John Charlesworth

John Charlesworth (1782-1864) was the husband of Elizabeth Beddome.

From Cambridge Alumni Database:
Charlesworth, John.
Adm. sizar at QUEENS', May 31, 1822. (Previously adm. sizar at St Catharine's, Jan. 22, 1816.)
[S. of John Charlesworth, R. of Ossington, Notts. B. there 1782.]
Matric. Easter, 1824; B.D. 1826.
Ord. deacon (Norwich) 1809; priest, Dec. 18 1814;
C. of Happisburgh, Norfolk, 1809.
R. of Flowton, Suffolk, 1815-44.
R. of Blakenham Parva.
R. of St Mildred's, Bread Street, London, 1844-64.
In early life practised with a surgeon at Clapham, Surrey, but came under the influence of the Rev. John Venn and associated himself with 'The Clapham Sect.' An ardent evangelical; friend of Edward Bickersteth and of Henry Thornton, M.P. An active worker with Wilberforce in the anti-slavery struggle.
Author, On Affliction and Spiritual Distress.
Died Apr. 20, 1864, at Islington. Buried at Limpsfield, Surrey, where his son Samuel was rector.

His father also went to Cambridge University. Here is his record:
Charlesworth, John.
Adm sizar (age 17) at Trinity, July 6, 1759.
S. of Benjamin, of Brigg, Lincs (probably Benjamin Charlesworth, M.D., whose widow, Maria Welch, married John Hare).
School, Brigg (Mr Skelton).
Matric. Easter, 1760; Scholar, 1761; B.A. 1764; M.A. 1767. Fellow, 1766.
C. of Manton, Lincs, 1764.
R. of Ossington, Notts., in 1782.
Died Dec.1, 1821, aged 79, at Ossington.
[For his son Edward Parker Charlesworth, M.D., of Lincoln, see D.N.B]
See Wikipedia article on Edward Parker Charlesworth.

The quiet worker for good, a familiar sketch of J. Charlesworth by John Purcell Fitz-gerald, M.A. by Trinity College Cambridge was published 1865. John Purcell Fitz-gerald was a friend of John Charlesworth. The following parts of the book are interesting, either from the point of view of my family history, or because of the Abolition of the Slave Trade. My own comments are added in italics.

Part I - Brief summary of his life
Part VII - Abolition of Slavery
Part VIII - his family life


John Charlesworth was born in 1782, at the Parsonage of Ossington, in Nottinghamshire. His father, once Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, was Rector of that Parish. Both his previous ancestors were also Clergymen. No records remain of his early education and youth.

At the usual time, he was sent to study Medicine, being intended for its profession. His brother, Dr. Charlesworth, was for a long period, an eminent and highly esteemed Physician in Lincoln. After his term of study, at the age of 22 years, he began practising under a Surgeon, who resided at Clapham in Surrey. There he listened to the teaching of that eminent Minister, the Rev. J. Venn, a name now endeared to us by four generations of True Piety.

There he became intimate with another well-known witness for truth, Henry Thornton, Esq., M.P., one of "Wilberforce's most active friends and fellow-labourers in the Slave-Trade-Abolition Struggle. Thus Mr. Charlesworth, associated himself, as a young man, with what the Edinburgh Reviewer has derisively called "The Clapham Sect" - a body of men who believed what they professed to believe of Gospel-truth; and who helped by their faith and zeal to bring on the great revival of genuine religion that broke forth within the Established Church, and led hundreds of its Ministers to own and practise as the living faith, a scheme of man's redemption and a holiness of life, which their predecessors had almost discarded.

It was amidst this hallowed society that young Charlesworth, decided to join the company of faithful Ministers. In 1809, he received ordination as Deacon from the then Bishop of Norwich. He was licensed to the Curacy of Happisburgh, a retired village on the N.E. coast of Norfolk. In order to qualify himself by more full theological knowledge for his sacred office, he entered his name at Queen's College, Cambridge. About 1822-3, he graduated as B.D.

