Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Peckwell, Henry

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1157381Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 44 — Peckwell, Henry1895Bertha Porter

PECKWELL, HENRY (1747–1787), divine, son of Henry Peckwell of Chichester, was born in 1747. About 1764 he entered the house of an Italian silk merchant in London, with the intention of representing the firm in Italy. But he spent more of his time at Whitefield's Tabernacle than in the counting-house, and before his term was finished gave up his position and matriculated at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, on 17 May 1770. He soon attracted the notice of the Countess of Huntingdon, who made him one of her chaplains. Before 1773 he visited Dublin, and drew large congregations in the city. Through the influence of the Countess of Moira, Lady Huntingdon's eldest daughter, he was permitted to preach in the chapel of the Magdalen Institution, founded by Lady Arabella Denny, which was patronised by the highest and most fashionable society in Dublin. Here he spoke out more plainly than was agreeable to the congregation, and many complaints were made. The circumstance created a breach between Lady Arabella and the Countess of Moira, and application was made to the archbishop of Dublin to use his influence to arrest the spread of methodism in the church. Many influential pulpits, however, remained at Peckwell's disposal. In April 1774 the chapel in Prince's Street, Westminster, was repaired and opened for him. In the same year he preached the anniversary sermon at Lady Huntingdon's College at Trevecca, and afterwards visited many places in England, preaching for the connexion. Subsequently he was presented by Lord Robert Manners to the rectory of Bloxholm-cum-Digby in Lincolnshire, which he retained till his death. Residing in London, he founded in 1784 an institution called ‘The Sick Man's Friend,’ for the purpose of relieving the sick poor of all denominations, as well as supplying instruction. To render himself of greater service to the work, he studied medicine. The sermons which he preached for the benefit of the charity produced as much as 400l. per annum. He died from the effects of a wound in his hand, inflicted upon himself while making a post-mortem examination, on 18 Aug. 1787, at his house in St. James's, Westminster. He was buried in the family vault at Chichester.

Peckwell married, on 23 Feb. 1773, Bella Blossed of co. Meath. By her he had a son, Robert Henry (noticed below), and a daughter, Selina Mary (named after her godmother, the Countess of Huntingdon), who, in 1793, married George Grote, the banker, and became the mother of George Grote [q. v.], the historian. Mrs. Peckwell died in her house in Wilmot Street, Brunswick Square, on 28 Nov. 1816.

Peckwell published, besides many sermons, ‘A Collection of Psalms and Hymns,’ London, 1760? Several portraits of Peckwell were published: a mezzotint engraving by R. Houston, from a painting by J. Russell in 1774; an engraving by T. Trotter in 1787; and another by J. Fittler, after R. Bowyer in 1787; this was accompanied by a vignette of the charity ‘The Sick Man's Friend.’ The face was afterwards altered to that of Rowland Hill. A small etched profile was also published in 1787.

His only son, Sir Robert Henry Peckwell, afterwards Blosset (1776–1823), was born in 1776. He matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, on 23 Oct. 1792, graduated B.A. 19 Oct. 1796, M.A. 5 July 1799, became barrister-at-law at Lincoln's Inn in 1801, and serjeant-at-law in 1809. He was deputy recorder of Cambridge, and counsel upon the Norfolk circuit. In 1822 he was appointed chief justice of Calcutta, and was knighted. He died unmarried in Calcutta on 1 Feb. 1823, after only two months' exercise of his judicial functions. He took his mother's name of Blosset. He published ‘Cases on Controverted Elections in the Second Parliament of the United Kingdom,’ London, 1805–6.

[Foster's Alumni, 1715–1886; Gent. Mag. 1787 pp. 746, 834–5, 1823 pt. ii. p. 83; Life and Times of the Countess of Huntingdon, ii. 77, 121, 196–200, 295; Plain Narrative of the death of Dr. Peckwell, pp. 11, 42, 44, 51; Harriet Grote's Personal Life of George Grote, pp. 4–6; Bromley's Catalogue of Engraved Portraits.]

B. P.