|A Church of Christ at Tottlebank In 1669,
And Later, The Church of Christ At Kirkby
Tottlebank, Lake District, Northern England
This booke is for the use of that Church of Christ in Broughton furnessfell and Cartmell whereof Mr. Gabrill Camelford is Teachinge Elder.
The 18th day of ye sixth month called August 1669 A church of Christ was formed in order and sate down together in the fellowship and order of ye Gospel of Jesus Christ. Att the house of William Rawlinson off Totle-banke in Coulton in furness.
There were present and assisted Mr Geroge Larkham Pasto off a Church off Christ in Cumberland and Mr Roger Sawrey of Broughton Tower a member of Christ and off that particular Church in London of wych Mr George Coackine is Teaching Elder
The persons joyning themselves at this time Gabriel Camelford, Hugh Towers, William Towers, James Towers, Joseph Towers, James Fisher, Henery Jackson.
|A Little About Tottlebank & Kirkby|
In 1669, Charles II had been on the English throne for nine years. Despite Charles’ inclination toward toleration, the early years of his reign were marked by a series of repressive measures, collectively known as the Clarendon Code.Under the Code grave disabilities were placed on those who sought to worship outside the boundaries placed on them by the English church. In particular the Conventicle Act banished any meetings of more than five people in addition to the household for worship other than in the prescribed form and location. Seven fled, two of whom had suffered severe penalties for violation, sought seclusion and solitude from London’s watchful eye! They settled in England’s Northern Lake District, 200 miles to the NW of London. In 1669 the Convenicle Act ran out, and during the brief period before it was reinacted, The group drew up articles of organization as noted on the copy above.
Then, On 9th of November, 1669, articles of faith were drawn up. It began, “The Confession off ffaith held forth by the Church off Christ . . .” Some things the lengthy document claimed: "The way of separation from the world is the way off God . . .with us is a door wide enough to entertaine every Sonn of ye lord of glory, we dare not barr the dore against any honest soule …desieringe much that we may all be helpful to each other…our table is large enough and provision suited for children, younge men and ffathers amonge the flock of Christ that shall consent with us and desier to sit down with us or amongst us.”
Seven basic principles of faith were listed according to Tottlebank Historian Foster Sutherland, 1969:
Infant baptism vs. adult baptism is not discussed in the book of faith. They claimed church autonomy, having rights to its own affairs, claiming freedom to choose its own officers, to examine disagreements or “matters of scandall any way arrising amonge themselfes,”and to discipline if necessary by suspension, “on occation of obstinace and wilfull persistinge in any ennormous sinn,” with exclusion as the final resort.
In 1695, London Minister, David Crossley introduced Baptist Theology, and the church became identified as a Baptist church, and is so to the present.
The Tottlebank church planted a church near the west coast that for years remained in fellowship with them. By 1824, a church after the ancient order was serving the Lord at Kirkby. It was 30 years before any hear of Barton W. Stone or Alexander Campbell. When the battle over the instrument raged, the Kirkby church added the instrument to its services. Today Kirkby church is known as Wall End Christian Church. It is the oldest continuous restoration related church in Great Britain.
The Tottlebank church has long been sighted as an example of how people, seeking religious freedom, simply strove to go to the Scriptures for their authority in all religious matters. It is debated as to whether they gave up denominational ties, but the effort is worthy of remembrance.
|THE TOTTLEBANK-KIRKBY CONNECTION AND THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT|
A Historical Sketch
TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS RESEARCH PAPER
Our British brethren wrote: "But it would be a mistake to suppose that there were no germs of reformation in the United Kingdom before Mr. Jones began publication of his Millennial Harbinger; for a careful glance through our early magazines, reveals the fact that several churches, in various places, arose about the same time, and previous to obtaining any knowledge of Mr. Campbell and his work. These, for the most part, unknown to each other, but were teaching and upholding the same things. In the north were Auchtermuchty and Grangemouth; in the south, Bristol and probably London; between these distant points were found churches in Coxlane, Wrexham, and Shrewsbury; also, one in Dungannon, Ireland." Lancelot Oliver tells of "Rose Street, Kirkcaldy--which began as far back as 1798." These churches stood isolated for years, but "steadfast in the Apostles' doctrine, the fellowship, the prayers, the teaching, and breaking of bread on every first day of the week." Each, in turn, were equally surprised and pleased to find it was not alone in pleading for a restoration of the ancient order. How these churches came to exist may be accounted for by the fact that during the greater part of the eighteenth, and early part of the nineteenth century, God's Word had been moving the minds of such men as John Glas, Robert Sandeman, the Haldanes, Archibald McLean, and others, to please for a restoration of the pure Gospel. There were, however, some movements whose beginnings started in the middle part of the seventeenth century. It is the purpose of this paper to discuss one such movement and its contribution to the British Restoration Movement.