In the year 1814, he was presented by his friend Mr. Thornton (of Clapham), to the Rectory of Flowton, a small rural village in Suffolk. For thirty years he unceasingly laboured for the good of that parish. In 1844, he removed to London, having accepted the living of one of the City Churches, St. Mildred's, Bread Street. That Incumbency he held till his death, which took place at Islington, in his peaceful home, on April 22nd, 1864, at the age of 82 years.

Unfortunately there is not much about John Charlesworth himself in this account of the Abolition of the Slave Trade (by the way, he is "Mr. C"). It should be noted that this account was published in 1865. The American Civil War (where the position of Slavery was paramount) was fought 1861-1865, and it seems that this account was written before its end.


Mr. C.'s Interest in the Abolition of Slavery - Reflections of the Difficulties of that Struggle - England's continued Complicity with North American Slavery - Intercourse with Thomas Clarkson - Some Notice of that Eminent Man.

"For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." (1 John iii. 8.) To put down all cruelty and oppression over man by his fellow man, was therefore one of Christ's simplest dictates. Christ's Gospel in its reality had only to spread, and man would "love his neighbour as himself." (Luke x. 27.) But to what height had man's innate wickedness risen, when, under the light of a Saviour's mercy. Christians, so-called, could carry on that combination of all crimes against their fellow men, the Slave Trade and Slavery? Yet so it was, that after 1800 years of professed Gospel truth, Protestant as well as Roman-Catholic nations vied with each other to convict the "accursed thing" as we may justly call it. But "Religion" in its reality, had reappeared. "Religion" means "the binding back" the "re-attachment" of lost man to his God, who is "love" and thereby the binding back of man to man as his "brother" in brotherly love. The impious system of Slavery must then fall. But what a death struggle would it make before that fall?

All efforts to uproot great evils have ever been successfully carried on by a few great and daring minds, that went "before their age." They persevered against the fiercest opponents, and against the advice of friends, who would have stopped their rapid march as "inexpedient."

So it was with Clarkson and Wilberforce, and a few others. They simply looked at the fact, that the Slave system was forbidden by every Gospel precept. In the faith of Him who gave that Gospel, they went undauntedly to the conflict, and carried England with them; we may say they have now carried all European (Christian) nations with them. And though no cry of national repentance for its wickedness in upholding Slavery as a "domestic institution" has sounded from the "United States"; though the deliverance of Slaves from their chains was only put forward as a war-cry for rousing the Slaves to fight against their masters; we must see in the dreadful four years war that have been waged, a Divine retribution on man's iniquity. If ever we may presume to assign a cause for righteous vengeance, here surely it may be done. Slavery must soon fall in America.

Abhorrence of Slavery may be said to have been drunk in by my friend with his first breath, from his excellent father. The latter had interested himself in the anti-slavery movement. When, in his own county, meetings in order to promote an interest for the Negro, were to be got up; and when Mr. Clarkson was to visit Nottinghamshire, old Mr. Charlesworth was actively at work.

Mr. Wilberforce (with whom he was also acquainted) used to say, "that he could always reckon on old Mr. C. for three counties, and that the latter kept three counties in readiness for him."

"Mr. C.'s father was also one of the Share-holders who joined in purchasing the district of Sierra Leone as a settlement for freed Africans."

When therefore in Suffolk, my friend found himself stationed within a few miles of Thomas Clarkson, he must have rejoiced in the hope of intercourse with such a man. He became Clarkson's intimate friend; and that intimacy must have told importantly upon his own after life.

Before speaking more personally of Clarkson, I maybe excused for making some remarks on the difficulties with which he and others had to grapple. We may not measure them only by the powerfull opposition that our own "West Indian Proprietors" made in our Houses of Parliament during so many years. We must rather measure them by the self-satisfied "religion" with which so many in our country justified slavery on what they called a "Scripture warrant" The indifference to plain moral duties with which a self-satisfied religion may co-exist, delayed for a long time England's extinction of slavery, though England had abolished the "trade." And can we say that England is delivered from this self-satisfied state? How is it, that, during the long years in which our merchants have climbed to rapid wealth through the slave-grown cotton of North America, no pulpit in Manchester or Liverpool has dared to expose to them the guilt of their complicity with slavery in all its wickedness? No national voice of repentance went forth from England, mourning that our fathers had helped to set up slavery in the States; and that we having freed the slaves in our own colonies, went on as long as we could using slave-labour by proxy, and enriching ourselves at the sacrifice of all moral precepts, encouraging other men to commit the sin which we in profession condemned as indefensible!

