New Church Worthies
Rev. Dr. Jonathan Bayley
(Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons), and
The Founders of the New Church College in Devonshire Street, Islington
IN my earliest visits to London, the first of which was in June, 1840, when I witnessed the procession of Her Majesty on her way to coronation, I became personally acquainted with my late dear friend Mr. Bateman.
Argyle Square church was not then erected, the friends who subsequently in conjunction with the Society from Doctors' Commons built that beautiful place of worship in 1844, occupied the small chapel in Burton Street, and Mr. Bateman, then a comparatively young medical man, was one of the most active amongst them.
I had learned much, even at that time, of the devoted and excellent spirit of Mr. Bateman from Mr. Moss, the first New Church day schoolmaster in Manchester, who, like himself, was from Burton-upon-Trent. Both of them had received the doctrines from Mr. Knight, a solicitor, subsequently very well known in the Church.
Personal acquaintance rapidly increased my esteem for Mr. Bateman, and in my later visits to London, which became tolerably frequent after the church in Argyle Square was opened, I stayed usually with Mr. Bateman, and for many years his loving family circle, even when he removed to Compton Terrace, was my London home.
His life was one of truly Christian piety, order, and benevolence. He was attached, as surgeon, soon after he came to London, in addition to his private practice, to the Islington Dispensary; and, when that fearfully desolating plague, the cholera, visited this country for the first time, in 1832, he was made surgeon to the Cholera Hospital, and by his skill, assiduity, and urbanity, obtained universal goodwill and admiration.
When, after a few years, he devoted himself mainly to private practice, his success was great and rapid. He was the Christian gentleman as well as the medical adviser, and his presence would soothe and comfort his patients as much as his undoubted efficiency in surgery and medicine, imparted confidence, while he ameliorated and removed their diseases.
Many who became highly estimable New Church people were attracted to enquire into his principles of religion, from the admiration they acquired for his character in the sick room.
His experience at the Dispensary and the Hospital, and his feeling for the sorrows of the poor, induced him, in addition to his extensive body of regular patients, to give aid gratuitously to needy sufferers, from six to nine in the morning.
This generous care was so much valued, and the necessity was so great, that on occasions when I have been staying at the house, his kindly and efficient help was given, before sitting down to breakfast, to as many as SEVENTY persons, including often surgical cases, at which he was remarkably cool, firm, and skilful.
This admirable work was so well known, affected such large numbers, and continued through so many years, FORTY-FOUR I believe, with some little variation of detail, that it came to be commonly reported in Islington, though without any true foundation, and is still believed by many, that a legacy had been left to him by some wealthy person to perform this labour of mercy and love. His own treasure of goodwill was the only wealthy person to whom this heavenly work was due.
The New Church, however, was his chief delight. He was punctual and constant in her services, diligent at her meetings, and generous in his support. He was the leading spirit in the erection of the church in Argyle Square. He loved the Gothic style for ecclesiastical structures, and though when first opened the church had a stunted look, when completed as it subsequently became it formed a cathedral-like building which is always admired. The merit of this form is chiefly due to Mr. Bateman. He also presented, I am informed, the handsome font.
The blessings of New Church principles were so great, and so soul-satisfying to him, that they pervaded his whole life, and while he burned to impart them to others, he was convinced that if they were presented under the same favourable circumstances under which other forms of religion exist, New Church societies might far more rapidly be spread around in every direction.
Hence he was more pressing than some New Church friends have been to come rather nearer in externals to the forms of the Church of England, always however preserving Divine Truth inviolable.
No sooner, therefore, had he satisfied himself that Argyle Square Church was solidly established, and could safely be left to carry on its spiritual work, than he determined to commence another, nearer to his own residence, and combine with it a College and School, which would mutually aid and support each other.
The College would help the Church, and the School would prepare students for the College. The whole should have a beautiful ecclesiastical structure.
Many of the other friends were not so sanguine of the society at Argyle Square being strong enough to spare the energetic help of Mr. Bateman, and feared it was too early to attempt to carry out to completion the plan of a School and a College, and therefore hesitated for a time to assist much in this new enterprize. Mr. Bateman's hope and trust were robust enough to begin, however humbly, and by perseverance he was convinced the little one would become a thousand, and the small one a strong nation.
