Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kentish, John

KENTISH, JOHN (1768–1853), unitarian divine, only son of John Kentish (d. 1814), was born at St. Albans, Hertfordshire, on 26 June 1768. His father, at one time a draper, was the youngest son, and ultimately the heir, of Thomas Kentish, who in 1723 was high sheriff of Hertfordshire. His mother was Hannah (d. 1793), daughter and heiress of Keaser Vanderplank. After passing through the school of John Worsley at Hertford, he was entered in 1784 as a divinity student at Daventry academy, under Thomas Belsham [q. v.], William Broadbent [q. v.], and Eliezer Cogan [q. v.] In September 1788 he removed, with two fellow-students, to the new college at Hackney, in consequence of a prohibition by the Coward trustees of any use of written prayers at Daventry. In the autumn of 1790 he left Hackney to become the first minister of a newly formed unitarian congregation at Plymouth Dock (now Devonport), Devonshire. A chapel was built in George Street (opened 27 April 1791 by Theophilus Lindsey [q. v.]), and a prayer-book drawn up by Kentish and Thomas Porter of Plymouth. In 1794 he succeeded Porter as minister of the Treville Street congregation, Plymouth. In 1795 he removed to London as afternoon preacher at the Gravel Pit, Hackney, adding to this office in 1802 that of morning preacher at St. Thomas's Chapel, Southwark. On 23 Jan. 1803 he undertook the pastorate of the New Meeting, Birmingham. In 1832 he declined the emolument but retained the office of pastor, and continued to preach frequently till 1844. He retained his faculties to a great age, and died of pneumonia on Sunday, 6 March 1853, at his residence, Park Vale, Edgbaston. On 15 March he was buried in Kaye Hill cemetery, Birmingham. A mural tablet to his memory was placed in the New Meeting, removed in 1862 to the church of the Messiah, Birmingham. His portrait, painted in 1840 by Phillips, was engraved by Lupton; a full-length silhouette, executed in 1851, exhibits his short stature, portly figure, and old-fashioned costume with knee-breeches. He married, in October 1805, Mary (b. 21 March 1775, d. 9 March 1864), daughter of John Kettle of Birmingham, but had no issue.

Kentish was a man of great personal dignity, and his weight of character, extensive learning, and ample fortune munificently administered, secured for him a consideration rarely accorded to a nonconformist minister. His favourite study was biblical exegesis; he was a scholar of solid attainment, versed in oriental languages, and familiar with the labours of German critics. In politics an old whig, he was in religion a unitarian of the most conservative type, holding closely to the miraculous basis of revelation. His sermons were remarkable for beauty of style.

He published, in addition to separate sermons (1796–1844): 1. ‘Letter to James White,’ &c., 1794, 8vo. 2. ‘Reply to Fuller's Examination of the Calvinistic and Socinian Systems,’ &c., 2nd edit. 1798, 8vo. 3. ‘Notes and Comments on Passages of Scripture,’ &c., 1844, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1846, 8vo; 3rd edit. 1848, 8vo. 4. ‘Biographical Notice of Rev. George Wiche,’ &c., 1847, 8vo. 5. ‘Sermons,’ &c., Birmingham, 1848, 8vo; 2nd edit. with ‘Memoir’ by John Kenrick [q. v.], 1854, 8vo. His ‘Memoir’ of Timothy Kenrick [q. v.] is prefixed to the latter's ‘Exposition,’ 1807, 8vo, 3 vols. To the ‘Monthly Repository’ and ‘Christian Reformer’ he was a frequent contributor, usually with the signature ‘N.’

[Biographical Dictionary of Living Authors, 1816, p. 187; Murch's Hist. Presb. and Gen. Bapt. Churches in the West of England, 1835, pp. 504 sq., 526 sq.; Inquirer, 19 March 1853, p. 180 (article by John Kenrick, reprinted from the Birmingham Mercury); Christian Reformer, 1853 pp. 262, 265 sq. (memoir by John Kenrick, reprinted with Sermons, 1854), 1854 p. 223; Unitarian Herald, 18 March 1864, p. 99; Addit. MS. 24870; personal recollection.]

A. G.