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Saturday 24 October 2015


I am indebted to a fellow researcher of Baptist history for not only finding but allowing me to see a publication which had become something of a Holy Grail for me. I have been digging into the life of my great great grandfather, the Baptist minister William Augustus Salter, for around five years now. He served the congregations of a number of churches in the course of his life, from his first appointment at the Henrietta Street chapel in London’s Covent Garden to his last, the church in Clarendon Street, Leamington Spa, which he not only led but founded and built.

Rev William Augustus Salter (1812-1879) c1870 as pastor of Clarendon Street chapel, Leamington Spa

I have known for some time that the speeches and sermons made on 5th October 1836, the day of his ordination at Henrietta Street, had been published. I learned of a copy held by the Angus Library at Regent’s Park College, Oxford; but could not afford the time or train fare to make a speculative trip.

The Angus Library is Britain’s best collection of Baptist publications, founded on the personal collection of Joseph Angus (1816-1902), William Augustus’ brother-in-law. William Augustus and Joseph trained for the ministry together at Stepney Baptist College, and it was when Angus was in 1849 appointed as Principal of that institution that it thrived. Outgrowing its Stepney premises the college moved in 1855 to larger ones overlooking Regent’s Park. Then in 1927, twenty five years after Angus’ death Regent’s moved lock, stock and library to the more studious environment of Oxford.

Regent's Park College quadrangle today (photograph by Tomsett, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia)

A few weeks ago, my colleague mentioned that he was going to be doing some research in the Angus Library and kindly offered to look for the Henrietta Street sermons, which included the Charge to the Minister delivered by Angus’ and Salter’s old teacher Rev W.H. Murch, then Principal of Stepney College. Surely Joseph was in the congregation that day witnessing his friend’s entry into the ministry?

What I hadn’t anticipated was that the Henrietta Street speeches would include one from Salter himself. My great great grandfather’s words! His voice on the page! William Augustus spoke in response to the previous speaker, Rev J.J. Davies, who (according to the Order of Service) “delivered the Introductory Address and asked the usual questions.”

Unfortunately the published speeches do not include the questions themselves! But we are told of their nature. Before asking the “usual questions” of William Augustus, Rev Davies “put the usual question to the church, respecting the circumstances which had led to the present service [of ordination].” A church elder Mr Dawson responded with a history of Henrietta Street chapel, founded in 1817 and suddenly and unexpectedly deprived of its sitting pastor Rev T. Thomas in May 1836. Thomas (with that initial, could he have been Thomas Thomas?!) had effectively been headhunted by Abergavenny Baptist College. My great great grandfather had been filling Thomas’s shoes as a supply-preacher at Henrietta Street for the past three months.

Henrietta Street in 1837 – note the early layout of Covent Garden market (from Cary’s New Plan of London and its Vicinity)

Salter’s own “usual questions” were on the matters of his personal journey to God, his decision to enter the ministry, and his views on Christian doctrine. He replied with admirable piety and brevity on all three counts (occupying four pages of the published version compared to seventeen from Rev Davies). In the first matter, he was drawn to God, and eventually baptised at Camberwell Baptist Church, after starting as a volunteer teacher at the church Sunday school. In the second, he knew from the moment of his baptism that he wanted to be more than merely a member of a congregation: that he wanted to be of public service to God.

In the third, his Confession of Faith shows that he believed in the Holy Trinity, and in the fundamental wickedness of mankind from Adam and Eve onwards. Sin, at the core of our being, was however more to be pitied and repented of than cursed with fire and brimstone. Salvation was possible for all sinners thanks to the sacrifice of the Son of God. It’s a speech full of love for all sinners and for the glory of God.

We can be fairly sure of the names of two others present at William Augustus' ordination: William Brodie Gurney and his daughter Emma. Emma and William Augustus were married less than a fortnight after this service. Joseph Angus married Emma's sister Amelia a little under four years later. And the flyleaf signature of the original owner of the Angus Library copy of the Henrietta Street speeches is none other than Salter's and Angus's father-in-law, W.B. Gurney.

Signature in the flyleaf of the Angus LIbrary copy of his son-in-law's ordination speeches: W.B. Gurney, Denmark Hill

It’s fascinating to read the clear and convinced statements of William Augustus' understanding of doctrine at the age of twenty-five, because they are entirely consistent with the sermons which he preached more than forty years later in Clarendon Street, and which were published posthumously. That loving belief in the possibility of salvation for his fellow men and women made William Augustus Salter a gentle shepherd to all the flocks he tended.

Saturday 17 October 2015


I’ve been rereading the memoir published by my grandmother’s cousin John Cooper-Chadwick, called Three Years With Lobengula, and Experiences In South Africa. It was written in 1892-93, and has a lightness of style which you wouldn’t expect from a late Victorian author.

