The Fry Collection relating to Benjamin Wills Newton, S.P. Tregelles, F.W. Wyatt and A.C. Fry

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises original notebooks and papers as well as a few printed items, except for CBA 7180 (1-41) which are photocopies. There are indexes to notebooks and letters, notes of Bible lectures and Bible study, copies of letters to and of B.W. Newton; Bible notes, letters, diaries of F.W. Wyatt; Bible notes, letters and other notes of A.C. Fry; Bible notes and copies of letters by other writers, some of whom remain anonymous; letters and copies of letters of B.W. Newton, S.P. Tregelles, S.A. Tregelles, J.N. Darby, Lord Congleton and others, which were kept among the papers of B.W. Newton; letters addressed to S.A. Tregelles (widow of S.P. Tregelles).

The collection is an valuable resource for anyone studying the life and thought of Benjamin Wills Newton and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. It contains much material on the early history of the Brethren movement, and is particularly useful for anyone wishing to understand the divisions among nineteenth century Brethren. It is an important resource for anyone studying the ideas of the early Brethren movement, or wanting to understand the roots of modern fundamentalist Christianity.

Administrative / Biographical History

Benjamin Wills Newton (1807-1899) was born at Plymouth on the 12 December, 1807. His father Benjamin, a draper, died eleven days before his birth. Until he was twelve, he was brought up by his maternal grandfather Roger Treffry of Lostwithiel, Cornwall. He was educated at grammar schools at Lostwithiel and Plymouth, and went to Oxford University in 1824, becoming a fellow of Exeter College in 1826. He obtained a first class honours degree in classics, graduating in 1829. Although his parents had been Quakers, on going up to Oxford his desire was to be ordained in the Church of England. At Oxford, under the influence of Henry Bulteel he underwent evangelical conversion and became critical of the Anglican Church, he also began to study prophecy. In 1831, he abandoned the idea of taking holy orders, and on his marriage to Hannah Abbott in 1832 resigned his fellowship.

Newton returned to Plymouth, earning his living as a tutor in a school he set up with his friend Henry Borlase. He preached widely at independent gatherings of Christians where he and his co-religionists began to build up a large following. It is these meetings which eventually became known to those outside as the Plymouth Brethren, although their influence was to spread well beyond the confines of Plymouth. With the support of John Nelson Darby, with whom he had developed a close relationship, he was appointed elder of Providence Chapel, Raleigh Street, Plymouth, which moved to Ebrington Street in 1840. Newton became the dominant personality at this chapel, presiding over open worship and regularly intervening to stop what he felt were fruitless contributions.

The study of Biblical prophecy was central to his development, but his views diverged from the increasingly influential belief in a ‘secret rapture’ subscribed to by Darby and others. Conflict ensued in 1845 when Darby returned to Plymouth after a lengthy spell abroad. There were arguments over eschatology, and the leadership role Newton had adopted at Ebrington Street. More seriously, there were accusations of Christological heresy relating to the teachings of Newton on the nature of Christ’s suffering. Although Newton was to concede that his views on the latter had been mistaken and withdrew them, the die had been cast, and critics, especially Darby, refused to accept his contrition. It was these differences, and the disagreements following their airing, which led to the historic division of the Brethren into ‘Exclusive’ and ‘Open’ wings.

In spite of his importance to the development of the ‘Open Brethren’, Newton decided to leave Plymouth in the aftermath of this dispute and distanced himself thereafter from the Brethren movement. He moved to London and became a regular preacher at an independent chapel in Queen’s Road, Bayswater. Newton continued to write on religious themes, notably eschatology, and provided financial support to his friend Samuel P. Tregelles. Newton retired to Orpington and later Newport in the Isle of Wight.

Newton’s first wife Hannah died in 1846. He married Maria Hawkins in 1849; their only child Maria Anne Constantia died at the age of five in 1855. Newton died at Tunbridge Wells on 26 June 1899.

Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (1813-1875) was born at Falmouth on 30 June 1813, the son of Samuel Tregelles, a merchant, and his wife Dorothy. He was educated at Falmouth Classical School, prior to obtaining employment at Neath Abbey Ironworks at Glamorgan where he worked from 1829 to 1835. In his spare time he studied Welsh language and literature and continued to develop his knowledge of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. He returned to Falmouth in 1835 where he supported himself by taking pupils. Having published a book in 1836 he obtained work from publishers in London. On moving to the capital, he superintended the publication of the Englishman’s Greek Concordance to the New Testament (1839), and Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance to the Old Testament (1843). In 1838 he commenced a critical study of the Greek New Testament based on ancient manuscripts. This was to be his major life work, for which he travelled extensively. The publications he produced and the work he did on this project provided the foundation for the Greek edition of the New Testament published by Westcott and Hort in 1881, and the Revised Version of the English Bible of 1881.

During 1846 Tregelles settled in Plymouth and became associated with the Brethren. Tregelles was the cousin of Benjamin Wills Newton’s first wife, and he defended Newton in the controversies of the time. Like Newton he diverged from the Brethren after the 1847 rift. He continued to live in Plymouth.

Tregelles was awarded an LLD degree from St.Andrews in 1852. and was awarded a civil-list pension in 1870. He married his cousin Sarah Anna Prideaux in 1839; they did not have children. Tregelles died in Plymouth in 1875; Sarah Anna died in 1882.