Not only no repentance by England, but all who are acquainted with our cotton-manufacturing district, must have observed that the only mourning, expressed at public meetings and by newspapers at the hideous war between the "States", was a mourning that the supply of (slave-grown) cotton had stopped; that many of our cotton mills must be closed, and that hundreds of thousands of our "operatives" must for a time lack employment, or only receive half their former wages! Not a single public meeting took place that I can hear of during all this time of carnage, to invoke the mercy of God upon North America, or that the "sword", that "most sore judgment", might return to its scabbard! Peace was longed for - if it might send to our shores the millions of cotton bales which the unpaid, unmerciful, unjust labour of slaves could produce.

Surely over our door might the words of Jeremiah be justly written, "Thine eyes and thine heart are not but for thy covetousness." (Jer. xxii. 17.)

Surely the Southern slave-holder must have often, and deservedly, laughed to scorn our religion with its two faces; one of "brotherly love " for England, another permitting theft and rapine across the Atlantic.

Surely too, we, as a nation, ought to have seen in the distress and perplexity that came over our cotton district, some droppings from that thunder-cloud which burst so terribly upon the "States".

So lax are the views of Slavery that are still held in our country, so false the doctrine that is drawn from the perversion of Holy Scripture, that I believe these reflections are fully warranted.

Mr. C. had not learned to say what was so often said, even by clergymen in his day: " The slaves are well fed, and tolerably clothed. Do not disturb them with notions of liberty, teach them the Gospel; they can with it live and die as happily as any free man." We needed no proof of this. A faint glimmer of heavenly light was no doubt sufficient to carry the poor slave through all his miseries; while the "minister " who had fifty-fold more knowledge than that slave, and had taught that slave that he was his master's "chattel", that he had no Divine right to call his wife or children "his own", that minister probably lived and died without peace or joy. Nor, like many who could not or would not, face the radical question, "What is our duty according to the Divine will?" Nor was Mr. C. misled by that hypocritical covering of sin, "Religion shines most brightly in the submission of slaves to their masters; St. Peter and St Paul stamp with a Divine approbation such a submission by those under the yoke." (1 Tim. vi. 1, 1 Pet. ii. 18.)

The answer to be giren to such pretext was a question: "Did the West Indian or American slaveholder work slaves in order to prove to the world how able is Divine faith to support martyr-slayes who would rather die under their oppressors than rebel against them?"

The slaveholder abroad, and the English merchant who received his unlawful produce here, knew that each worked the slave for no religious object, but to make the largest gain at the smallest cost.

Mr. C. and the band of Christian "abolitionists" knew how to distinguish things that differed. It was one thing for the Apostles to enjoin on slaves who were under heathen masters the duty of submission; it was another thing for men who professed the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and thereby pledged themselves to "keep His commandments;" it was another thing for such men to re-establish the heathen system of slavery, after that the spirit of Gospel-truth had gradually put it down; yes, to set up a worse than the old Pagan slavedom; for the horrors of a "middle passage" were no part of the latter.

As well might Christians revive Polygamy, or absolute despotic power in a ruler over his people, because those "Institutions" prevailed in tbe Apostles' days.

The noble, though small, band of godly men who began during Mr. C.'s time their great work of unchaining the oppressed, felt that theirs was a duty not only to the slave, but to his master. The Slaveholder must be taught that his sin was incompatible with the favour of God, or the inheritance of heaven; and that from these the "man-stealer" was as distinctly shut out as were "idolaters" or "murderers of fathers or mothers." (1 Tim. i. 9, 10.)

