Fletcher, Alexander (DNB00)

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FLETCHER, ALEXANDER (1787–1860), presbyterian divine, son of William Fletcher, minister at the Bridge of Teith, near Doune, Perthshire, by Jean Gilfillan, sister of the Rev. Michael Gilfillan, was born at the Bridge of Teith 8 April 1787, and educated in the village of Doune and at Stirling grammar school. At the age of eleven he was sent to Glasgow College, whence he passed to the divinity hall in 1802, and ultimately became M.A. of the university of Glasgow. Having been received into the associated synod of Scotland 23 Dec. 1806, his first labours in the ministerial office were as co-pastor with his father at the Bridge of Teith, 16 Sept. 1807. In November 1811 he came to London as minister of Miles Lane Chapel, Meeting-house Yard, London Bridge. Here he very soon obtained popularity as a preacher. The church accommodation became too limited, and the congregation erected a new place of worship in London Wall, under the name of Albion Chapel, which was opened 7 Nov. 1816. This building cost upwards of 10,000l., and was soon crowded in every part. Here he began his annual Christmas sermon to the young, a practice he kept up with unabating success to the last. He was now in the height of his power and fame, especially popular as a preacher to the young. In April 1824 he was prosecuted in the civil and ecclesiastical courts in a breach of promise case with Miss Eliza Dick. In the king's bench no verdict was given, but in the meeting of the united associate synod at Edinburgh he was suspended from the exercise of his office and from church fellowship (Trial of the Rev. Alexander Fletcher before the United Associate Synod, London, 1824, pp. xvi, 120; Trial of the Rev. A. Fletcher before the Lord Chief Justice of the Court of Common Sense, 1825; An Appeal to the Public against the Associate Synod of Scotland, by A. Fletcher, 1824; The Injustice of the United Associate Synod Exposed, presented by A. Fletcher, 1825; The Loves of the Saints, or the Diverting History of Sandy and Bobby, 1825). The result was his separation from the secession church. He removed with the greater part of his congregation to Grub Street, and afterwards to their new and spacious temple in Finsbury Circus, an edifice which cost about 13,000l., and was at the time the largest chapel in London. Here for thirty-five years he continued to minister with acceptance and success. He was honoured with the degree of D.D. from America, and after a long separation was again welcomed as a minister of the united presbyterian church. His last sermon was preached to nearly three thousand children, in Surrey Chapel, in February 1860, and from that time he gradually declined in health. His fame mainly rests upon his talent in preaching to children, and upon his ‘Family Devotions,’ of which fifty thousand copies were sold in England, besides numerous editions in the United States. He died of bronchitis and dropsy at 4 Portland Place, Lower Clapton, Middlesex, 30 Sept. 1860, and was buried in Abney Park cemetery 8 Oct., in the presence of six thousand persons. He married, 13 Jan. 1846, Lydia, daughter of Richard Baynes of Rayne Lodge, Essex.

He was the author of very numerous works, and his name is also found attached to the prefatory introductions to many books on theological subjects. The following are his chief publications:

  1. ‘The Tendency of Infidelity and Christianity contrasted,’ two sermons, 1815.
  2. A sermon on the death of Queen Caroline, 1821.
  3. ‘A Spiritual Guardian for Youth,’ a sermon, 1822.
  4. ‘A Collection of Hymns for Albion Chapel,’ 1822.
  5. ‘The Christian Ambassador,’ a sermon, 1827.
  6. ‘The History of Miles Lane Chapel,’ 1832.
  7. ‘A Guide to Family Devotion, containing a Hymn, a portion of Scripture, with Reflections and a Prayer for the Morning and Evening of every Day in the Year,’ 1834.
  8. ‘Finsbury Chapel Collection of Hymns,’ 1835.
  9. ‘The Juvenile Preacher, including twelve sermons by A. Fletcher,’ 1836.
  10. ‘Scripture History designed for the Improvement of Youth,’ 1839.
  11. ‘The Illustrated Watts's Hymns, edited by A. Fletcher,’ 1840.
  12. ‘The Master's Joy, the Servant's Reward,’ the funeral sermon of E. Temple, 1841.
  13. The funeral sermon of Augustus Frederick, duke of Sussex, 1843.
  14. ‘The Sabbath School Preacher and Juvenile Miscellany,’ 1848–50, 2 vols., continued as ‘Dr. Fletcher's Juvenile Magazine,’ 1850–1, 1 vol.
  15. ‘Address to the Young,’ 1851.
  16. ‘The Bible the Great Exhibition for all Nations,’ 1851.
  17. Sermon on the funeral and death of the Duke of Wellington, 1852.
  18. The annual Christmas-day sermon to children, 1855.
  19. Address at the grave of H. Althans, 1855.
  20. ‘Closet Devotional Exercises for the Young,’ 1859.
  21. ‘Scripture Teaching for the Young,’ 1859.

[Macfarlane's Altar-Light, a tribute to the memory of the Rev. A. Fletcher, 1860; Blair's The Prince of Preachers, Rev. A. Fletcher, 1860;}} The Christian Cabinet Illustrated Almanack, 1860, p. 31, with portrait; Gent. Mag., November 1860, p. 563; Times, 10 Oct. 1860, p. 10; Fletcher's History of Miles Lane Chapel, 1832, pp. 45–9.]

G. C. B.