Angier, John (DNB00)

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ANGIER, JOHN (1605–1677), nonconformist divine, was a native of Dedham, in Essex, where he was baptised 8 Oct. 1605. His father settled his and his three brothers' callings according to their boyish ambitions, and John at his own desire was brought up to be a preacher. Even at the age of twelve he was a grave child; but during his stay at Cambridge as an undergraduate of Emanuel College 'he fell off to vain company and loose practices.' After he had taken his B.A. degree his father died while he was from home, and whilst staying subsequently at his mother's house he came under the influence of John Rogers, of Dedham, one of the most forcible of the puritan preachers, who used to take hold of the supporters of the pulpit canopy and roar hideously to represent the torments of the damned. Angier resided for some time with Rogers, and afterwards with a Mr. Witham, who was a better scholar than preacher. Next we find him boarding, studying, and sometimes preaching, at the house of John Cotton, of Boston, which was a place of great resort for puritan divines. Here he met Ellen Winstanley, a native of Wigan, the niece of Mrs. Cotton, and married her at Boston church 16 April 1628. After the birth of his first son he had almost decided upon going with other ministers to New England; but before this intended departure he made a journey into Lancashire to his wife's relations. He preached a sermon at Bolton, and one of the hearers got from him a promise to preach at Ringley chapel, which he did. In spite of his swooning in the pulpit on this occasion, the Ringley people were determined to have Angier as their pastor, and in September 1630 he accepted their call, and settled with them. Ecclesiastically his case was a peculiar one. By the interest of Cotton he was ordained by Lewis Bayley, bishop of Bangor, but without subscription; and he remained a nonconformist to the Anglican ceremonies to the end of his days. His diocesan was Bridgman, bishop of Chester, who dealt with him in a spirit so mild as to provoke the rebuke of Laud. Angier was, however, suspended from Ringley after about eighteen months' service. Denton chapelry was at this time vacant by the suspension of its puritan minister, and the choice of the people was directed towards 'the little man' at Ringley, who settled with them in 1632, and remained their pastor, with some interruptions, caused by the troubles of the time, for more than forty-five years. He was twice excommunicated, and his congregation often were disturbed by the ruling powers. It was thought that he had some hand in a book reflecting on Laud, which was discovered at Stockport; but in his diary he professed his innocence of it. However, although subject to frequent annoyance, Angier escaped any greater persecution. His first wife, a pious and sickly woman, died in December 1642, leaving him a son and two daughters. By her deathbed suggestion Angier, a year later, married Margaret Mosley, of Ancoats, whose family were of great local consideration, and held the lordship of the manor of Manchester. They were married in 1643 'very publicly in Manchester church, in the heat of the wars, which was noticed as an act of faith in them both.' She died in 1675. Angier's own daughter, by his desire, was betrothed to Oliver Heywood, a month before their marriage in Denton chapel in 1655, and after the final ceremony he entertained about a hundred guests at his table, for he said he loved to have a marriage like a marriage. When the episcopal constitution of the church was abolished, he had many calls to places of greater moment than Denton, and his former congregation at Ringley endeavoured to recover him. The friendly contest between the two congregations was referred to the judgment of ministers, who decided that Angier should stay in his latest settlement. When the presbyterian form of church government was established in Lancashire, he often acted as moderator of the 'classis,' and attended the provincial assembly, and had ruling elders in his own congregation. His presbyterianism was of a moderate kind, and he incurred some blame amongst the more ardent brethren for the breadth of his views as to church discipline. He signed the document known as the 'Harmonious Consent,' issued in 1648, in which the presbyterian ministers denounce in no measured terms the notion of 'an universal toleration of all the pernicious errors, blasphemous and heretical doctrines broached in these times.' Whatever doubts he had as to episcopacy, he had none about monarchy; he testified against the execution of Charles I, and refused to sign the engagement to be true to the commonwealth of England as established without king or house of lords. On this account he was, with other ministers, taken prisoner to Liverpool; but as the plague was raging there, they were removed to Ormskirk. The time was passed in a weighty discussion about prayer, and the diversity of opinion led them to select one of their number to treat the matter more fully. In this talk of the prison-house originated the treatise on prayer of Edward Gee of Eccleston. Many cases of conscience were propounded to Angier, whose judgment was so greatly relied upon, that the ill-natured styled him the 'idol of Lancashire.' He had also a well-earned reputation as a healer of quarrels. In the work of the ministry, notwithstanding a feeble constitution, he was unflinchingly energetic, preaching twice on the Sunday, and often on week days, praying seven times daily, fasting and travelling frequently, yet by severe temperance and care in diet he outlived many of his stronger brethren. He took no overt part in the Cheshire rising of 1659, and after the Act of Uniformity he escaped the persecution that fell upon most of the nonconformists. Warrants were indeed issued against him; but those who had to execute them acknowledged that they would not see him for a hundred pounds. Something, no doubt, was due to the influence of his brother-in-law, Mosley of Ancoats, whose mother and sister stayed with Angier for many years. When the Oxford Act came into operation, he removed into Cheshire; but an attack of gout came on, and saying to Oliver Heywood, 'Come, son, let us trust God and go home,' he returned to Denton. The neighbouring justices said, 'He is an old man, and will not live long; let us not trouble him.' Wilkins, the new bishop of Chester, so far from desiring to annoy, frequently inquired after the health and welfare of the good old man. Angier had the courage to admit Oliver Heywood to the communion at Denton after his excommunication. The old man was much affected by the death of his daughter, Mrs. Heywood, and by the extravagance and misconduct of his own son, whose ordination had to be preceded by a confession of his youthful wildness. John Angier died in prayer, after several days' illness, 1 Sept. 1677, and was buried at Denton, his funeral being attended by a great concourse of people.

