Isaac Crewdson

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Isaac Crewdson
Born 6 June 1780
Died 8 May 1844
Resting place Rusholme Road Cemetery, Manchester
Nationality English
Occupation Mill Owner, Minister of the Religious Society of Friends
Known for Founder of the Beaconites
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Jowitt (married 27 July 1803)

Isaac Crewdson (6 June 1780 - 8 May 1844)[1] was a minister of the Quaker meeting at Hardshaw East, Manchester. He wrote A Beacon to the Society of Friends which was published in 1835, a work that had a disruptive and schismatic effect on English Quakerism.

Early life[edit]

Isaac Crewdson was born into a Quaker family in Kendal in the English Lake District. He entered the cotton trade and became a successful mill owner in Manchester. He was appointed as a Quaker minister in 1816.

The Beaconite Controversy[edit]

In 1831, controversy arose amongst Manchester Quakers over the spiritual emphasis of Quakerism[2] and these differences culminated in 1835 when Crewdson’s A Beacon to the Society of Friends was published.[3] His book highlighted the distinction many Manchester Quakers drew between the guidance of Scripture and the central feature of Quakerism, the Inner Light, the direct and personal experience of God. Crewdson and his followers believed that too much emphasis was placed by Quakers on the Inner Light at the expense of Biblical authority.

In his book Crewdson wrote unfavourably of the American Quaker, Elias Hicks (1748 - 1830), who had considered “obedience to the light within” to be the most important principle of worship and who regarded the Bible as a ‘dead letter’ unless read 'under the regulating influence of the spirit of God'.[4] Hicks was responsible for the first schism in Quakerism in 1827.

Initially, Hardshaw East Monthly Meeting was thrown into disorder by the controversy. The matter was discussed at the 1835 London Yearly Meeting and a Visiting Committee was appointed to investigate and seek the reconciliation of members there. The Committee, which included Crewdson’s close friend, Joseph John Gurney, the leading English Quaker evangelical of his time, was inclined to be sympathetic to Crewdson.[5] Even so, the correspondence that took place between Crewdson and the Committee in 1835 was published by them without his knowledge and consent in A Few Particulars of the Correspondence Between the Committee Appointed by the Friends' Yearly Meeting, and Isaac Crewdson.[6] Eventually, the Committee brought matters to a head by asking Crewdson to withdraw his book from circulation but he refused to do so. He was then suspended from his ministry to prevent further internal strife.

In 1836 the situation was again discussed at London Yearly Meeting.[2] There Gurney spoke, upholding the supremacy of scripture, but he also stressed the 'true soundness of Friends’ views in regard to silent meetings’. He also declared that if Friends were to ‘give way in our meetings for worship to any ministry except that which flows immediately from the Lord’s anointing we should suffer loss.’[5] Gurney also indicated that 'to place the impressions received from our own minds’ was a prelude to a Quaker form of Deism. Gurney declared himself to be a 'middle man' between the two opposing views and the London Yearly Meeting did not resolve the issue.

The discord was effectively determined when Crewdson tendered his resignation from the Hardshaw East Monthly Meeting,[7] this being accepted on 15 December 1836 along with those of 38 of his supporters.[8] However, the great majority of the Manchester membership chose to remain.

In 1836 and in the following year, some 50 Quakers left Manchester Meeting and another 300 left other meetings throughout the country. These included meetings in Bristol, Birmingham, Tottenham and Plymouth.[2] After Manchester, the largest group of Quaker leavers were those from Kendal Meeting.[9] Crewdson’s daughter Margaret (1808-1864) had married a fellow-Quaker, Henry Waterhouse, in 1832[10] and they, like her father, resigned from Hardshaw East Monthly Meeting in 1836.

The Beaconite split also divided some Quaker families along partisan lines, as with the Braithwaites and the Lloyd banking family[11] and ended commercial relationships, as with the Benson and Cropper partnership.[12]

The Evangelical Friends[edit]

Together with his brother-in-law, the former Hardshaw East Quaker elder William Boulton, Crewdson founded the short-lived 'Evangelical Friends' who were termed 'Beaconites' by Quakers. They first met for Sunday worship on 18 September 1836 at an infants’ school in Manchester before opening their 600-seat chapel[13] at Chorlton-on-Medlock on Sunday 17 December 1837.[14]

They incorporated into their worship baptism and taking the Lord’s Supper which have been historically rejected by Quakers as rituals that obstruct the relationship between the worshipper and God. The Evangelical Friends held a Yearly Meeting in the style of a Quaker Yearly Meeting in London in 1837 and for a short while published a monthly journal, ‘The Inquirer’.[14]

