Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Browne, Theophilus

BROWNE, THEOPHILUS (1763–1835), unitarian clergyman, born at Derby in 1763, entered as a student at Christ's College, Cambridge, graduated B.A. and M.A., took orders, and was admitted a follow of Peterhouse on 15 July 1785. In December 1793 he was presented to the college living of Cherry Hinton, Cambridgeshire. While vicar of this country parish he adopted the positions of the Priestley school of unitarians, and resigned his living. In 1800 he became minister of the presbyterian congregation at Warminster. In 1807 he left Warminster for the post of classical and mathematical tutor at Manchester College, York. At midsummer, 1809, Browne left York to become minister of the Octagon Chapel, Norwich. He had preached at Norwich as a candidate in the previous January, and appears to have dissatisfied the college authorities by doing so without notice to them. His ministry at Norwich was unhappy; he is said to have 'magnified his office,' and not to have understood the dislike of his congregation to anything in the shape of a dogmatic creed. He took his stand upon his vested right to a small endowment, and was paid for his resignation at the end of 1810. He did not at once leave Norwich. A letter from him, dated Colgate, Norwich, 10 March 1812, appears in the 'Monthly Repository,' in which he says he will be at liberty to take a congregation at the end of March, and ofl'ers to go on six months' trial. He was minister at Congleton from 1812 to 1814. For a short time he acted as a supply at Chester, but removed to Barton Street Chapel, Gloucester, in 1815. He established a fellowship fund at Gloucester on 1 Nov. 1818, and a y^'ar or two afterwards created some consternation by proposing that unitarian fellowship funds should invest in state lotteries, with a view to gaining windfalls for denominational purposes. He remained at Gloucester till the close of 1823. From this time he resided at Bath, preaching only occasionally. He took great interest in education, and was president of the Bath Mechanics' Institution. His friend Brock speaks of him as 'conscientious almost to a fault,' and very generous to the poor. He lost his wife Anne, three years his senior, on Christmas day, 1884, and died, after a short illness, on 20 May 1835. He was buried at Lyncomb Vale, near Bath. There is a tablet to his memory in Trim Street Chapel, Bath. He published: 1. 'Eight Forms of Prayer for Public Social Worship,' Bath, 1803, 12mo. 2. 'Plain and Useful Selections from the Books of the Old and New Testament,' 1805, 8vo (intended as a lectionary, but not much esteemed; Browne projected a sequel to be taken from the apocrypha). 8. 'Religious Liberty and the Kights of Conscience and Private Judgment grossly violated,' &c., 1819, 12mo, and a sermon. The terms in which he dedicated this pamphlet to the Rev. T. Belsham, 'to whom, if to any, may be justly applied the title Head of the Unitarian Church, gave great offence to his co-religionists. Besides these he edited: 1. Select parts of William Melmoth's 'Great Importance of a Religious Life' (originally published in 1711). 2. A selection of 'Sermons'(1818, 12mo) by Joshua Toulmin, D.D. 3. 'Devotional Addresses and Hymns' (1819, 12mo), by William Russell of Birmingham.

[G. B. B. (George Browne Brock) in Chr. Reformer, 1835), pp. 507 seq., see also p. 806; Monthly Repos. 1812, pp. 64, 272, 1818, p. 760, 1819, pp. 18. 300, 1820, p. 392; Murch's Hist, of Presb. and Gen. Bapt. Churches in W. of Eng. 1835, pp. 13, 16, 92; Taylor's Hist. of Octagon Chapel, Norwich, 1848, p. 55; Roll of Students, Manch. New Coll. 1868; Pickford's Brief Hist. of Congleton Unit. Chapel, 1883, p. 12; manuscript correspondence of Rev. C. Wellbeloved, in possession of G. W. R. Wood, Manchester; information from Rev. J. K. Montgomery, Chester.]

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