Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wood, James (1672-1759)
WOOD, JAMES (1672–1759), nonconformist minister, known as ‘General’ Wood, son of James Wood (d. 1695), nonconformist minister, by his wife Anne (d. 19 May 1724), was born at Atherton, Lancashire, in 1672. The surname is often, but erroneously, given as Woods. His grandfather, James Wood, ejected (1662) from the perpetual curacy of Ashton-in-Makerfield, Lancashire, died on 10 Feb. 1666–7, and was buried in Graffenhall church, Cheshire, where his wife Alice was buried on 13 Jan. 1668–9 (Extracts from a Lancashire Diary, ed. Roger Lowe, 1876, p. 37). His father, James Wood, succeeded (1657) James Livesey [q. v.] as perpetual curate of Atherton chapel, was silenced by the Uniformity Act (1662), but continued to use the chapel (erected 1648, and not consecrated) till he was imprisoned in 1670 (Life of Adam Martindale, 1845, p. 193); he then preached at Wharton Hall, seat of Robert Mort, and in 1676 recovered Atherton chapel (Hope, Errors about Atherton, 1891, pp. 8, 11; Hope, Athertons of Atherton, 1892, p. 14).
James Wood, tertius, entered (22 April 1691) the academy of Richard Frankland [q. v.] at Rathmel, assisted his father, and succeeded him at Atherton chapel in 1695. He attended the ‘provincial’ meeting of united ministers (presbyterian and congregational) of Lancashire (formed 1693), but was no friend to church government, and co-operated from 1740 with Josiah Owen [q. v.] in the policy of depriving the meeting of any function of religious supervision (Monthly Repository, 1825, p. 478). He owes his fame to his instantly raising, on receipt of a letter (11 Nov. 1715) from Sir Henry Hoghton (a dissenter), a local force which joined the troops under Sir Charles Wills [q. v.] at the battle of Preston (12 Nov. 1715). Wood's force, partly armed with scythes, spades, and billhooks, was joined by other volunteers under John Walker, dissenting minister of Horwich, and John Turner, dissenting minister of Preston [see under Turner, William, 1714–1794]. To Wood was assigned the defence of the ford over the Ribble from Penwortham to Preston. For his services and expenses he received a government annuity of 100l. At this time Wood's congregation numbered 1,064 adherents, including fifty-three county voters (Evans's manuscript list, in Dr. Williams's Library, account furnished January 1717–18). Richard Atherton (1700–1726), son and heir of the last nonconformist lord of the manor, was a Jacobite. On coming of age he demanded the surrender of Atherton chapel, which was consecrated (1723) by Thomas Wilson (1663–1755) [q. v.], the well-known bishop of Sodor and Man (this chapel was rebuilt in 1810, and again in 1877). During 1721–2 Wood ministered to his flock in a dwelling-house at Hagg Fold. In 1722 a large meeting-house (still in use, unaltered) was erected at Chowbent in Atherton, Wood devoting part of his pension towards the cost. The communion table and communion plate (dated 1653) given by Robert Mort are still retained by the (unitarian) dissenters; the endowments went with the other building. Wood was personally very popular, but no preacher; he ‘could tell a story, and that did as well.’ He declined to make exchanges, for ‘if any body were to come and prach better than me, they'd not loik to hear me again, and if he prach'd wur, it's a sheame for him to prach’ (Hibbert-Ware, Lancashire Memorials of 1715, Chetham Soc., 1845, p. 247). But, according to John Valentine, he opened his pulpit in later life to the most liberal divines of his time (Monthly Repository, 1815, p. 451).
He died on 20 Feb. 1759; a tablet to his memory is placed above his pulpit. He married (1), on 14 March 1717, Judith Brooksbank of Oxheys (Turner, Nonconformist Register, 1881, p. 211); (2) Hannah, died on 17 Aug. 1726 (tombstone). His son, James Wood, was educated for the ministry (from 1748) under Caleb Rotherham [q. v.], and acted as his father's assistant, but predeceased him (Monthly Repository, 1810, p. 475). Another son, Robert, was father of Mary Anne Everett Wood [q. v.][Calamy's Account, 1713, p. 408, and Palmer's Nonconformist's Memorial, 1802, ii. 352 (both need correction); Calamy's Own Life, 1830, ii. 329; Toulmin's Life of John Mort, 1793; Baker's Life and Times of ‘General’ Woods (sic), 1859; Minutes of Manchester Presbyterian Classis (Chetham Soc.), 1891, iii. 353 sq.; Nightingale's Lancashire Nonconformity, 1892, iv. 100.]