An active abolitionist, Crewdson attended the June 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London.[15]

Isaac Crewdson (Beaconite) writer Samuel Jackman Prescod - Barbadian Journalist William Morgan from Birmingham William Forster - Quaker leader George Stacey - Quaker leader William Forster - Anti-Slavery ambassador John Burnet -Abolitionist Speaker William Knibb -Missionary to Jamaica Joseph Ketley from Guyana George Thompson - UK & US abolitionist J. Harfield Tredgold - British South African (secretary) Josiah Forster - Quaker leader Samuel Gurney - the Banker's Banker Sir John Eardley-Wilmot Dr Stephen Lushington - MP and Judge Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton James Gillespie Birney - American John Beaumont George Bradburn - Massachusetts politician George William Alexander - Banker and Treasurer Benjamin Godwin - Baptist activist Vice Admiral Moorson William Taylor William Taylor John Morrison GK Prince Josiah Conder Joseph Soul James Dean (abolitionist) John Keep - Ohio fund raiser Joseph Eaton Joseph Sturge - Organiser from Birmingham James Whitehorne Joseph Marriage George Bennett Richard Allen Stafford Allen William Leatham, banker William Beaumont Sir Edward Baines - Journalist Samuel Lucas Francis August Cox Abraham Beaumont Samuel Fox, Nottingham grocer Louis Celeste Lecesne Jonathan Backhouse Samuel Bowly William Dawes - Ohio fund raiser Robert Kaye Greville - Botanist Joseph Pease, railway pioneer W.T.Blair M.M. Isambert (sic) Mary Clarkson -Thomas Clarkson's daughter in law William Tatum Saxe Bannister - Pamphleteer Richard Davis Webb - Irish Nathaniel Colver - American not known John Cropper - Most generous Liverpudlian Thomas Scales William James William Wilson Thomas Swan Edward Steane from Camberwell William Brock Edward Baldwin Jonathon Miller Capt. Charles Stuart from Jamaica Sir John Jeremie - Judge Charles Stovel - Baptist Richard Peek, ex-Sheriff of London John Sturge Elon Galusha Cyrus Pitt Grosvenor Rev. Isaac Bass Henry Sterry Peter Clare -; sec. of Literary & Phil. Soc. Manchester J.H. Johnson Thomas Price Joseph Reynolds Samuel Wheeler William Boultbee Daniel O'Connell - "The Liberator" William Fairbank John Woodmark William Smeal from Glasgow James Carlile - Irish Minister and educationalist Rev. Dr. Thomas Binney Edward Barrett - Freed slave John Howard Hinton - Baptist minister John Angell James - clergyman Joseph Cooper Dr. Richard Robert Madden - Irish Thomas Bulley Isaac Hodgson Edward Smith Sir John Bowring - diplomat and linguist John Ellis C. Edwards Lester - American writer Tapper Cadbury - Businessman not known Thomas Pinches David Turnbull - Cuban link Edward Adey Richard Barrett John Steer Henry Tuckett James Mott - American on honeymoon Robert Forster (brother of William and Josiah) Richard Rathbone John Birt Wendell Phillips - American M. L'Instant from Haiti Henry Stanton - American Prof William Adam Mrs Elizabeth Tredgold - British South African T.M. McDonnell Mrs John Beaumont Anne Knight - Feminist Elizabeth Pease - Suffragist Jacob Post - Religious writer Anne Isabella, Lady Byron - mathematician and estranged wife Amelia Opie - Novelist and poet Mrs Rawson - Sheffield campaigner Thomas Clarkson's grandson Thomas Clarkson Thomas Morgan Thomas Clarkson - main speaker George Head Head - Banker from Carlisle William Allen John Scoble Henry Beckford - emancipated slave and abolitionist Use your cursor to explore (or Click "i" to enlarge)
Crewdson is on the right of centre at the back in this painting of the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention.[16] Move your cursor to identify him or click icon to enlarge.


Crewdson died at Bowness on 8 May 1844 and was buried at Rusholme Road Cemetery, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester.

The Evangelical Friends did not flourish and gradually dispersed in the decade after Crewdson’s death. Many joined the Plymouth Brethren and brought Quaker simplicity of worship to that movement. Notable Quakers who moved to the Brethren included John Eliot Howard and Robert Mackenzie Beverley.

The Beaconite chapel, which was sparsely attended,[13] languished and was sold to the Baptists in 1844, the year of Crewdson’s death.