John Cooper-Chadwick (1864-1948), pictured in 1885 when he was serving in South Africa with Methuen’s Company of Horse

It was written, John notes in the preface, “only to amuse my father during his latter years of declining health.” This explains the breezy narrative voice which he used to describe an often dangerous or harrowing set of adventures in southern Africa. The voice is all the more remarkable given the physical circumstances under which it was written.

John Cooper-Chadwick was shot by his dog. It wasn’t deliberate. In May 1891 John had cocked his rifle to shoot an antelope, but the antelope ran off. Forgetting to uncock his weapon John upended it and leant on it with his hands resting one on top of the other over the business end. His dog Minnie leapt up handwards hoping to be petted, then slithered back down the slippery barrel. She caught a paw on the trigger. John sustained injuries to his chest and face, but both hands were damaged beyond salvation. He wrote his book, as one biography casually states, “with a pen tied to his elbow joints.”

John was in South Africa between wars, as it were. The First Boer War had ended in 1881 with a moral victory for the Boers, the Dutch settlers in the Transvaal, with whom Britain wisely negotiated a truce. In 1895 an ill-considered British attack on the Transvaal, known to historians as the Jameson Raid, shattered the peace and led eventually to the Second Boer War. John was in Africa from 1885 to 1891 and had spells as a policeman, a gold prospector and a hostage to fortune placed in the camp of Matabele leader Lobengula by Cecil Rhodes.

 Lobengula, king of the Matabele; and Cecil Rhodes, founder of Rhodesia. Rhodes sent John Cooper-Chadwick to be his eyes and ears in Lobengula’s royal compound

The book is a good read. It reflects the imperial British attitudes of the day, but does so with a good humour and humanity couched in rich descriptions of the lives and customs of those around him, of all nationalities and cultures. Here for example is his encounter with a Dutch family as he travels from Bechuanaland to Johannesburg in 1887.

“The first place we came to was Malmani, a little mining town on the Transvaal border. We passed through several small Dutch farms along the road; at some of these we bought milk, butter and eggs, and the people were generally civil.

“On entering a house, it was necessary to shake hands all round with the whole family. This is a long, tedious operation, always performed gravely and silently. Their hands are large, clammy and dirty, and held out as if they did not belong to the owners. Then the usual questions were asked: ‘Where are you going and coming from?’ ‘What is your name?’ ‘Your father’s?’ and so on. When all these questions have been answered coffee is produced, and drunk out of little china bowls. Coffee is drunk all day long, and when the real article is scarce they make it out of roasted Indian corn [maize].

A Boer family photographed in 1886 (picture from Wikipedia)

 “No Boer house is complete without a concertina, and generally one of the young men will keep on playing the same tune for hours for the benefit of his admiring family circle. Their furniture is not very elaborate: a few chairs, benches, and table is about all; overhead, along the rafters, are strings of onions, dried peaches, apples and biltong [dried beef].

“Any stranger passing is welcome to put up, if on horseback; but they look with suspicion on those on foot, and give them the cold shoulder.

“When a young man goes courting, he sits up opposite the girl on certain nights with a candle between them, scarcely speaking all the time; when the candle is burnt out, the young man must go, and it is according as the girl likes him how much candle she leaves to burn.”

For all I know all these customs still persist today, but John Cooper-Chadwick certainly draws a vivid sketch of Boer family life 125 years ago.

Small Boer farmsteads like this were set on fire as part of Britain’s punitive scorched earth policy when hostilities broke out again in 1899

Saturday 10 October 2015


The publication of John Cooper-Chadwick’s memoir of adventures in southern Africa, Three Years With Lobengula, was funded in part by the inclusion of six display advertisements. I wrote about some of those ads directly connected with South African shipping and with Cooper-Chadwick himself in an earlier post.

There is also an advertisement for the South Africa weekly newspaper, “the South African’s Vade Mecum at home and abroad,” with a testimonial from that hero of British imperial colonialism Cecil Rhodes: “South Africa is the only paper of its kind that deals properly with South African Events and Questions.” Rhodes’ mineral rights treaty with Lobengula, king of the Ndebele people, in 1888 was one of the steps towards the creation of the country named after him, Rhodesia. South Africa was launched by Edward Peter Mathers in 1889, while John Cooper-Chadwick was being held in Lobengula’s camp. The Mathers newspaper legacy extended beyond his South Africa title: using the pen name Torquemada in The Observer newspaper, Mathers’ son Edward Powys Mathers is credited with popularising the cryptic crossword clue in the 1920s.
Advertisement in Three Years With Lobengula from the South Africa newspaper, "dealing propoerly with South African Questions"

S.W. Silver & Co, who also advertised in John’s book, had been supplying overseas outfits to members of the Army and the Colonial Service from their Cornhill premises in London since the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century they developed the techniques and materials which Mr Charles Macintosh had first introduced in his rubberised Macintosh raincoats. By the end of the century they were involved in the very modern world of insulated wire and submarine cables. But as a testimonial in their display in Three Years With Lobengula shows, they had not forgotten their clients throughout the British Empire.

