Knill, Richard (DNB00)

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KNILL, RICHARD (1787–1857), dissenting minister, fourth child of Richard Knill, carpenter (d. 15 Dec. 1826), by Mary Tucker (d. 1826), was born at Braunton, Devonshire, on 14 April 1787. In 1804 he enlisted as a soldier, but was shortly afterwards bought out by his friends. He became a student of the Western Academy at Axminster in 1812, and under the influence of a sermon by Dr. Alexander Waugh, volunteered for missionary work. He was accepted by the London Missionary Society, and embarked for Madras 20 April 1816. Here he engaged in English services for the schools, soldiers, and residents, while studying the native languages. His health soon failed, and he was sent in September 1818 to Nágarkoil in Travancore, whence, after suffering from the cholera, he returned to England 30 Nov. 1819. A cold climate being recommended, he sailed on 18 Oct. 1820 for St. Petersburg, intending to proceed to Siberia as a missionary; but, on the persuasion of the British and Americans, consented to remain in that city. Here he laboured successfully, and obtained the support of the emperor and the royal family. A Protestant Bible Society was formed for supplying the bible in their own tongues to Germans, Finns, Poles, Livonians, and other persons not belonging to the Greek church. A school was opened for the children of foreigners, and a mission to the sailors at Cronstadt established. Returning to England in August 1833 to obtain funds for erecting a larger church in St. Petersburg, his labours were so successful in creating funds and friends for the London Missionary Society, that he was requested to remain at home, and for eight years he visited almost every place in the United Kingdom, advocating the claims of the foreign missions. Quite worn out by his incessant labours, he on 1 Jan. 1842 settled down as congregational minister at Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, where he remained until his removal to Chester in 1848. His last days were not the least useful, and his preaching in the Chester Theatre for twenty Sunday afternoons was most successful. Few men of his time had greater mastery over large assemblies of men. He died at 28 Queen Street, Chester, on 2 Jan. 1857. On 9 Jan. 1823 he married Sarah, daughter of James and Isabella Notman, a native of St. Petersburg, by whom he had five children.

Knill was the author of: 1. ‘The Farmer and his Family,’ 1814. 2. ‘Memoir of the Life and Character of Walter Venning,’ 1822. 3. ‘The Influence of Pious Women in Promoting a Revival of Religion,’ 1830. 4. ‘Some Account of John Knill,’ 1830. 5. ‘The Happy Death-bed,’ 1833. 6. ‘A Traveller arrived at the End of the Journey,’ 1836. 7. ‘A Dialogue between a Romish Priest and R. Knill, Missionary,’ 1841. 8. ‘A Scotchman Abroad,’ 1841.

[Birrell's Life of R. Knill, 1860, with portrait, new ed. 1878, with another portrait; Congregational Year-Book, 1857, pp. 212–14; Evangelical Mag. March 1857, pp. 137–45; Scottish Congregational Mag. April 1857, pp. 97–103, May, pp. 129–33; Waddington's Congregational History, 1880, v. 185–96; Nonconformist, 7 Jan. 1857, p. 16, 14 Jan. p. 24; Chester Chronicle, 3 Jan. 1857, p. 8, 10 Jan. p. 5.]

G. C. B.