Lying between Cumberland and Westmoreland, and entirely separated from most of Lancashire by an arm of the sea and swampy salt marshes filled with quicksand, lies the mountainous promontory of Furness. Here was situated among the Furness Fells, Tottlebank, which has been called "the first Christian Church in England."
It has been disputed where was formed the first Congregational Church in England. Islington, Yarmouth, Southwark, Dukinfield have claimed the honour. Among the fells of Furness was founded the first Christian Church in England. By Christian I mean here not Congregational, not Presbyterian, not Episcopal, not Baptists, but simple Christian in its unrestricted sense--Christian not sectarian, Catholic not denominational, a church of people acknowledge as Christians and nothing else. A poor ejected minister from over the sands had the wisdom and grace to form such a church, and the poor mountaineers of his neighborhood had the piety firmly to adhere to it and long to sustain it.
Who was this poor ejected minister, and how did Tottlebank Church arise?
Archbishop Laud had dealt severely with the Puritans in the reign of Charles I, but under the Commonwealth the attempt to make all people think alike in religion had been abandoned. Cromwell's concern that the church should have a godly and competent ministry had led to a religious settlement, which was thought to be the most tolerant ever in England at that time.
Before Charles II came back to England and took the throne, he promised religious tolerance in the Declaration of Breda. But when enthroned, the Anglicans forced through Parliament, the successive acts known as the Clarendon Code. Persecution of nonconformist followed. In 1662 the Act of Uniformity was passed and it required all ministers in the Church of England to declare that they wholly accepted the Book of Common Prayer. Many earnest Puritans, who had entered the ministry, could not conscientiously make such a declaration. On St. Bartholomew's Day, August 24, 1662, nearly two thousand ministers were ejected from their livings.
One of the ejected ministers was Gabriel Camelford, Vicar of Staveley, in Cartmel, a village near the foot of Lake Windermere, in Lancashire. "Although ejected, he would not be silenced, as he felt a woe upon him if he preached not the gospel. Beloved, not only in his own chapelry, but through all the lake country, he resolved to live and die preaching wherever he could find hearers, by the side of the lakes or in the shelter of glens." One of the men he met was a Cromwellian soldier, Roger Sawrey, of Broughton Tower. "Sawrey was an earnest Puritan who had earned the title of 'Praying Sawrey.'" Sawrey had aided many Puritans in his district. At Broughton Tower he sheltered many dissenting ministers. He sheltered men like Camelford and in 1664 was forced to abstain from all church services of the Anglican Church. In 1669 Sawrey and Camelford gave lead in promoting the establishment of the church at Tottlebank.
The old original minute book of Tottlebank Church is still preserved and bears the inscription, "This booke is for the use of that Church of Christ in Broughton, Furnessfells and Cartmell whereof Mr. Gabriel Camelford is Teaching Elder."
The first entry reads:
Sunderland was looking at the confession of faith through the eyes of a Baptist minister, and set down the above principles as such. William Robinson, who was a Disciple, sets down the basic principles of the confession of faith as follows:
Sunderland's account is more in harmony with the Church Book than is Robinson's account. Firstly, Robinson said that "The Church practiced only Baptism of Adults by Immersion." This is in error. The "six principles of Hebrews 6" does include baptism, but nothing was said about immersion in the confession. Furthermore, the first time baptism by immersion is mentioned in the Church Book at Tottlebank was "June 5th, 1725." From this one can see that Robinson concluded the wrong thing concerning immersion from the confession of faith.
Secondly, Robinson stated that the breaking of bread "was limited to the baptized." This is directly opposite of what is recorded in the confession of faith. The confession states:
With us is a door wide enough to entertain every form of the Lord of Glory. We dare not bar the door against any honest soul--our table is large enough and provision suited for children, young men and fathers among the flock of Christ that shall consent with us and desire to sit down with us or among us.
This doesn't sound as if the communion was limited to immersed believers only. Tottlebank was founded on the idea of religious tolerance--baptism or no baptism.
Robinson's wrong conclusions relating to the confession of faith have been incorporated into A. C. Watters History of British Churches of Christ. It is possible that Watters never knew of the error in Robinson's deduction. Other writers have fallen into the same trap as did Watters. Many quotations of various forms from Robinson's article have circulated around the world, causing many to believe that Tottlebank was a true, or near New Testament church. Many churches of the seventeenth century had similar marks as those of the Lord's church, but what is weightier is the numerous doctrines and confessions of faith which differ with those of the New Testament church. Two of Robinson's points of similarity are wrong, so that only one is left with which to compare Tottlebank to the New Testament church. Tottlebank, after coming into the Baptist Union, did change its practices of worship which more closely resembled those of the Restoration Movement, but never can it be truthfully said that it was a true church of Christ.
