Walton, Christopher (DNB00)
WALTON, CHRISTOPHER (1809–1877), theosopher, son of John and Hannah Walton, was born at Worsley, Lancashire, in June 1809. He was educated by Jonathan Crowther (1794–1856) [q. v.] He came to London in 1830, having served his time in a Manchester warehouse. After gaining some experience abroad, he began business as a silk-mercer. Ultimately he made a fortune as a jeweller and goldsmith on Ludgate Hill, remaining in business till 1875. His religious connection was with the Wesleyan methodists. For many years (from 1839) he was one of the secretaries to the Strangers' Friend Society; its reports 1844 and 1845 are his. Through the specimens in Wesley's ‘Christian Library’ he was introduced to the writings of William Law [q. v.]; Law led him to Jacob Boehme, and he found a key to Boehme in the diagrams of Dionysius Andrew Freher. His interest in theosophical writings of this class was widened by acquaintance with James Pierrepont Greaves [q. v.] On the other hand, he was strongly attracted by the type of devout mysticism presented in Sigston's ‘Life of William Bramwell’ (1839, 8vo), whom he considered the model of a Christian divine. He became a diligent collector of the writings, in print or in manuscript, of mystics of all ages and of all schools, keeping most of his books in what he termed his ‘Theosophian Library’ on his premises at 8 Ludgate Hill. These, he considered, provided the materials for a preliminary study essential to the biographer of William Law [q. v.], author of the ‘Serious Call.’ About 1845 he advertised for an assistant in the task, giving an elaborate list of the qualities requisite in a candidate. To make his purpose clearer, he began to print in November 1847 ‘An Outline of the Qualifications … for the Biography of … Law.’ The ‘Outline,’ printed at intervals, was completed at Christmas 1853. Incomplete copies were circulated as the printing proceeded; to the whole was prefixed the title ‘Notes and Materials for … Biography of … Law. Comprising an Elucidation of … the Writings of … Böhme, and … Freher; with a Notice of the Mystical Divinity … of all ages of the world. … For Private Circulation. … Five hundred copies,’ 1854, 8vo. The work is disorderly beyond description, yet a treasury of biographical and bibliographical information, without index or table of contents. He printed also an ‘Introduction to Theosophy’ (vol. i. 1854, 18mo); it was intended to reach thirty volumes, but only parts were printed. Some other (anonymous) publications bearing on theosophy were probably written at Walton's suggestion and printed at his cost. He had prepared a vast number of theosophic diagrams of his own invention on the Freher pattern.
In 1875 Walton deposited nearly the whole of his unrivalled collection with Dr. Williams's trustees at the library, then in Grafton Street, now in Gordon Square, stipulating that it should be kept apart as the ‘Walton Theosophical Library,’ and be always open to students in this class of literature. His London residence, 9 Southwood Terrace, Highgate, was always open to similar inquirers.
He died on 11 Oct. 1877 at 16 Cambridge Terrace, Southend-on-Sea, and was buried in Highgate cemetery on 15 Oct. In person he was of large build; in manner, sententious but kindly, and absolutely destitute of humour. His interest in his subject was fundamentally a religious one; and, though he could criticise Wesley, his lifelong attachment to methodism was the expression of deep personal conviction. He was twice married. By his first wife, Anna Maria Pickford (d. 1863) of Bristol, he had two sons and three daughters. On the death of his son Christopher he adopted a son, to whom he gave his own name. By his second wife, who survived him, he had one daughter. His will (2 Oct. 1877, proved 19 Feb. 1878) contains provisions referring to his theosophic collections.[Watchman and Wesleyan Advertiser, 17 Oct. 1877; Christian Life, 3 Nov. 1877, p. 535; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. iii. 107, 372; Stevenson's City Road Chapel , p. 520; Jeremy's Presbyterian Fund, 1885, p. 94; personal recollection.]