Brown, Hugh Stowell (DNB01)

BROWN, HUGH STOWELL (1823–1886), baptist minister, born at Douglas, Isle of Man, on 10 Aug. 1823, was second son of Robert Brown, by his wife Dorothy (Thomson). Thomas Edward Brown [q. v. Suppl.] was his younger brother.

The father, Robert Brown (d. 1846), was at one time master of the grammar school in Douglas, and in 1817 became chaplain of St. Matthew's chapel in that town. An evangelical of extreme views, he never read the Athanasian Creed, and took no notice of Ash Wednesday or Lent. In 1832 he became curate of Kirk Braddan, succeeding as vicar on 2 April 1836. He learned Manx in order to preach in it, and supported a family of nine on less than 200l. a year. His boys spent the summers in collecting his tithes of hay and corn, intermittently walking five miles to Douglas grammar school, but Hugh's early education consisted chiefly in reading four or five hours daily to his father, who became almost blind. Robert Brown was found dead by the roadside on 28 Nov. 1846, and buried next day at Kirk Braddan. He wrote twenty-two 'Sermons on various Subjects,' Wellington (Shropshire) and London, 1818, 8vo; and a volume of 'Poems, principally Sacred,' London, 1826, 12mo (cf. Letters of Thomas Edward Brown, 1900, i. 13-18).

Hugh was apprenticed when fifteen to a land surveyor, and employed in tithe commutation and ordnance surveys in Cheshire, Shrewsbury, and York. In 1840 he entered the London and Birmingham Railway Company's works at Wolverton, Buckinghamshire. While earning from four to eight shillings a week he began to study Greek, chalking his first exercises on a fire-box. After three years, part of the time spent in driving a locomotive between Crewe and Wolverton, he returned home and entered King William's College at Castletown to study for the church. When his training was almost complete he felt unable to subscribe to the ordination service, and resolved to return to his trade; but in the meantime was baptised at Stony Stratford, lost his father, and received unexpectedly an invitation to preach at Myrtle Street Baptist Chapel, Liverpool. About November 1847 he was accepted by that congregation as their minister. He was then twenty-four. There he remained until his death, winning great popularity as a preacher. To his Sunday afternoon lecture, established in 1854 in the Concert Hall, Liverpool, he drew from two to three thousand working men, whom his own early experiences, added to great power and plainness of speech, with abundant humour, powerfully influenced. He anticipated the post office by opening a workman's savings bank, to which over 80,000l. was entrusted before it was wound up. In 1873 he visited Canada and the States.

Brown was president in 1878 of the Baptist Union. His addresses (printed in London, 1878) were an appeal for a better educated nonconformist ministry. He thought at one time of retiring from Liverpool to open a hall at Oxford or Cambridge, to be affiliated to one of the colleges. He was in favour of abandoning denominational colleges, the students to take their arts degrees at existing universities. He was an active member of the Baptist Missionary Society, and for many years president of the Liverpool Peace Society and chairman of the Seaman's Friend Association. He died after a few days' illness from apoplexy on 24 Feb. 1886 at 29 Falkner Square, Liverpool, and was buried on 28 Feb. at the West Derby Road cemetery.

Brown married, first, in 1848, Alice Chibnall Sirett, who was the mother of all his children, and died in 1863; secondly, he married Phoebe, sister to Mr. W. S. Caine, M.P., who was also his son-in-law. She died on 25 March 1884.

Many of Brown's lectures to working men were printed both separately and together. They include: 1. 'The Battle of Life,' 1857, 8vo. 2. 'Lectures,' 3 vols. Liverpool, 1858-60, 12mo. 3. ' Hogarth and his Pictures,' 1860, 8vo. 4. 'The Bulwarks of Protestantism,' London, 1868, 8vo. 5. 'Lectures to Working Men,' London, 1870, 8vo. 6. 'Ancient Maxims for Modern Times,' London, 1876, 8vo. He contributed a series of 'Sunday Readings' to 'Good Words.' Posthumously appeared : 'Manliness and other Sermons,' Edinburgh and London, 1889, 8vo, with preface by Alexander Maclaren, D.D., and other discourses in 'Sermons for Special Occasions,' 'The Clerical Library,' 1888, 8vo. His 'Autobiography,' with extracts from his commonplace book, was edited, with selections from his sermons, by W. S. Caine, London, 1887, 8vo. A portrait, painted in 1872 by Edwin Long, R.A., is reproduced in the work, with two other likenesses.

[Brown's Autobiography, ed. W. S. Caine, and Works; Harrison's Bibliotheca Monensis, 1876, and his Church Notes (Manx See.), 1879, pp. 113, 115; Thwaites's Isle of Man, p. 386; Letters of T. E. Brown, i. 118; Liverpool Mercury, 25 and 27 Feb. and 1 March 1886.]

C. F. S.