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KINGSNORTH, RICHARD (d. 1677), baptist minister, seems to have been a Kentish farmer, although it has been suggested that he was connected with the cloth-making trade. He was led to adopt baptist views through the arguments of the Rev. Francis Cornwell, vicar of Marden, Kent, who announced his own conversion to baptist views in a visitation sermon at Cranbrook in 1644. Christopher Blackwood [q. v.], vicar of Staplehurst, Kent, undertook to confute Cornwell, but, while considering his answer, also became a convert. After being baptised by William Jeffery of Sevenoaks, Blackwood and Kingsnorth founded a baptist congregation which met at Spilshill House, the residence of Kingsnorth, about half a mile from Staplehurst Church. Kingsnorth and most of the congregation were general baptists, and on this account he was chosen and ordained minister.

The church increased under Kingsnorth, spread to adjacent parts, and held meetings at Headcorn, Smarden, and Frittenden. Kingsnorth died in 1677, at which time five of his sons were engaged in the ministry. He is said to have written two works (not extant) vindicating the doctrine of universal redemption, entitled ‘The Pearl of Truth, found out between two Rocks of Error,’ printed in 1670 (Hazlewood, Smarden, p. 198); and ‘Gospel Certainty of Everlasting Felicity.’ After his death a division arose in the church on the subject of the Trinity, and a separation was agreed upon. Two of Kingsnorth's sons, with several ministers and members of the congregation, withdrew and formed a separate church, meeting at Biddenden and Frittenden, while a brother and two other sons remained and upheld the leading tenets of the original foundation. A long list of elders and ministers is given in Hazlewood's ‘Memorials of Smarden.’

[Taylor's General Baptists, i. 286–8; Ivimey's English Baptists, ii. 233–7; Balley's Struggles for Conscience, or Religious Annals of Staplehurst, pp. 12–15; Hazlewood's Memorials of Smarden, pp. 198–9; Kent Examiner and Chronicle, 9 Dec. 1887; information from Mr. W. Tarbutt.]

B. P.