Above all, it was their duty to a Divine Master, that they should clear His religion from the charge which heathens abroad and infidels at home had thrown upon it; viz.: that the negro was a being bom with capacities inferior to those of white men; and that, consequently the moral obligation of treating him as a brother was lowered, if not destroyed; that African millions were doomed by a Divine curse to perpetual bondage.

It was in 1807 that our country gave up the "trade" (properly speaking,) the purchase of African prisoners from the kings who had taken them in war, and the transfer of those victims who survived the sea voyage to our colonies.

After this, nearly forty years of untiring struggle passed before religion triumphed, and England put an end to slavery throughout her colonies in 1883.

Mr. C. lived through that struggle - according to his ability, and in his own quiet way, he took part in it.

Clarkson, that august friend of man, who that ever saw him can forget him? Yet he has no biographer. No statue is erected to his memory in Westminster Abbey, where Wilberforce and Buxton so justly find a place. No fitting tablet even is upon the walls of Playford Church. But his "record is on High."

In the churchyard, near to his burial place, there is a rude obelisk, with these words upon it: "Clarkson, the Friend of Slaves."

Surely, though only a few English friends helped to build this pillar, they might have added to the five words inscription, "Africa's millions, present and to come, join us in this tribute, though unasked."

Most unhappily for us, all his long years' correspondence with statesmen, ambassadors, and the ministers of other countries; all his letters to the Anti-Slavery Society; which must have illustrated the great struggle, have disappeared. It is only in his own book, "The History of the Abolition of the Slave Trade," that we get authentic details of his labours - and these are not prominently named.

It was after reading one of his early pamphlets, that Wilberforce entered (as he tells us) on the war against Slavery. Through Wilberforce it was that Thornton came forward to add his wise counsel, and Macaulay to record the acts that he had witnessed in Jamaica as to the slave system.

Clarkson's appearance was truly majestic. In height he stood above six feet. His features were regular and grand. His face bore furrows of long care and conflict. His manners were eminently simple. There was no measured condescension or dignity towards others. When I first met him in 1825, at a time when he had spent forty years in the noblest benevolence towards mankind; he did not receive you, as if he felt himself to be "the great man" to whom one quarter of the world would pay homage as to its deliverer. But you looked on him as the truly great man; that is to say, the man whose mind and time are devoted to the grandest objects; to schemes of world-wide benevolence; the man who fills his place as the servant of the Infinite God, and whose happiness it is to obey His commands by seeking to bless the world.

Clarkson seemed to you truly great, for he could come down to the little. He took you by the hand with a fatherly smile; and he heard your questions and observations as if he were learning somewhat from you. We know that the epithet of "greatness" is applied to only one man in Scripture - to John the Baptist. If in anything he was remarkable, it was in self-renunciation, and the absence of self-importance; he was great in humility. "He (the Saviour) must increase; but I must decrease." (John iii.) John was ready to become as nothing. It was sufficient reward to have done his work; to have proclaimed "the Lamb of God."

So, in their measure, it was with Wilberforce and Clarkson. They "fulfilled their course" like John. They did their work of mercy. They quitted this world in comparative seclusion.

Playford Hall, so long Clarkson's residence, is about four miles north of Ipswich. It is certainly one of the most picturesque old English homes of East Suffolk. Though probably only half its former size, and adapted for modern convenience rather than architectural "order," it has its ancient moat unspoilt. The buttressed walls fringed with ivy, and its bridge, carry us back three or four hundred years. The venerable trees that overarch the road which winds along the small domain, give it the appearance of a delightful retreat.

Here Clarkson died, at the age of eighty-six; having outlived all the difficulties and seen the success of his great struggle. Hence his body was carried, and followed with pious reverence to the village church by a few friends. Little notice did the event excite; but he had vindicated our Blessed Redeemer's Faith from the horridest charge which its false professors had brought upon it; viz. complicity with rapine, oppression and murder. And the day will I believe come, when many of Africa's children, regenerated in heart by that Gospel which Clarkson vindicated, will make their pilgrimage to Playford, and praise God for freedom of soul and body as they bend over Clarkson's grave.

