Groves, Anthony Norris (DNB00)

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GROVES, ANTHONY NORRIS (1795–1853), missionary, was born at Newton, Hampshire, in 1795. His father was originally in a prosperous business in Lymington, but engaging in speculations lost his savings. One of his undertakings was the cultivation under a new system of drainage of an estate near the sea called Normandy. Previously he had a share in the Royal George, a ship which went down, and latterly he was the owner of a factory for refining sugar. His mother died on 24 July 1823. The son was educated at a school at Lymington, and then under Dr. Ray at Fulham. He learnt chemistry in London under Savory & Moore; availed himself of the offer of his uncle, James Thompson, a well-known dentist practising at 22 George Street, Hanover Square, to study that profession, and at the same time walked the hospitals and acquired a knowledge of surgery. He became so skilful a dentist that at the age of nineteen he was able to support himself, and took up his residence at Plymouth on 1 Feb. 1813, where he also devoted himself to many scientific objects, and was a leading member of the Athenæum. He was the early friend of John Kitto [q. v.] of Plymouth, whose advancement he forwarded at considerable pecuniary cost to himself. In 1816 he married his cousin, Mary Berthia Thompson, and soon after removed from Plymouth to Exeter. He had for some time been deeply impressed with a sense of his religious duties, and in 1825 was instrumental in the conversion to Christianity of Michael Solomon Alexander [q. v.], who was afterwards bishop of Jerusalem. In 1828 he stated his views respecting Christians meeting together in brotherhood with no other tenets than faith in Christ. This circumstance gives him a claim to have been one of the founders of the sect afterwards known as the Plymouth Brethren (James Grant, The Plymouth Brethren, 1875, pp. 5-7). While studying at Trinity College, Dublin, with the intention of seeking ordination in the church of England, in 1828 he associated with John Nelson Darby [q. v.] and other early founders of the Plymouth Brethren. Already in 1825 he had taken charge of a small congregation at Poltimore, near Exeter; and in 1829, having from the exercise of his profession saved a considerable sum of money, and his wife at the same period inheriting 10,000l. on the death of her father, they determined to devote themselves and their wealth to missionary work. On 12 June 1829, accompanied by his wife and family, John Kitto, and others, he sailed with Lord Congleton in his yacht the Osprey, and in the following month arrived at St. Petersburg (Henry Groves, Memoirs of Lord Congleton, 1884, pp. 12-18, 38-46, 61). After a land journey, on 6 Dec. he entered Bagdad, where he took up his residence as a teacher of Christianity unconnected with any sect or denomination. He helped the poor with his surgical knowledge, established an Arabic school, and made attempts at the conversion of the Jewish residents. In 1831, his second year in Bagdad, the plague appeared, and in two months half the population were swept away, including his own wife, who died on 14 May. In June Bagdad was besieged by the pasha of Mosul acting for the pasha of Aleppo, and Groves, then ill with typhus fever, was in danger of his life from the soldiers. In April 1833 he left Bagdad for Bombay, and made a voyage along the western coast of India, visiting the missionary stations. In November he journeyed inland to Pallamacottah, and after inspecting the Tinnevelly mission, in December found himself at Ootacamund in the Neilgherry hills. In 1834 he went to Trichinopoly and Jaffna, and returning to the continent of India, journeyed along the eastern coast to Madras. He landed in England in December 1834, and on 25 April 1835 was married at Malvern to Harriet, third daughter of General Edward Baynes of Woolbrook Cottage, Sidmouth. The object of Groves's visit to England was to persuade persons to proceed to India as missionaries, and having secured the services of several, he quickly followed them and landed in India on 7 July 1836. He then spent a year in Madras, practising his profession as a dentist, and was afterwards for many years steadily employed in carrying out his great work of christianising the native population. He again came to England, 20 March 1848, and in the following year returned to India for the last time. By 1852 his health had failed, and going on board ship he landed at Southampton on 25 Sept. He died at 21 Paul Street, Bristol, the residence of his friend George Müller, on 20 May 1853, and was buried in Arno's Vale cemetery. His conversational powers were of a high order, and his preaching was very successful, while his conduct under trying circumstances was brave and consistent. His sons, Henry and Edward Groves, conducted a sugar factory at Seringapatam.

His 'Journal of a Journey from London to Bagdad' and 'Journal of a Residence at Bagdad during 1830-1,' were edited by A. J. Scott and appeared in 1831 and 1837 respectively.

[Memoir of A. N. Groves, compiled by his widow (1856); Missionary Reporter, London, November 1853, pp. 63-4 ; Contemporary Review, October 1885, pp. 542-3.]

G. C. B.