Dixon, Thomas (DNB00)

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DIXON, THOMAS, M.D. (1680?–1729), nonconformist tutor, was probably the son of Thomas Dixon, ‘Anglus e Northumbria,’ who graduated M.A. at Edinburgh on 19 July 1660, and was ejected from the vicarage of Kelloe, county Durham, as a nonconformist. Dixon studied at Manchester under John Chorlton [q. v.] and James Coningham [q. v.] probably from 1700 to 1705. He is said to have gone to London after leaving the Manchester academy. In or about 1708 he succeeded Roger Anderton as minister of a congregation at Whitehaven, founded by presbyterians from the north of Ireland, and meeting in a ‘chapel that shall be used so long as the law will allow by protestant dissenters from the church of England, whether presbyterian or congregational, according to their way and persuasion.’ In a trust-deed of March 1711 he is described as ‘Thomas Dixon, clerk.’ Dixon established at Whitehaven an academy for the education of students for the ministry. He probably acted under the advice of Dr. Calamy, whom he accompanied on his journey to Scotland in 1709. During his visit to Edinburgh, Dixon received (21 April 1709) the honorary degree of M.A. The academy was in operation in 1710, and on the removal of Coningham from Manchester in 1712, it became the leading nonconformist academy in the north of England. Mathematics were taught (till 1714) by John Barclay. Among Dixon's pupils John Taylor, of the Hebrew concordance, George Benson, the biblical critic, Caleb Rotheram, head of the Kendal academy, and Henry Winder, author of the ‘History of Knowledge.’

In 1723 (according to Evans's manuscript; Taylor, followed by other writers, gives 1719) Dixon removed to Bolton, Lancashire, as successor to Samuel Bourn (1648–1719) [q. v.] He still continued his academy, and educated several ministers; but took up, in addition, the medical profession, obtaining the degree of M.D. from Edinburgh. He is said to have attained considerable practice. Probably this accumulation of duties shortened his life. He died on 14 Aug. 1729, in his fiftieth year, and was buried in his meeting-house. A mural tablet erected to his memory in Bank Street Chapel, Bolton, by his son, R. Dixon, characterises him as ‘facile medicorum et theologorum princeps.’

Thomas Dixon (1721–1754), son of the above, was born 16 July 1721, and educated for the ministry in Dr. Rotheram's academy at Kendal, which he entered in 1738. His first settlement was at Thame, Oxfordshire, from 1743, on a salary of 25l. a year. On 13 May 1750 he became assistant to Dr. John Taylor at Norwich. Here, at Taylor's suggestion, he began a Greek concordance, on the plan of Taylor's Hebrew one, but the manuscript fragments of the work show that not much was done. He found it difficult to satisfy the demands of a fastidious congregation, and gladly accepted, in August 1752, a call to his father's old flock at Bolton. He was not ordained till 26 April 1753. With John Seddon of Manchester, then the only Socinian preacher in the district, he maintained a warm friendship, and is believed to have shared his views, though his publications are silent in regard to the person of our Lord. He died on 23 Feb. 1754, and was buried beside his father. Joshua Dobson of Cockey Moor preached his funeral sermon. His friend Seddon edited from his papers a posthumous tract, ‘The Sovereignty of the Divine Administration … a Rational Account of our Blessed Saviour's Temptation,’ &c., 2nd edition, 1766, 8vo. In 1810, William Turner of Newcastle had two quarto volumes, in shorthand, containing Dixon's notes on the New Testament. Dr. Charles Lloyd, in his anonymous ‘Particulars of the Life of a Dissenting Minister’ (1813), publishes (pp. 178–184) a long and curious letter, dated ‘Norwich, 28 Sept. 1751,’ addressed by Dixon to Leeson, travelling tutor to John Wilkes, and previously dissenting minister at Thame; from this Browne has extracted an account of the introduction of methodism into Norwich.

[Calamy's Account, 1713, p. 288; Calamy's Hist. Account of my own Life, 1830, ii. 192, 220; Monthly Repository, 1810, p. 326 (article by V. F., i.e. William Turner); Taylor's Hist. Octagon Chapel, Norwich, 1848, pp. 20, 40; Baker's Nonconformity in Bolton, 1854, pp. 43, 54, 106; Cat. Edinburgh Graduates (Bannatyne Club), 1858; Autobiog. of Dr. A. Carlyle, 1861, p. 94; Hew Scott's Fasti Eccles. Scotic. 1866, i. 340; James's Hist. Litig. Presb. Chapels, 1867, p. 654 (extract from Dr. Evans's manuscript, in Dr. Williams's Library); Browne's Hist. Congr. Norf. and Suff. 1877, p. 190; extracts from Whitehaven Trust-deeds, per Mr. H. Sands; from records of Presbyterian Fund, per Mr. W. D. Jeremy; and from the Winder manuscripts in library of Renshaw Street Chapel, Liverpool.]

A. G.