 Advertisement in Three Years With Lobengula from S.W.Silver & Co., “equippers” for explorers and travellers

 “This firm has supplied travellers, including myself, with their outfit, and know exactly what is needed for every part of the Globe. As they retain lists of all articles supplied to various expeditions, anyone, by reference to these lists – as, for instance, the outfit of my Kilimanjaro expedition – will be sufficiently guided in their choice.” Thus Silver & Co quote Harry Johnston, polymath explorer, novelist, naturalist and soldier who played a large role, working with Cecil Rhodes, in colonising vast swathes of Africa for Britain at the same time that Rhodes had placed Cooper-Chadwick as his eyes and ears in Lobengula’s camp. His expedition to Kilimanjaro was in 1884, a year after he had met Henry Morton Stanley in the Congo. Johnston published his own African memoirs in 1920 as The Backwards Peoples And Our Relations With Them. (In fact he favoured a much more cooperative attitude to working with native Africans than Rhodes’ aggressive military approach, and the two men fell out.)

Harry Johnston (1858-1927) and Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902), who both wrote testimonials for advertisements in Three Years With Lobengula (photos from Wikipedia)

John, like Johnston, reflected the values and attitudes of his day; but he retained a compassion for all the men he met on his adventures which is reflected in the humanity of his simple story-telling. Three Years With Lobengula is available again in a facsimile edition, and I heartily recommend it both for John’s memoirs and for the fascinating display advertisements which helped pay for its publication.

Saturday 3 October 2015


Among the many delights of my ancestral cousin John Cooper-Chadwick’s book Three Years With Lobengula are the six pages of advertising within it which presumably helped to fund its publication.

Louis Velveteen – “Ladies Should Reject All Subsitutes”
(advertisement from Three Years With Lobengula)

The book describes John’s adventures in southern Africa, and naturally there are advertisements from the shipping companies which served that region. He sailed out to Cape Town in 1885 aboard the Pembroke Castle, a ship of the Donald Currie Line; and the book concludes with the sentence, “The Dunottar Castle was due to sail in a few days, and brought us safely home.”

Above, the Pembroke Castle; below the Dunottar Castle

Donald Currie founded his shipping company in 1862, and the original Pembroke Castle was one of four ships built by Robert Napier of Govan on the Clyde to create Currie's Castle Line fleet in 1863. The second Pembroke Castle, on which Cooper-Chadwick sailed, was the only ship of the line not built on Clydeside – she was launched at Barrow-in-Furness in 1883 only two years before John joined her, and her maiden cruise had attracted the Russian Tzar and European royalty on board.

The Castle Line sailed mainly to Calcutta, until the Suez Canal opened in 1869 and Currie switched his attention to South Africa. On that route the Union Line, established in 1853, was already dominant. In 1876 both lines were appointed to provide the mail service to the colony, to avoid giving either one a monopoly. In 1900 however, the South African government decided to award the contract to only one company. To avoid either of them losing the valuable business, the two lines merged to become the Union-Castle Mail Steamship Co Limited. Currie and his Union Line counterpart Sir Francis Evans signed the deal aboard the Dunottar Castle, built in 1890 only a year before Cooper-Chadwick’s home voyage on her.

The Castle and Union advertisements from Three Years With Lobengula, both boasting the presence of surgeons and stewardesses on board

The promotion of Louis Velveteen through the pages of Cooper-Chadwick’s South African adventures is a less obvious marketing strategy. So too is the decision to advertise Langdale’s Manures there, until one reads in the ad’s copy that John Cooper-Chadwick is Langdale's local agent in Tipperary. John returned on the Dunottar Castle with horrific injuries sustained in a rifle accident while escaping from Lobengula. Despite the loss of both hands he took on the running of the family estate in Ireland, attracted a wife, raised two sons AND handled the agency for the Newcastle-on-Tyne fertiliser firm. Perhaps he was also an agent for Louis Velveteen.

As his book illustrates, he took a no-self-pity, get-on-with-it approach to life even when faced with the tribulations of his African adventures and their consequences. I have the greatest admiration for him.

John Cooper-Chadwick’s advertisement for Langdale’s Manures in his book Three Years With Lobengula – “To agriculturalists who do not use them, a trial is respectfully suggested.”

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