Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Beard, John Relly
BEARD, JOHN RELLY, D.D. (1800–1876), unitarian minister, born at Southsea, Hants, in 1800, was sent, at the age of twenty, to the unitarian college at York, where he was fellow-student with Dr. Martineau. In 1825 he took charge of a unitarian congregation at Salford, Manchester. Shortly afterwards he opened a school, where his son, the Rev. Charles Beard (Hibbert lecturer, 1883), was educated. In 1838 the university of Giessen bestowed on him the honorary degree of D.D. in recognition of his services to religious and general literature. In 1848 he removed to a chapel built for him in Strangeways, Manchester, from which he retired in 1864. During his ministry there he started a scheme for educating young men for home missions, which originated the Unitarian Home Missionary Board or College, of which Beard was the first principal. In 1862, at his suggestion, was founded the Memorial Hall, Manchester, to commemorate the non-compliance with the Act of Uniformity of 1662 of two thousand English clergymen. From 1865 to 1873 he was minister of a chapel at Sale, near Ashton-on-Mersey, where he died in 1876.
Beard's zeal in the cause of public education led to the reforms adopted of late years in the Manchester grammar school, and to the formation of a Lancashire association for popular education. By the labours of Beard and his friends this subject was constantly brought under the notice of the government, until Mr. Forster's bill was introduced. The latter was largely suggested, and in the main drafted, by some of the earlier members of the association, founded, chiefly by the exertions of Beard, thirty years before. By his writings he also contributed to the cause of education; he wrote the papers on Latin, Greek, and English literature for Cassell's 'Popular Educator,' and, with the Rev. Charles Beard, compiled the 'Latin Dictionary' for the same publishers. His topographical description of Lancashire in Knight's 'Illustrated England,' and a 'Life of Toussaint l'Ouverture' (1853), complete the list of his writings on general subjects.
His theological fervour, inherited from his ancestor Relly, a universalist preacher of the eighteenth century, was shown in his various religious writings. Chief amongst these are his controversial works in defence of christianity (1826, 1837, 1845); many papers in the 'Christian Reformer,' the 'Westminster Review,' 'Journal of Sacred Literature,' Kitto's 'Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature,' Kitto's 'Papers for Sunday Reading,' and 'People's Dictionary of the Bible' (1847). He also published 'Handbook of Family Devotion from the German of H. Zschokke' (1862), 'Life and Writings of Theodore Parker from the French of Dr. Réville' (1865), 'Autobiography of Satan' (1874), and many minor theological works, original and translated. Beard was the first editor of the 'Christian Teacher,' now the 'National Review,' and also started the 'Unitarian Herald.'
[Manuscript autobiographical sketch in the possession of C. W. Sutton, Esq.; Unitarian Herald, 1 Dec. 1876, and 4 May 1877; Manchester Guardian, 24 Nov. 1876; Manchester Weekly Times, 25 Nov. 1876; Ireland's List of Dr. Beard's Works, 1875.]