Raleigh, Alexander (DNB00)

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RALEIGH, ALEXANDER (1817–1880), nonconformist divine, was born at The Flock, a farmhouse near Castle Douglas in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright in Galloway, on 3 Jan. 1817. He was the fourth son of Thomas and Isabella Raleigh. The father was a Cameronian. After a short period of alternate teaching and farming, he was apprenticed in 1832 to a draper at Castle Douglas. Meanwhile his father removed to Liverpool, and in three years Alexander followed. There, while in trade as a draper, he took charge of a Sunday-school Bible class, and began to study for the congregational ministry. In March 1840 he entered Blackburn College as a divinity student, and by too close application injured his health. In 1843 the college was transferred to Manchester, where the last year of Raleigh's student life was spent. In April 1845 he became pastor of the congregational church in Greenock, but in the summer of 1847 his health broke down, and he resigned the charge. For several years he was a wanderer in search of health. After short periods of ministerial service in Birmingham, and at Liscard, near New Brighton, he undertook the pastorate of a church at Rotherham in August 1850, where, with greatly improved health, he laboured until April 1855. At this time he accepted the charge of the West George Street independent chapel, Glasgow, in succession to Dr. Ralph Wardlaw, its minister for fifty years. In 1858 he accepted a call from the congregation of Hare Court Chapel, Canonbury, London. Raleigh soon played an important part in the religious life of London. He preached the annual sermon before the London Missionary Society in Surrey Chapel in May 1861. He was also appointed one of the ‘merchant's lecturers in the city of London.’

In February 1865 the university of Glasgow conferred on Raleigh the degree of D.D. In the same year he was sent by the Congregational Union of England and Wales to represent that body at the National Council of American Congregational Churches. The council met at Boston in June. Raleigh's colleagues were Dr. Vaughan and Dr. George Smith. The American civil war had just concluded, and considerable bitterness was manifested towards Dr. Vaughan, who, as editor of the ‘British Quarterly Review,’ was responsible for some unfriendly articles on the part the north had played in the struggle. Raleigh's tact, however, brought the council's work to a peaceful conclusion.

Raleigh was chairman of the Congregational Union of England and Wales for the first time in 1868. In 1871 his congregation at Hare Court built a sister church on Stamford Hill, which was placed under the same ministerial charge. Henry Simon became co-pastor of the united churches with Dr. Raleigh. In 1875 his congregation presented him with 300l., so that he might visit the Holy Land. On his return he became minister of the Kensington Congregational Church.

In 1879 he was for a second time president of the Congregational Union. He died on 19 April 1880, and was buried in Abney Park cemetery, beside his friend, Dr. Thomas Binney. Raleigh married Mary, only daughter of James Gifford of Edinburgh. Raleigh, who bore a wide reputation as an effective preacher, published several collected volumes of sermons and devotional works.

[Alexander Raleigh: Records of his Life, ed. Mary Raleigh, 1881 (with portrait); published works.]

W. B. L.