The commencement of the new effort was indeed very humble. A very few people, a very few children, and a very poor little room over a carpenter's shop. In 1850 the children for a short time were brought down to Argyle Square.
About this period Mr. Crompton, of Prestolee, near Kersley, Lancashire, a warm-hearted and sympathetic New Churchman, came to London from time to time, and regarded with esteem and affection Mr. Bateman's zeal and energy.
Mr. Crompton's friendship was, no doubt, increased by an attachment he formed for a lady friend of Mr. Bateman's, an aunt of the preset Rev. John Presland, a lady who in time became Mrs. Roger Crompton. Mr. Crompton and his brother had borne a handsome part in raising and strengthening the New Church at Kersley, and rejoiced at every well-meant effort to extend the kingdom of the Lord Jesus upon earth, as we have elsewhere brought under the attention of our readers.
Mr. Crompton was a very old friend of my own, and never have I known a man of warmer heart, of more affectionate character, or one with more loving reverence for the truth, than the excellent Roger Crompton. I stayed at his house on my not unfrequent visits to Kersley, and when he recognized some growth the Church was making anywhere, or when he was bringing under my observation and explaining to me some fresh improvement in paper-making is his extensive manufactory, his eyes would sparkle with a delight which was charming.
I remember on one occasion his showing me a new machine for making paper, by which twelve miles of paper could be turned out per day.
Mr. Crompton became interested, as I have said, in the earnest efforts of Mr. Bateman, and seeing a certain amount of progress in Islington, felt himself drawn to aid his excellent friend, and when a convenient site for a place of worship was selected, and he learned the other worthy objects Mr. Bateman had in view, he intimated his desire to assist.
Towards the purchase of the freehold land in Devonshire Street, on which it was proposed to build on one side a Mission-room, and Schoolroom with living apartments over, and which cost some £550, Mr. Crompton contributed £300, Rev. Augustus Clissold £l00, and no doubt Mr. Bateman the remainder. This was in 1852.
When the buildings we have described were erected and completed in 1854, Mr. Bateman thus writes in the August number of the I. R.: "I would now advert briefly to another subject, that of the New Church College, to which it is intended to devote as soon as possible our freehold in Devonshire Street, with the church, &c., upon it. The whole of the purchase money has been paid, and the entire cost of the erection defrayed, so that Mr. Crompton and I hope to have the delight, almost contemporaneously with the meeting of Conference, of handing over this property to the Church, entirely free from debt, and a few pounds over, which we shall then have in hand towards the legal expenses."
Thus did these two worthy men pay between them, I always understood in equal portions, the cost of the buildings, about £2,000, and present them freely to the uses of the Church. Mr. Crompton's sympathies with Mr. Bateman's efforts would probably be strengthened because in his early days he attended with his good father and brother New Church worship with a few in a room at Ringley Brow.
From that time did Mr. Bateman labour with indefatigable zeal to maintain the service, gather a congregation, and perform all the uses of a society for many years, always sustaining and proclaiming the idea of eventually having there a New Church School and College. He never lost heart or hope, but worked on cheerfully, urging the Conference and the Church generally to aid him in carrying out his idea to completion.
His efforts to a moderate extent were successful, but though Islington was large enough to furnish people for very many congregations, yet Argyle Square and Cross Street were near enough to attract those who preferred to worship with congregations having regular pastors, and whose conditions were more complete than they could be with a small company in a moderate sized room.
Nothing, however, could daunt Mr. Bateman's energies or loving earnestness. Islington was never forgotten at the Conference or in the Magazines. A quiet growth and happy meetings went on, with the co-operation and encouragement from time to time of the other societies.
Then came 1859, when Mr. Crompton, after a short residence in London, was called to his better home, and it became known that he had bequeathed to the Conference £10,000, to mature and carry out the views of Mr. Bateman and himself, in founding the New Church College at Islington, to promote the instruction of candidates for the ministry.
