Wellbeloved, Charles (DNB00)
|←Weldon, Walter||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 60
|Welles, Adam de→|
WELLBELOVED, CHARLES (1769–1858), unitarian divine and archæologist, only child of John Wellbeloved (1742–1787), by his wife Elizabeth (Plaw), was born in Denmark Street, St. Giles, London, on 6 April 1769, and baptised on 25 April at St. Giles-in-the-Fields. Owing to domestic unhappiness he was brought up from the age of four by his grandfather, Charles Wellbeloved (1713–1782), a country gentleman at Mortlake, Surrey, an Anglican, and the friend and follower of John Wesley. He got the best part of his early education from a clergyman (Delafosse) at Richmond. In 1783 he was placed with a firm of drapers on Holborn Hill, but only learned ‘how to tie up a parcel.’ In 1785 he became a student at Homerton Academy under Benjamin Davies. Among his fellow-students were William Field [q. v.] and David Jones (1765–1816) [q. v.] Jones was expelled for heresy in 1786; his opinions had influenced Wellbeloved, who was allowed to finish the session of 1787, but not to return. In September 1787 he followed Jones to New College, Hackney, under Abraham Rees [q. v.], the cyclopædist, and Andrew Kippis [q. v.], and subsequently (1789) under Thomas Belsham [q. v.] and (1790) Gilbert Wakefield [q. v.] Here he formed a close friendship with Arthur Aikin [q. v.], who entered in 1789. He attended the ministry of Richard Price (1723–1791) [q. v.] His first sermon was preached at Walthamstow on 13 Nov. 1791. Shortly afterwards he received through Michael Maurice, father of [John] Frederick Denison Maurice [q. v.], an invitation to become assistant to Newcome Cappe [q. v.] at St. Saviourgate Chapel, York. He accepted on 23 Jan. 1792, and began his duties at York on 5 Feb. In 1801 he became sole minister on Cappe's death.
He at once began a Sunday school and a system of catechetical classes. In 1794 he began to take pupils. He was invited in November 1797 (after Belsham had declined) to succeed Thomas Barnes (1747–1810) [q. v.] as divinity tutor in the Manchester academy. Barnes, an evangelical Arian, gave him no encouragement, but he did not reject the offer till February 1798; it was accepted soon after by George Walker (1734?–1807) [q. v.] On Walker's resignation the trustees proposed (25 March 1803) to remove the institution to York if Wellbeloved would become its director. He agreed (11 April), and from September 1803 to June 1840 the institution was known as Manchester College, York. Its management was retained by a committee, meeting ordinarily in Manchester. For thirty-seven years Wellbeloved discharged the duties of the divinity chair in a spirit described by Dr. Martineau, his pupil, as ‘candid and catholic, simple and thorough.’ He followed the method which Richard Watson (1737–1816) [q. v.] had introduced at Cambridge, discarding systematic theology and substituting biblical exegesis. The chief feature of his exegetical work was his treatment of prophecy, limiting the range of its prediction, confining that of Hebrew prophecy to the age of its production, and bounding our Lord's predictions by the destruction of Jerusalem. He broke with the Priestley school, rejecting a general resurrection and fixing the last judgment at death. In these and other points he closely followed the system of Newcome Cappe, but his careful avoidance of dogmatism left his pupils free, and none of them followed him into ‘Cappism.’ Among his coadjutors were Theophilus Browne [q. v.], William Turner, tertius [see under Turner, William (1714–1794)], and William Hincks [see under Hincks, Robert Dix]. From 1810 he had the invaluable co-operation of John Kenrick [q. v.], who married his elder daughter Lætitia.
