Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Finch, Henry (1633-1704)

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FINCH, HENRY (1633–1704), ejected minister, was born at Standish, Lancashire, and baptised on 8 Sept. 1633. He was educated at the grammar schools of Standish and Wigan. Calamy does not say at what university he graduated. After preaching in the Fylde country (between the Lune and the Ribble) he was presented in 1656 to the vicarage of Walton-on-the-Hill, Lancashire, a parish which then included the town of Liverpool. He was a member of the fifth presbyterian classis of Lancashire. In July 1659 he took a rather active part in the plans for the rising of the 'new royalists' under Sir George Booth (1622–1684) [q. v.] His property was seized by the parliamentary sequestrators, and not restored; but for the restoration of the monarchy in the following year he would probably have lost his benefice. Unable to accept the terms of the Uniformity Act, he was ejected in 1662. He retired to Warrington, where he lived for some years in dependence on his wife's relatives. The Five Mile Act (1665) compelled him to leave, and he settled in Manchester (not then a corporate town), where he supported himself by keeping a school. Both at Warrington and Manchester he attended the ordinary services in the established church, preaching only occasionally on Sunday evenings in his own dwelling to such restricted gatherings as the law allowed. On the indulgence of 1672 he took out a license as a 'general presbyterian minister,' and officiated in the licensed 'private oratory' (Birch Chapel), which was in the hands of Thomas Birch of Birch Hall, Lancashire, though the legal owners were the warden and fellows of the collegiate church of Manchester. On 29 Oct. 1672 he took part in the first ordination conducted by the ejected nonconformists, in the house of Robert Eaton at Deansgate, Manchester. On the outbreak of the Monmouth rebellion (1685) Finch was imprisoned at Chester; this was probably the occasion when, as Calamy relates, 'they thrust a conformist into his place' at Birch Chapel, but 'that project dropt,' and Finch was allowed to resume his ministry.

The Toleration Act (1689) was the means of calling attention to the insecurity of his position. Birch Chapel, being a consecrated place, could not be licensed as a dissenting meeting-house. Finch, however, stayed on until the death of Thomas Birch the younger in 1697, when the chapel was ceded by his son, George Birch, to the legal owners. Finch then preached at licensed houses in Platt and Birch, till his friends built a meeting-house at Platt (1700), Finch himself contributing 20l. towards the erection, which cost 95l. in all. The opening discourse was preached by Finch's son-in-law, James Grimshaw of Lancaster, author of 'Rest from Rebels,' 1716.

Finch was a member of the provincial meeting of united ministers (presbyterian and congregational) formed in Lancashire in 1693 on the basis of the London 'agreement' of 1691, involving a doctrinal subscription. He preached before this meeting on two occasions, 4 Aug. 1696, and 13 Aug. 1700, both at Manchester. Calamy acknowledges the value of Finch's corrections to his account of the silenced ministers. It is interesting to note that, though a strong supporter of the revolution of 1688, Finch was 'a charitable contributor while he liv'd' to the distressed nonjurors. Finch died on 13 Nov. 1704, and was succeeded by Robert Hesketh, early in whose ministry the chapel was conveyed (25-6 Oct. 1706) in trust for the maintenance of an 'orthodox' ministry.

Peter Finch (1661-1754), presbyterian minister, son of the above, was born on 6 Oct. 1661. On 3 May 1678 he entered the non-conformist academy of Richard Frankland [q.v.] at Natland, Westmoreland. He soon removed to the university of Edinburgh, where he graduated M.A. on 16 July 1680. His first employment was as chaplain in the family of William Ashurst, afterwards knighted [see Ashurst, Henry]. In 1691 he was invited to become colleague at Norwich to Josiah Chorley [q.v.]; his first entry in the presbyterian register of baptisms is dated 1 June 1692. He remained at his post for over sixty-two years, and survived Edward Crane [q.v.] and Thomas Dixon the younger [see under Dixon, Thomas], both of whom had been designated as his successor. Himself a strict Calvinist, he contributed much, by his love of peace, to preserve concord when doctrinal differences threatened to divide his flock. From 1733 John Taylor, the Hebraist, was his colleague. He died on his ninety-third birthday, 6 Oct. 1754, and was buried in the church of St. Peter Mancroft, Norwich. A small portrait of him hangs in the vestry of the Octagon Chapel. His great-grandson, Peter, was mayor of Norwich in 1827.

[Calamy's Account, 1713, p. 404 sq.; Continuation, 1727, i. 564; Monthly Repository, 1811, p. 261; Taylor's Hist. Octagon Chapel, Norwich, 1848, p. 15 sq.; Booker's Hist. Ancient Chapel of Birch (Chetham Soc.), 1858; Cat. of Edinb. Graduates (Bannatyne Club), 1858; Halley's Lancashire Nonconformity, 1869, p. 94, &c.; Manuscript Minutes of Provincial Meeting of Lancashire Ministers (1693-1700), in possession of trustees of Cross Street Chapel, Manchester; papers relating to Platt Chapel, in possession of G. W. Rayner Wood.]

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