The only work bearing John Angier's name is 'An Helpe to Better Hearts for Better Times,' London, 1647. It is a rare book, and consists of sermons preached in 1638, a fact found stated on some, and omitted on the title-page of other copies. From one characteristic passage we learn that even in those puritan days some attenders at public worship slept 'from the beginning to the end, as if they came for no other purpose but to sleep.' Another work has been attributed to him, and Dr. Halley holds it to be 'undoubtedly' his. This is a rare tract, with a quaint title, ‘Lancashire's Valley of Achor is England's doore of hope; set wide open in a brief history of the wise, good, and powerful hand of Divine Providence, ordering and managing the militia of Lancashire. By a well-wisher of the peace of the land and piety of the church,' London, 1643. This is full of important matter relating to the incidents of the civil war in Lancashire. One passage which strengthens the supposition that it is the work of Angier may be quoted: 'This was a providence not unlike what I have heard in Boston. The chancellor gave organs to Boston church. Before they breathe in the new world the godly pray. After their prayer a mighty wind forceth its passage into the church, blows down the organs, and stops their breath.' If Angier wrote 'Lancashire's Valley of Achor,' his dislike to instrumental music was matched by his antipathy to tobacco, of which some of his brethren, in Dr. Halley's opinion, were too fond.


John Angier's son, also named John, was born at Boston in 1629, and, like his father, went to Emanuel College, Cambridge, where his course was so unsatisfactory that, when in 1657 he applied for ordination, 'he was approved for parts and ability,' but it was thought fitting that he should make public acknowledgment of the errors of his youth. He was appointed to Ringley Chapel, but removed into Lincolnshire, where he was resident at the time of his father's death. His widow died in 1699. Samuel Angier, nephew of John Angier the elder, was born at Dedham 28 Aug. 1639, and was a pupil of the famous Busby. He went to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1659, but was banished thence by the Act of Uniformity, and after some stay with Dr. Owen he settled as assistant to his uncle at Denton. His ordination, which took place in 1672 at the house of Robert Eaton in Deansgate, Manchester, was the first presbyterian ordination amongst the nonconformists in the north of England, and perhaps the first in any part of the kingdom. At his uncle's death many desired that Samuel Angier might be his successor, and they knew that this also was the wish of their dead pastor. The warden and fellows of Manchester, however, were not disposed to appoint another nonconformist, and the Rev. John Ogden was nominated; but great difficulty was experienced in inducing Samuel Angier to give up possession of the house. He retired to the adjacent village of Dukinfield. He had to suffer for his nonconformity, and in 1680 was excommunicated; but under the Act of Toleration in 1689 he became minister of a dissenting meeting at Dukinfield, where a chapel was built for him in 1708. In his later years he was almost blind, and died 8 Nov. 1713. Samuel Angier kept a register of 'christenings and some marriages and funerals' from 1677 to 1713. One entry relates to the death, 20 Feb. 1697–8, of another Samuel Angier, who is believed to have been a minister of the 'ancient chapel' of Toxteth Park, Liverpool.

[Heywood's Narrative of the Holy Life of Mr. John Angier, London, 1685 (reprinted in his works, Idle, 1827); Halley's Lancashire, its Puritanism and Nonconformity, 2nd edition, Manchester, 1882; Palatine Note-book, ii. 218; Booker's History of the Ancient Chapel of Denton (Chetham Society, 1855); Earwaker's Extracts from the Registers of the Nonconformist Chapel at Dukinfield, co. Chester, kept by the Rev. Samuel Angier (Transactions of Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 1882); Davis's Ancient Chapel of Toxteth Park, Liverpool, Liverpool, 1884; Fishwick's Lancashire Library, 1875; Parkinson's Life of Adam Martindale, 1845 (Chetham. Soc.)]

W. E. A. A.