The following letter, written by Mr. Clarkson to Mr. Charlesworth in 1843, both illustrates the regard in which the friends held each other, and the untiring energy with which "The Friend of Slaves" occupied himself to the last with schemes for man's welfare.

"Playford, Saturday Evening,
"11th February, 1843.

"Dear Mr. Charlesworth,

"I received your letter, but have been so unwell and overdone by business (slavery), that I was hindered from answering it sooner. Would you think it possible, when you supposed that our efforts on that subject were at an end, that now on the eve of going into the eighty-fourth year of my age, I should have been obliged to work eight hours a day for the last three years to forward our cause. But there has always been something or other rising up to call me into action; such as the case of poor Nelson Hacket in our Canadian territories, and the probability of breaking up the beautiful little colony to which he fled. The 10th Article of the American Treaty now to be discussed in Parliament, by which the fugitive slaves from slavery are in danger of being returned to their old masters. The wicked plan of going to Africa for labourers of our own West Indian colonies, which may degenerate into a new 'Slave Trade'. These, and a variety of other subjects, have kept me constantly in "hot water" by a heavy correspondence, when I ought to have couted in the evening of my life to have had some rest. But, God's will be done! I entered into the great subject and I must see it out, as far as my exertions can accomplish it.

"I am now going, I began indeed yesterday, to set my house in order, previously to my being called away to another world. This setting my house in order consists, in one instance, of looking over my manuscript papers (a month's work, at least), and I find many of what I call of great value, containing what I intended to do, if my life were spared. It appears from some of these papers that, after visiting the Lascars as before mentioned, I thought of taking up the cause, not of the Lascars only, but of sailors at large. Having had an opportunity during my journeys on the slave trade of seeing personally some hundreds of them; and of knowing, in fact, all their grievances; no people are worse used. No people on account of their great hardship, deserve our compassion more. And when we consider them as our Navy, the defenders of our country, they are entitled to the national favour and support. One of the papers which fell into my hand, was an essay on this subject, to be fulfilled some time or other. If I can find time, and my spirits will allow me, I shall make the essay complete.

"With our kind regards, and best wishes to your family,

"I remain, my dear friend,
"Yours affectionately,
(Signed) " Thomas Clarkson."

"P.S. I do not know whether you can read this, as I am now nearly blind, and no new spectacles will help me."

This account of the family of John Charlesworth is particularly interesting when you compare it to the family life of his son Rev. Samuel Charlesworth and his fight with his own daughter, Maud, played out in the pages of the Times! This account emphasises that obedience to the family head was all. However, it also shows a tolerance, even approval, of "godly Dissenting ministers", which explains Samuel's initial acceptance of the Salvation Army, and possibly his daughter's enthusiastic acceptance of them. Samuel Charlesworth could, perhaps, have learned from his father about not speaking too hastily.


It was, I believe, in the year 1825, that I first visited Mr. C. He then resided in Ipswich; I had afterwards the pleasure of frequent intercourse with him, with various intervals for twelve years. His simple manners were most attractive, compared with much that I had begun to see in the religious world. The charm of such manners laid in the evidence they gave you of a mind at rest with itself, because at "peace with God;" of an unworldliness of spirit, an absence of selfish bustle. Without dogmatism or party-spirit, you felt that one great object shone in all that he spoke of, or worked for. I had heard several great preachers, and met many men of commanding Christian influence and attainments. Here, however, was to be seen the best of religion as to its practical results. The simple Pastor in his family; the simple manners and habits of that family. In how many cases is the influence of a godly Pastor weakened, when the villagers observe the flippant modern manners, and the showy dress of his daughters? The children, under the gentle and even course of treatment, were in cheerful subjection; they were usefully occupied. It is a great advantage for daughters to have help from such a father in their reading and studies, while it was an equal advantage for the sons to listen to their mother's teaching. I will not say more of her who still survives, than that through their long and happy union, she not only soothed his often wounded spirit, but kept pace harmoniously with all his best efforts.