Even though Tottlebank was not a true New Testament church, it did contribute to the restoration of the church. Some members of Tottlebank, who were living in nearby Kirkby, left Tottlebank "to worship the Lord more in accordance with New Testament teaching."
Just what "to worship the Lord more in accordance with New Testament teaching" meant is debatable. Robinson recorded that a war over open and closed communion was fought in England amongst all churches which practiced immersion. Some of these churches began taking the "Lord's Supper" once a month also. Some churches kept closed communion and the taking of the Lord's Supper every Lord's Day. Robinson stated concerning Kirkby: "Among this latter group the Church at St. Mary's Well, Kirkby, is to be numbered." From his statement it sounds as if the Kirkby members left over open communion and the failure to partake the Lord's Supper every Sunday.
Foster Sunderland writes: "differences arose between the Kirkby members and the Church (Tottlebank) about the observance of weekly communion and a paid ministry. At Kirkby the members were meeting every Sunday morning to break bread."
Tottlebank requested that they either come back to worship each Sunday at Tottlebank or to hand in their intention to withdraw. It is recorded in the Church Book in 1824 that eight members were excluded from membership at Tottlebank,having embraced erroneous religious views absented themselves from our fellowship, and formed themselves into a separate body for the administration of the ordinances agreeably with their present notions.
From these four sources we can see that Robinson and Sunderland, who both read the church minutes, and Watters, who relied upon Robinson's research, all differ from each other slightly. The problem could have arisen from what is meant, in the church minutes, by "ordinances." It seems that Sunderland and Robinson supplied their own meaning to the word, thus accounting for their different reasons for the breaking away of Kirkby from Tottlebank.
Another point of discussion is over the date of establishment of the Kirkby Church of Christ. Robinson writes:
It is not clear when this separation took place from the Church at Tottlebank. An undated, unsigned document in my possession says that it was a few years after 1826; but another account puts it as late as 1839.
Watters wrote that, "In the remote peninsula of Furness there was a church at Kirkby, meeting in a chapel which was probably built in 1826, and the church must have been in existence for at least some years before that."
On Tuesday, 28th November, we followed to the grave the remains of our dear brother, John Johnstone, the oldest member in the Faith at Kirkby. He was amongst those who left the Baptist at Tottlebank many years ago, to worship the Lord more in accordance with New Testament Teaching.
The "many years ago" would be more in harmony with the 1820 decade supported by the unsigned, undated, document in Robinson's possession. Also the deduction made by Watters, concerning the disciples having been there some years before the building of the chapel in 1826, is a valid one. The 1820 decade fits the "many years ago" more so than the 1839 or 1843 date either. The following entry into the Tottlebank Church Book made in 1824, and reads as follows: "The members at Kirkby having embraced erroneous religious views absented themselves from our fellowship, and formed themselves into a separate body. . . ." This clearly states that the Kirkby members had formed "a separate body," a separate church.
To further stress the significance of Leake's phrase "many years ago" the following comparisons are made:
Conclusion: The 1824 date seems to be the most probably date of establishment for the Kirkby congregation.
Kirkby remained practically isolated from the time of its separation from the Baptist Union at Tottlebank until it was discovered by an evangelist of the cooperation churches of Christ in 1854. The chief figure of this time was George Barr, who came from Scotland. "He seems to have been a man mighty in the Scriptures, and a real patriarch of the flock." It was Barr who "received with great joy the Evangelist, Francis Hill (in 1854) and expressed himself glad beyond measure that the Lord should send an evangelist among them in their weakness and seclusion." After Francis Hill discovered Kirkby, it joined the cooperation of churches of Christ in 1855. First mention of Kirkby in the British brotherhood publications was in the British Millennial Harbinger's September issues of 1855.
From its formation until 1854 the church at Kirkby was not large, but, nevertheless, strong. Its membership was composed of men and women whose watchword was: "Where the Bible speaks we speak." They sought a "Thus saith the Lord" as the true and infallible guide in Christian faith and practice. They seemed to study their Bible daily and really tried to mold their lives to fit its teachings.
During the period from 1854 to 1874 the church varied in membership from 15 to 48. In 1874 the great revival came when William McDougall, the evangelist from Wigan, came and began work. The membership was 38 in 1874. In 1875 it rose to 88. In 1876 it rose to 101. William Robinson, whose father was in this area in the 1870s, recalls: "These were stirring times when the Chapel became too small, and meetings were held in the open-air and in old farm-houses, the latter being packed, with people sitting on the stairs so that they might hear the old Gospel." Perhaps, even more stirring, were the times when the Anglican clergyman was left with a congregation of half-a-dozen--the bell ringers performed their duty, and went to the "dippers" meeting. One can imagine the excitement when two church wardens were baptized before the whole parish. Robinson further comments:
But these were the days when the Bible was the sole topic of conversation, and men walked five miles to buy a concordance (a rare thing in those days), to prove to the "dipper preacher" that infant baptism was assuredly in the Scriptures: for, did it not say: "It is a goodly and pleasant thing that infants should be baptized"?