When, in his later years Newton moved to the Isle of Wight, he encouraged a following of sympathetic men and women. Among his congregation was Frederick William Wyatt (c. 1850 - c. late 1920s), a watchmaker by profession who lived for a time at Ryde though he eventually returned to his native Blandford in Dorset. Wyatt, a Greek and Hebrew scholar was a close associate of Newton; he took notes of Newton's lectures and copied down conversations they had into notebooks.

Alfred Charles Fry (1869-1943) also held Newton in high esteem. As a child he attended a Sunday School run by Miss Hawkins, Newton's sister-in-law, who lived with the Newtons at Clatterford House in Carisbrooke. He was converted at the age of seventeen and after working as a printer, was employed by Newton as his colporteur to travel around the island villages by bicycle. He later ran a Sunday School and taught the children of Newton's congregation. Like Wyatt, A.C. Fry was keen to copy notes of Newton's lectures and he compiled indexes.

Arrangement

The notebooks give very little information as to the origin of the notes and thus it has often been necessary to assign the name of the writer and purpose of the notes tentatively after examining the handwriting - hence the ubiquitous square brackets. In some cases it has been difficult to establish whether the notes are copies of original notes. The reader should therefore be aware of possible inaccurate assessments. The dates appended to the descriptions of the notebooks refer to the dates mentioned in them as dates of readings, conversations, etc., rather than to the compilation date. The list has not been arranged in chronological order since sometimes series of numbered volumes would interrupt such an order.

For the correspondence, headings have been assigned to the catalogue entries for the papers. These refer to the writer or other person referred to in the entry. Often the full name of the person is given in the heading though it has sometimes been assumed rather than given in full in the document. The letters have been arranged by correspondent and then in chronological order.

The printed items consist of a few miscellaneous items found among the papers.

The collection has been divided into three series:

  • Notebooks
  • Correspondence
  • Printed items

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated by Mr. C.E. Fry, son of A.C. Fry.

Note

The notebooks give very little information as to the origin of the notes and thus it has often been necessary to assign the name of the writer and purpose of the notes tentatively after examining the handwriting - hence the ubiquitous square brackets. In some cases it has been difficult to establish whether the notes are copies of original notes. The reader should therefore be aware of possible inaccurate assessments. The dates appended to the descriptions of the notebooks refer to the dates mentioned in them as dates of readings, conversations, etc., rather than to the compilation date. The list has not been arranged in chronological order since sometimes series of numbered volumes would interrupt such an order.

For the correspondence, headings have been assigned to the catalogue entries for the papers. These refer to the writer or other person referred to in the entry. Often the full name of the person is given in the heading though it has sometimes been assumed rather than given in full in the document. The letters have been arranged by correspondent and then in chronological order.

The printed items consist of a few miscellaneous items found among the papers.

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue of the Collection was produced by Susan M. Noble in 1984 (reference number CBA H3). The present catalogue has been produced to replace this with a modern ISAD(G) compliant catalogue.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EH, tel.: +44 (0)161 834 5343

Custodial History

CBA 2248-2277d - These letters are addressed to Mrs. S.P. Tregelles and relate to the publishing of S.P. Tregelles's works after his death. It is not certain, therefore, whether Newton was in possession of these papers or whether they descended to A.C. Fry by another route.

CBA 6999-7188 - These papers were donated to the Archive by Mr. C.E. Fry of the Isle of Wight. Mr. Fry inherited them from his father, A.C. Fry. The route by which these papers, other than those of A.C. Fry himself, passed to A.C. Fry is a little hazy. Mr. C.E. Fry is under the impression that a certain Mr. Charles T. Walrond, a civil engineer of Holland Park, London, who was Newton's executor and publisher of his works was responsible for passing some material to A.C. Fry after 1935. [N.B. See correspondence of C.T. Walrond regarding the Tregelles Trust of which he declares he is not a Trustee - F.W. was a Trustee until he renounced in favour of E.J. Burnett of Worthing, publisher of Newton's works in 1923 - CBA 7187(51).] It also seems that F.W. Wyatt was an executor for the estate left by B.W. Newton and that Newton's papers passed to F.W. Wyatt and then to A.C. Fry.

There is a thorough history of the collection published as Appendix A: The Fry Collection in Timothy Stunt, From Awakening to Secession: Radical Evangelicals in Switzerland and Britain 1815-35 (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 2000). Stunt consulted the Collection before it was donated to the Archive and produced a detailed list of its contents (a copy of which is available in the Archive, reference CBA 6998). Sadly, not all of the items listed found their way to the Archive, and Stunt outlines the missing content and surmises as to the possible causes of its loss.

Related Material

The John Rylands University Library also holds the papers of John Nelson Darby (GB 133 JND), which includes letters (and copies of letters) from Newton, along with notes and letters relating to the dispute between Darby and Newton.

St. Andrews University Library holds papers of Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, mainly concerning his edition of the Greek New Testament, published between 1857 and 1879, and including copy, proofs and other related material.

Bibliography

Jonathan D. Burnham, A story of conflict: the controversial relationship between Benjamin Wills Newton and John Nelson Darby (Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 2004)

Tim Grass, Gathering to his name: the story of the open brethren in Britain and Ireland (Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press, 2006)

E.C. Marchant, Tregelles, Samuel Prideaux (1813-1875), rev. J.K. Elliot, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)

H. H. Rowdon, The origins of the Brethren, 1825–50 (London: Pickering and Inglis, 1967)

Timothy C.F. Stunt, From awakening to secession: radical evangelicals in Switzerland and Britain 1815–35 (London: T. and T. Clark, 2000)

Timothy C. F. Stunt, Newton, Benjamin Wills (1807–1899), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)