This was a great joy to Mr. Bateman, and a great satisfaction to the Church generally; though there were some who doubted whether it was judicious to spend a large portion of this sum in buildings, while the students would probably be few.
Many discussions took place, especially in the annual meetings of the Conference. Mr. Bateman was eager that no time should be lost in carrying out what he believed would be most useful to the Church—completing the College buildings; others being of opinion that for some years it would be better to use the interest of the whole money in assisting students to have theological instruction and oversight while they resided in the homes of New Church friends, and the classical and scientific education in the public Colleges or Universities. In these discussions the admirable qualities of Mr. Bateman were signalized for years, and won him the esteem of those who most firmly differed from him.
He never lost his temper, or departed from genuine courtesy. He was invariably the Christian gentleman. Every one who differed from him (sometimes, I fear, myself included), did so with regret. He listened to speeches and arguments against his views with the most perfect patience and equanimity.
At last a compromise was effected, and ultimately £5,400 of Mr. Crompton's bequest was spent in completing the buildings for College and Church, and Mr. Bateman's design and style of the whole were completely carried out.
The bequests of other friends furnished what was needful to meet the expenses of the entire erection in Devonshire Street, comprising £2,000 from Mr. Finnie, £1,000 from Mrs. Becconsall, and £600 for a magnificent window by Mr. and Mrs. Crompton Roberts, the latter being Mr. Crompton's only child.
After the design was completed, Mr. Bateman sought with the same energy to realize all his hopes in relation to it, and to some extent succeeded.
There was, then, a noble ecclesiastical structure, a beautiful church; elegant though rather small, a home for the principal, and six rooms for resident students; with commodious school-room, and an additional suitable room for meetings and library; a play-room below, and a variety of other conveniences for the future uses of the establishment.
There can be no doubt that all Mr. Bateman's desires and aims were excellent, and I trust will be, with time, more and more carried out.
The excellent school-room is well adapted for boys of the middle class, on moderate terms, and real New Church schoolmasters are invaluable.
For many years the school was admirably carried on by Mr. Beilby, and Mr. Woodford, and it seems a pity that no really competent New Churchman should offer himself from some part of the country inspired by the Lord to carry forward that really inestimable use.
It is to be hoped, also, that promising men in greater numbers will stand forth as candidates for the ministry; not too young; men who have already manifested a ministerial character, pious, thoughtful, studious, and devout, with power to attract others to listen to the great truths they teach—not merely doctrinal men, but men of sympathy, and power to excite the sympathy of others, for all that concerns the good and happiness of mankind.
Such young men in increasing numbers would claim the aid of the College to its full extent, making the labours of the estimable professors Presland and Omant more delightful to themselves, and more valuable for the Church.
Such as it is, the College has done good work, and I pray that its value in the estimation of the Church, and its real sacred use, may rapidly increase, and each stage of its success will heighten the regard of all concerned for the memory of its worthy founders, Mr.Bateman and Mr. Crompton.
Coeval with his efforts to afford more efficient training to the candidates for the ministry, he was led to set a high value on the necessity for having the letter of the Word revised, so as to be free from the imperfections well known to exist, and which often obscure the spiritual sense to the spiritually-minded New Church reader.
He therefore commenced very early a handsome subscription for himself, and induced other friends to unite with him in providing for the accomplishment of that important object. At the close of his valuable life, in 1880, the sum for this purpose had amounted to £726 0s. 2d., and it was placed in the possession of the General Conference, to be used under its direction in due time to defray expenses that may arise in the work of procuring and publishing an accurate translation of the Divine Word into English.
Thus in labours of benevolence, piety and usefulness, passed the life of our worthy New Church brother, Mr. Bateman.
In his large family, among his large circle of friends, and in his public life as a citizen, he was loved, esteemed, and respected.
His last illness was borne with saint-like patience and trust in the Lord who had been his constant Guide and Director, until he slept in peace on earth, to awake among angelic friends, leaving behind a memory amongst all who knew him well, of every virtue, associated with the name of Henry Bateman.