Mr. C. not only forbade books of any known vicious character to be read (that which most parents would do) but he forbade books of a frivolous or trifling character. He forbade (as he told me) the "Newspapers" to his children. The "Record" newspaper suffered the same exclusion. At this I could not wonder; for though that Journal shuts out the details of loathsome crime, and is so far admissible to young persons; it admits what is perhaps the most dangerous of all matter for reading; it publishes criticisms on, and often gives extracts from infidel writings. From the purest motives - to warn us of lurking or more daring evil, it has been a most faithful and valuable witness for the Truth. But if the question be what kind of newspaper is fitted for general "family reading?" I cannot think that a publication which so frequently deals even with blasphemous writings, could be put by a wise parent into his children's hands. As it regards Ministers of the Word) the able refutation which the "Record" often gives to such books, may be of great service; and I think that if there were sent forth by this newspaper a separate monthly or quarterly "Review" of books that call for Buch criticisms and refutations, it might be of equal service to Ministers, while their children would escape the danger.

Such a family, under such truly Christian influence, was a new thing for myself to witness. It was what a "home" ought to be; the peace, the simplicity, the constant doing of good in a quiet way, made up an edifying contrast to the mixed emotion that a young seeker for truth feels in the "religious" movements of London life, or at those meetings of the more wealthy and ennobled, where, amidst the thick splendour of furniture and feasting, he can scarcely understand what is meant by the "wilderness through which we are passing," or the "enduring hardness" as soldiers in the great warfare. (2 Tim. ii. 3.) To be in such bewildering scenes may indeed to an earnest Christian heart be a "wilderness," for with that term perplexity and sorrow are identified.

During all the intercourse that I enjoyed with him, I never heard him speak in an unkind or excited spirit of any one. I never heard him spread an evil report; I never heard him speak even hastily, much less with apparent irritation; I never beard him allude to any slight that might have been offered to him. These traits of character made him unique amongst my acquaintance; I know no parallel with it.


I must not forget another cause of gratitude to him. He introduced me to godly Dissenting ministers. Having been taught to believe that all such persons were fanatical, vulgar, revolutionary, and ill-read, I felt my gentility somewhat lowered at the first visit which Mr.C. took me to pay to an Independent minister. Thankful am I since that time to have learned my own ignorance, and to have sat at the feet of many such ministera, men whose lives and teaching have shone through England. Thankful to know that thousands of sndi ministers, learned as well as fervently pious, are instructing masses of our people with sound and well balanced doctrine. I found them not fanatical, but wise, calm, and argumentative; not vulgar, for they rested satisfied in their high calling; not revolutionary, but ever truly loyal subjects, and praying for blessings on "kings, and all that are in authority." By vulgarity I understand the habit of assuming to be what we are not, boasting of what we are, and the putting of ourselves out of our places. Almost all the ministers to whom I allude show that they possessed fair learning, and a power of public speaking, as well as a zealous godliness before they were ordained to be pastors.

In "A Rector's Daughter in Victorian England", Maud Ballington Booth speaks of John Charlesworth's funeral:

I was only four years old when my father moved to a London parish, but I have some vivid memories of Limpsfield and our lives there. One of the earliest of these recollections is of myself standing with my sister Florrie, her arm around me, as we watched a solemn, little procession pass through the lych gate, to be met by our father in his white surplus. The funeral was for my Grandfather Charlesworth.


CHARLESWORTH The Reverend John - Effects under 450. Resworn at the Stamp Office February 1865 Under 300. 20th May - The Will of the Reverend John Charlesworth late of West Lodge Barnsbury Square in the County of Middlesex Clerk deceased who died 20 April 1864 at West Lodge aforesaid was proved at the Principal Registry by the oath of the Reverend Samuel Beddome Charlesworth of Limpsfield Rectory Limpsfield in the County of Surrey Clerk the Son one of the Executors