Proposals for editing a family bible were made to Wellbeloved (14 March 1814) by David Eaton (1771–1829), then a bookseller in Holborn in succession to William Vidler [q. v.] The prospectus (May 1814) announced a revised translation with commentary. Between 1819 and 1838 nine parts were issued in large quarto, containing the Pentateuch, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles. The text was reprinted, with Wellbeloved's revised version of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and the Minor Prophets, in ‘The Holy Scriptures of the Old Covenant,’ 1859–62, 3 vols. 8vo. In 1823 he took up a controversy, begun by Thomas Thrush (1761–1843), with Francis Wrangham [q. v.] Sydney Smith [q. v.] wrote: ‘If I had a cause to gain I would fee Mr. Wellbeloved to plead for me, and double fee Mr. Wrangham to plead against me.’ As a sub-trustee of the Hewley trust he was involved in the suit (1830–42) which removed unitarians from its management and benefits [see Hewley, Sarah].
He was one of the founders of the York Subscription Library (1794), the Yorkshire Philosophical Society (1822), and the York Institute (1827), and devoted much time to the archæology of York. After the fire of 2 Feb. 1829 he took a leading part in raising funds for the restoration of the minster, and in opposing the removal of the choir-screen. The description of the minster in Lewis's ‘Topographical Dictionary,’ the article ‘York’ in the ‘Penny Cyclopædia,’ and a ‘Guide’ (1804) to York Minster are from his pen. His ‘Eburacum, or York under the Romans’ (York, 1842, 8vo), gives the substance of his previous papers and lectures on the subject.
Presentations of plate (1840) and of 1,000l. (1843) were made to him on resigning his divinity chair. He retained till death his connection with his chapel, officiating occasionally till 1853, having as assistants John Wright (1845–46) and Henry Vaughan Palmer (1846–58). He died at his residence, Monkgate, York, on 29 Aug. 1858, and was buried (3 Sept.) in the graveyard of St. Saviourgate Chapel; a memorial tablet is in the chapel. His portrait, painted in 1826 by James Lonsdale [q. v.], is in the possession of G. W. Rayner Wood at Singleton Lodge, Manchester; copies are in the museum of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society and the vestry of St. Saviourgate Chapel; it has been engraved by Samuel Cousins [q. v.] He married, 1 July 1793, at St. Mary's, Stoke Newington, Ann (d. 31 Jan. 1823), eldest daughter of John Kinder, and was survived by a son and two daughters. His youngest son, Robert (b. 15 July 1803, d. 21 Feb. 1856), took (17 Feb. 1830) the name and arms of Scott, and was deputy-lieutenant for Worcestershire and M.P. for Walsall (1841–46). His youngest daughter, Emma (d. 29 July 1842), married (1831) Sir James Carter, chief justice of New Brunswick.
Besides the works mentioned above, and single sermons and pamphlets, he published: 1. ‘Devotional Exercises,’ 1801, 12mo; 8th edit. 1832. 2. ‘Memoirs of … Rev. W[illiam] Wood,’ 1809, 8vo. 3. ‘Three Letters … to Francis Wrangham,’ 1823, 8vo; 2nd edit. same year. 4. ‘Three Additional Letters,’ 1824, 8vo. 5. ‘Memoir’ prefixed to ‘Sermons,’ 1826, 8vo, by Thomas Watson. 6. ‘Account of … the Abbey of St. Mary, York,’ in ‘Vetusta Monumenta,’ 1829, vol. v. fol. 7. ‘Memoir of Thomas Thrush,’ 1845, 8vo. 8. ‘Descriptive Account of the Antiquities in the Museum of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society,’ 1852, 8vo; 3rd edit. 1858. He contributed to the ‘Yorkshire Repository,’ 1794, 12mo; the ‘Annual Review,’ 1802–8; and the ‘Proceedings of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society,’ 1855, vol. i.[Biographical Memoir by John Kenrick, 1860; Funeral Sermons by Thomas Hincks and William Gaskell, 1858; Christian Reformer, 1856 p. 229, 1858 pp. 617, 650, 683, 708, 1859 p. 19; Memoirs of Catherine Cappe, 1822, p. 255; Roll of Students, Manchester College, 1868; Kenrick's Memorials of St. Saviourgate, York, 1869, p. 52; unpublished letters of Wellbeloved and Kenrick; pedigree extracted from family bible by the Rev. C. H. Wellbeloved, Southport.]