In 1870, the last surviving member of the 1835 Visiting Committee, Doctor Edward Ash, wrote that the Committee had been mistaken in suspending Crewdson’s membership.[17]

It has been suggested that A Beacon to the Society of Friends was twenty years ahead of its time and that by the 20th century some Quaker evangelicals had reached a position close to that of Crewdson in the 1830s.[13]


  • Hints on a Musical Festival at Manchester, (1827)
  • Trade to the East Indies(c.1827), referring to the Slave Trade.
  • Andrew Fuller's Religious Declension, abridgment (1829)
  • Baxter's Saint's Rest, abridgment (1829)
  • The Doctrine of the New Testament on Prayer (1831)
  • A Beacon to the Society of Friends (1835)
  • A Defence of the Beacon (1836)
  • The Beacon Controversy Between the Society of Friends and Isaac Crewdson (1836)
  • Water Baptism an Ordinance of Christ (1837)
  • Water Baptism and the Lord's Supper: Scriptural arguments in behalf of the perpetual obligation of these ordinances (1837)
  • The Trumpet Blown, or an Appeal to the Society of Friends (1838)
  • Observations on the New Birth (1844)


  1. ^ Isaac Crewdson (I13266), Stanford University, retrieved 2013-02-14 
  2. ^ a b c Anna Braithwaite Thomas (1912). "The Beaconite Controversy, VolumeIV, no. 2". Bulletin of Friends' Historical Society. Philadelphia. Retrieved 2013-02-14. 
  3. ^ Isaac Crewdson (1835). A Beacon to the Society of Friends. Hamilton, Adams. Retrieved 2013-02-14. 
  4. ^ "The Blood of Jesus A Sermon and Prayer Delivered by ELIAS HICKS, at Darby Meeting, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, November 15, 1826". Retrieved 2013-02-16. 
  5. ^ a b Thomas C Kennedy (2001). British Quakerism, 1860-1920: The Transformation of a Religious Community. Oxford University Press. pp. 27, 28, 29. ISBN 9780198270355. Retrieved 2013-02-14. 
  6. ^ Society of Friends (1835). A Few Particulars of the Correspondence Between the Committee Appointed by the Friends' Yearly Meeting, and Isaac Crewdson. Hamilton, Adams, & Company. p. 2. Retrieved 2013-04-08. 
  7. ^ Alan P F Sell et al. (2006). Protestant Nonconformist Texts: The Nineteenth Century Volume 3. Ashgate Publishing. p. 77. ISBN 9780754638506. Retrieved 2013-02-14. 
  8. ^ Thomas Dillworth Crewdson; Society of Friends Hardshaw East Monthly Meeting (1836). The Crisis of the Quaker Contest in Manchester. W. Simpson. pp. 244, 245. Retrieved 2013-02-14. 
  9. ^ Margery Post Abbott, Mary Ellen Chijioke et al. (2012). Historical Dictionary of the Friends (Quakers). Scarecrow Press. p. 41. ISBN 9780810868571. Retrieved 2013-02-14. 
  10. ^ Margaret Crewdson (I13265), Stanford University, retrieved 2013-02-14 
  11. ^ Humfrey Lloyd (2006). The Quaker Lloyds in the Industrial Revolution 1660–1860. Taylor & Francis. p. 322. ISBN 9780415381611. Retrieved 2013-02-14. 
  12. ^ Jehanne Wake (1997). Kleinwort Benson: The History of Two Families in Banking. OUP, Oxford. p. 50. ISBN 0198282990. Retrieved 2013-02-14. 
  13. ^ a b c Pink Dandelion (2007). An Introduction to Quakerism. Cambridge University Press. pp. 94, 95. Retrieved 2013-02-14. 
  14. ^ a b The Inquirer Volume II, THE HISTORY AND PRESENT ORGANIZATION OF THE BODY AT MANCHESTER,CALLED EVANGELICAL FRIENDS. Central Tract Depot, London. 1839. p. 73. Retrieved 2013-02-14. 
  15. ^ J. F. JOHNSON, SHORT-HAND WRITER (1843). " Proceedings of the General Anti-Slavery Convention, called by the committee of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, and held in London from Tuesday June 13th to Tuesday June 20th, 1843 Check |url= value (help). JOHN SNOW, LONDON. Retrieved 2013-02-14. 
  16. ^ The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840, Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1841, National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG599, donated by the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1880.
  17. ^ "The Friend". The Friend: 46, 47. 1870. Retrieved 2013-02-14. 

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