William Brock (pastor)

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Rev. William Brock
William Brock.jpg
William Brock
Born 1807[1]
Died 1875[1]
Resting place Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington, London.
Nationality English
Occupation watchmaker and pastor
Known for Slavery abolitionist, Bible society

Rev. Dr. William Brock (1807–1875), was the first minister of Bloomsbury Chapel in Central London (1848–72);[2] abolitionist,[1] biographer, and supporter of missionary causes.

Early years[edit]

William Brock was of Dutch descent; his ancestors came to England as pilgrims or asylum seekers to escape religious oppression in Holland in the 16th century. He began working life as a watchmaker in Hertford at a shop owned by a Mr Field. He lodged nearby with a lay village pastor, whose enthusiasm tempted him to try his skill in such voluntary pastoral work. In due course, William Brock gave up his watch-making to become a pastor. He applied to the Baptist College, Stepney from where he graduated a few years later. He was offered employment at St Mary’s Church, Norwich. Here he stayed for fifteen years, though not infrequently travelling to London to support meetings of the non-denominational ‘Missionary Society’, which gradually evolved into the nondenominational but largely nonconformist London Missionary Society.

His links with both Anglicans and Nonconformists may have helped him, in 1848, to be appointed minister of the first purpose-built central London Baptist Chapel - the Bloomsbury Chapel[2] - whose establishment had hinged partly on overcoming objections from the Anglican establishment.

Ministerial life at Bloomsbury Chapel and later[edit]

At his Bloomsbury Chapel, which served Central London north of the River Thames, William Brock’s hearty, low-key, oratorial style was in marked contrast to that being developed at the Baptist chapel the South Bank by the ‘crowd-pulling’ evangelist, the Rev. Spurgeon. At an ordination service for a missionary, to which both had been invited, Spurgeon noted how extraordinarily different they were: he found Brock’s delivery to be massive, ornate, rich in words, too ponderous for our tongue, and in terms which would have suited none but himself, but, he generously added it was ’homely, hearty, intense, overwhelming; it did our soul good.

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)
Brock is just on the right of centre in the crowd of this painting which is of the 1840 Anti-Slavery Convention.[1] Move your cursor to identify him or click icon to enlarge

The welcoming, homely style of William Brock also showed itself in his inclusive approach to different denominations upon leaving Bloomsbury Chapel. Still in good health, but having given up his financially comfortable position as pastor of a major Central London church on reaching the age of 65, he chose to supply churches and chapels of all denominations, part-time. He became, to use his own words, "churchless, wifeless, homeless" in one week, and adapted to retirement from Bloomsbury Chapel by renting rooms in Hampstead (close to where his eldest son lived) for the summers, whilst, during winters, he ‘hibernated’ as he called it, on the south coast, at St. Leonards, where the air was fresher and the climate milder.

Career as a Biographer[edit]

Amongst his wider interests, William Brock was an active member of the Peace Society pioneered by such figures as Henry Richard. William Brock was therefore opposed to warfare at the time of the Crimean War and Siege of Lucknow but nevertheless wrote well researched biography of the life of general Sir Henry Havelock, who was a fellow baptist. Published, in 1857, Brock's departure into contemporary biography, achieved an enormous circulation and ran to many popular editions. However, he was widely criticised by those who would not buy his book, including friends in the Baptist ministry and Peace Society, for attempting the portrayal of a Christian who was also a soldier in complex contemporary political and military events. Less controversial was his biography of John Bunyan; it too became a best-seller, bound into many of Cassell's late Victorian editions of Bunyan's works.


Besides his interests in the work of the Peace Society, albeit somewhat compromised by his controversial biographical writing, William Brock was also active as an abolitionist. His name occurs frequently in accounts of meetings held in England during the 1840s, 1850s and early 1860s to support the abolition of slavery in the United States, and pressing for abolition in Josiah's Conder's nonconformist newspaper. At an early stage in this work, he appears as a delegate in the painting of the world's first international Anti-slavery Convention in 1840, which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, London.[1]

Death and memorial[edit]

William Brock died at St. Leonard's on 13 November 1875, and was buried at Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington, London.