In 1876 a new meeting house was opened--"a fine stone structure, built of local slate, with sandstone facing." with a capacity of three hundred persons, containing also, a kitchen accommodation. A new graveyard was set aside around the building. The opening ceremony came on Sunday, October 16, 1876. Robinson describes the event: "three services averaged an attendance of 230, the night service being packed."
In 1879 Kirkby secured the Trust Deeds of the old St. Mary's Well Chapel building from Tottlebank Baptist Church, who legally still owned the old chapel building, so that it might be sold and the proceeds would be applied to the reduction of the debt on their new chapel. Sunderland writes that the relinquishing of the property deed to Kirkby was the "final act when the Campbellite Baptist Church at Kirkby Ireleth requested the Tottlebank Church to hand over the Trust Deeds of the chapel at St. Mary's Well." Tottlebank agreed to accept an offer of 10 for its "interest in the chapel."
William McDougall was the evangelist who began labor with Kirkby in the new building. He labored there until his death, and the church grew to 170 members by 1900. Other evangelists such as George Greenwell, John Hindle, William Hindle, and Alexander Brown labored there over the years. Alexander Brown at one time operated his training school for evangelists at Kirkby.
Even though Kirkby was never very large it made valuable contribution to the Restoration Movement, not only in England, but all over the world. By 1920 eight churches had been established in the Furness District as a direct result of work carried on by the Kirkby church. These works were Lindal, Urswick, Langdale, Broughton Mills, Ulverston, Askam, Swarthmoor (home of George Fox, founder of Quakerism, for many years), and Dalton. The work at Roodeport, Rhodesia, was brought about by the people of Kirkby. Robinson sums his work on the Furness District as follows: "Their sons are to be found in many quarters of the globe, especially in Australia and Africa." One of the greatest English evangelists of the twentieth century, Walter Crossthwaite, came from Ulverston which was established by the labors and prayers of the Kirkby church under the leadership of his father, Joseph Crossthwaite. John Allen Hudson writes: "Brother Walter Crossthwaite, who has, with his colleagues, saved the cause of our Lord from complete defeat in Great Britain." With men such as Crossthwaite, Kirkby can proudly boast of having influenced the Restoration Movement in Britain, and even the whole world.
On August 16, 1669, Gabriel Camelford and Roger Sawrey, along with some other men, began the church at Tottlebank, upon the desire to be a "Church of Christ." They had no way of knowing that a hundred and fifty years later a little group of men would instigate a movement at Kirkby which called for a return to New Testament teachings. Had Camelford never been ejected from a secure pulpit in the Anglican Church there may never have been a Tottlebank church from which a Kirkby church could have sprung. Had there never been a Kirkby church, there might never have been an Ulverston congregation in which a young Walter Crossthwaite could have developed to a spiritual giant. If no other good could have come from the Tottlebank-Kirkby work, the Lord's kingdom was blessed by the man Walter Crossthwaite, who "saved the cause of our Lord from complete defeat in Great Britain." But thanks be to God, that many souls were saved because of the efforts of the "Tottlebank-Kirkby Connection."
"General Evangelist Committee Report," The Christian Advocate 5 (August 1883):359.
Halley, Robert. Lancashire: Its Puritanism and Nonconformity. Manchester: Tubbs and Brook, Pub., 1869.
OTHER SOURCES CONSULTED
Campbell, Alexander. Millennial Harbinger. (1830-1870).
-Charlie Wayne Kilpatrick, December, 1977
|Directions To Tottlebank|
The church at Tottlebank is located on Tottlebank Farm Road, which runs off the A590 north of Ulverston, England
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Photos Of Tottlebank Church
|Directions To Kirkby Church|
Kirkby Church of Christ at Wall End is located in Northeast England near the lake district, not far from Ulverston. The address is Kirkby-in-Furness, Cumbria LA17, UK 37 ft SW.
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Photos Of Kirkby
Photos Taken November, 2006
Special thanks to Graham McDonald, Scotland citizen and missionary. He and his family were hosts to the Harps in November, 2006. Graham very kindly drove us around the country to various locations of the Reformation & Restoration Movement. Also, thanks is extended to C. Wayne Kilpatrick for his 1977 research paper on Tottlebank and Kirkby above.
|Transcription of Tottlebank Book|