Barnes, Thomas (1747-1810) (DNB00)

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BARNES, THOMAS, D.D. (1747–1810), unitarian minister and educational reformer, son of William Barnes, of Warrington, came, it is believed, of the same stock as Bishop Richard Barnes [q. v.] His mother was Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev. Thomas Blinston, of Wigan. He was born on 13 Feb. 1746–7. He lost his father when he was in his third year; but his mother gave him an admirable home-training. He received his elementary education at the grammar school of his native town under successive masters, named Owen and Holland (of Bolton), and later in the Warrington Academy, the unitarian training college, where he showed himself a brilliant student. He was subsequently licensed as a preacher of the gospel, and became minister of the congregation at Cockey Moor (Ainsworth, near Bolton) in 1768. He remained there for eleven years. When he left, the numbers in attendance had trebled. In 1780 he became the minister of Cross Street chapel at Manchester. It was at the time the largest, wealthiest, and most influential congregation of protestant dissenters in the town and district, and there he remained for thirty years until his death. In 1781, together with his learned friends, Dr. Percival and Mr. Henry, he founded the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester; became one of its two secretaries, and took a leading part, for several years, in its meetings and transactions. In 1783 he read a paper before the society, wherein he strenuously advocated the extension of liberal education in Manchester. He anticipated the higher grade schools of our time—that is, a provision for the instruction of youths of the town between their leaving a grammar school and entering into business. His plan was approved; a seminary, called ‘The College of Arts and Sciences,’ was established, and various men of special qualifications were placed on its staff of instructors. Barnes threw his whole strength into this scheme. He himself delivered a course of lectures on moral philosophy, and a second on commerce. The high hopes excited by the auspicious inauguration of the college were somewhat falsified latterly. The historian of Lancashire informs us that ‘except the honourable testimonies of approbation from able judges in every part of the kingdom, the virtuous labours of himself and his colleagues met with little reward’ (Baines and Harland's Lancashire, ii. 240). His essays, which were published in the early volumes of the Literary and Philosophical Society, and his distinctive services in the college, won for him in 1784 the honorary degree of doctor of divinity from the university of Edinburgh—a rare testimony then to a nonconformist. Shortly after, Dr. Barnes was induced, in association with his ministerial colleague, the Rev. Mr. Harrison, to undertake the government of Manchester College. He became its principal, and held the important and influential office for about twelve years. In 1798 he retired on account of failing strength. None the less did he continue to take a leading part in the local institutions of Manchester. The infirmary, the board of health, the house of recovery and fever wards divided his public-spirited attention. He died on 27 June 1810. Besides the occasional pieces noticed, Dr. Barnes published ‘A Funeral Sermon on the Death of the Rev. Thomas Threlkeld, of Rochdale,’ and was a contributor (anonymously) to contemporary periodicals. His ‘Discourse upon the Commencement of the Academy,’ published in 1786, was reprinted in 1806. Barnes, although usually designated a presbyterian, was a unitarian.

[Baines and Harland's Lancashire, ii. 240, and local researches.]

A. B. G.