Gaskell features three times (29 March, 30 August and 20 December, all in 1829). Of the second of these the hearer notes: 'He observed that if Men could be only be brought to give anything like the attention to religion they devoted to worldly affairs how differently they would act... The Discourse I thought an excellent one & deserving the serious attention of persons engaged in active life & particularly to those of worldly minds...'

Administrative / Biographical History

The Dissenters' Meeting House, later to be known as Cross Street Chapel, was opened in 1694 and is the parent church of Nonconformity in Manchester. The congregation dates from 1662, the year of the Act of Uniformity, which required all clergymen to conform strictly to the requirements of the Book of Common Prayer. Some clergy refused and were ejected from their livings, one of whom was the Reverend Henry Newcome (d 1695). His followers eventually erected a place of worship of their own, the first of its kind in Manchester. The original chapel was destroyed by German bombing in 1940. The chapel was rebuilt in 1959, and again in 1997. William Gaskell, husband of the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, was the minister for fifty-six years (from 1828 to 1884). Throughout its history, members of the congregation have made a remarkable contribution to the religious, social and cultural life of the city. In 1697 a charity was founded by Lady Meriel Mosley to support poor members of the congregation; this was later augmented by other benefactors.

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The manuscript was purchased from Christopher Edwards, manuscript dealer, of Wallingford, Oxfordshire, in July 2011.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the manuscript can be supplied for private research and study purposes only, depending on the condition of the manuscript.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the manuscript. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The history of the manuscript prior to its purchase from Christopher Edwards is not known.

Related Material

The JRUL holds the Unitarian College Collection (GB 133 UCC), which contains material relating to William Gaskell, John Relly Beard and John Gooch Robberds.

There are letters to William and Elizabeth Gaskell within the Elizabeth Gaskell Manuscript Collection (GB 133 Eng MS 730-731).

The JRUL also holds an account book for Cross Street Chapel (GB 133 Eng MS 1183).

Geographical Names