Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bransby, James Hews

BRANSBY, JAMES HEWS (1783–1847), Unitarian minister, was a native of Ipswich. His father, John Bransby (d. 17 March 1837, aged seventy-five), was an instrument maker, a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, author of a treatise on 'The Use of the Globes, &c.,' 1791, 8vo, and editor of the 'Ipswich Magazine,' 1799. The son became heterodox in opinion, and was educated for the Unitarian ministry, in the academy maintained at Exeter from 1799 to 1804 by Timothy Kenrick and Joseph Bretland. On 1 May 1803 (Letter, p. 15) he was invited to become minister at the 'new meeting' (opened 31 Oct. 1802) to the old presbyterian congregation at Moreton Hampstead, Devonshire. Here he kept a school, and among his pupils was John Bowring, afterwards Sir John Bowring, in whose autobiography are some amusing particulars of his master. In 1805 Bransby removed to Dudley. He continued to keep a preparatory school for boys. He was by no means unpopular, but his eccentricities gradually excited considerable remark, particularly as he developed a tendency which is perhaps best described as kleptomania. At length he committed a breach of trust, involving forgery, which was condoned on condition of his quitting Dudley in 1828 for ever. He was succeeded, on 1 July 1829, by Samuel Bache [q. v.] Bransby retired to Wales, and supported himself by teaching, by editing a paper, and by odd jobs of literary work. His peculiarities accompanied him in this department, for he would borrow a manuscript and, after improvements, send it to a magazine as his own. An irresistible impulse led him on one occasion to revisit Dudley for a few hours; as he stood gazing at his old meeting-house he was recognised, but spared. Late in life he occasionally preached again. He died very suddenly at Bron'r Hendref, near Carnarvon, on 4 Nov. 1847, aged 64 years. His wife, Sarah, daughter of J. Isaac, general baptist minister at Moreton Hampstead, predeceased him on 28 Oct. 1841. Bransby left behind him a mass of very compromising papers, which fell accidentally into the hands of Franklin Baker [q. v.], and were probably destroyed. Besides many addresses, sermons, and pamphlets, Bransby published:

  1. 'Maxims, Reflections, and Biographical Anecdotes,' 1813, 12mo.
  2. 'Selections for Reading and Recitation,' 1814, 8vo, 2nd edit. 1831, with title 'The School Anthology.'
  3. 'A Sketch of the History of Carnarvon Castle,' 1829, 8vo, 3rd edit. 1832, 8vo (plate).
  4. 'An Account of the ... Wreck of the Newry,' 1830 (not published; reprinted 'Christian Reformer,' 1830, pp. 486 sq.)
  5. 'A Narrative of the ... Wreck of the Rothsay Castle,' 1831, 12mo (chart; reprinted 'Christian Reformer,' 1831, pp. 405 sq.; this and the foregoing are full of details derived from personal knowledge, and are admirably written).
  6. 'Brief Notices of the late Rev. G. Crabbe Carnarvon, 1832, 12mo.
  7. 'The Port Folio … anecdotes,' 1832, 12mo. 8. 'A Brief Account of the remarkable Fanaticism prevailing at Water Stratford … 1694,' Carnarvon, 1835, 12mo.
  8. 'Description and Historical Sketch of Beddgelert,' Carnarvon, 1840, 8vo.
  9. 'Evans' Sketch … eighteenth edition … with an account of several new sects,' 1842, 16mo (best edition of this useful compendium of 'all religions,' first published 1794, 12mo; Bransby includes 'Puseyites,' and works in, without acknowledgment, the contributions of several friends).
  10. 'A Description of Carnarvon, &c.,' Carnarvon, 1845, 12mo.
  11. 'A Description of Llanberis, &c.,' Carnarvon, 1845, 8vo.

In 1834 Bransby printed in the 'Christian Reformer' (p. 837) a letter from S. T. Coleridge, 19 Jan. 1798, explaining his withdrawal from 'the candidateship for the ministerial office at Shrewsbury.' In 1835 he reprinted in the same magazine (p. 12) a forgotten letter of John Locke; and in 1841 a series of papers, signed 'Monticola.' contained most of his additions to Evans.

[Monthly Repos. 1818, 229, 1822, 434, 1837, 452; Murch's Hist. of Presb. and Gen. Bapt. Churches in W. of Eng. 1835, 473, 479, 568; Chr. Reformer, 1842, 12, 1847,760; Autobiographical Recollections of Sir J. Bowring, 1877, p. 44 sq.; Extracts from Trustees' Mimites, Wolverhampton Street Chapel, Dudley; private information.]

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