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[b. at Norwich ; ed. Manchester New College, Manchester and London, 1852-1858. B.A., Lond., 1855 ; min. Nottingham, 1858-60, with Benjm. Carpenter ; Rotherham, 1860-1894 ; Sheffield, without charge, m. (22 April, 1891) Mary Fisher, of Sheffield.]
EARLY LIFE AT NORWICH.
WILLIAM BLAZEBY, born at Norwich, owed his class
ical and mathematical attainments to his friends, Mr.
John Withers Dowson and Travers Madge, son of Rev. Thos. Madge, of Essex St. Chapel, London, who conducted together a superior school at Norwich, in which he taught as usher. Of his own choice, though first intended for the Law, William Blazeby prepared for the entrance examination, 1852, of Manchester New College, Manchester, and his certificate was signed by the Rev. Joseph Hutton, B.A., minister of the Octagon Chapel, Norwich, and the Rev. Joseph Crompton, M.A., who had seceded from the Octagon pulpit to open a Free Christian Church. The early life of Mr. Blazeby, in connection with the Octagon Chapel and the ministry of Mr. Crompton, along with intimate association with old Norwich churches and the grand Cathedral, well prepared his mind for his after Divinity studies. He could remember, when a child, seeing good Bishop Stanley, with his flowing white hair and delicate physique. The famous George Dawson, of Birmingham, occasionally preached for his brother-in-law Crompton at the Octagon, and his original extempore addresses never failed to make a vivid impression on the young hearer. No less striking, at the time, was his personal appearance, including the parting of his black curly hair in the middle, black tie, and waistcoat buttoned up to
the chin. It thought, Dawson exercised great influence in regard to Crompton's decision to abandon the Unitarian name and standard of faith, and to start a “Free Christian Church. Mr. Crompton in his publication, 1848, of the history of the Octagon Chapel, by the late John Taylor, after maintaining, “the Octagon Chapel is not a Unitarian Chapel in the common antagonistic sense of the term," closes his “ Introduction ” in the following terms :-“The Liberal congregations of England are possessed of principles and feelings, and a freedom, which shew their power and truth now by leading them to recognise and welcome everything that is holy and noble, wherever manifesting itself, without regard to sect or name, and which will one day be incorporated in the Church of the Future.' Glorious principles these to rejoice in,-weighty the duties thence resulting,-and high the hope and the patience wherewith to look into the future!”
It was an important and memorable controversy that Joseph Crompton raised at the old Octagon. The religion there propagated had been prominently of a Scriptural Christian character, theological and sectarian differences being quiescent. The standing at prayers, with back to the pulpit, and sitting while singing the hymns, were, what we should now think, the chief characteristics. But the actual raising of the “ Free Christian Church ” standard caused also the Unitarian name and banner to be brought to the front. The two parties did their best to make good their respective positions. Two of the Deacons in particular, there being six of that dignified order, took up resolutely Mr. Crompton's challenge, and, by able and manly speeches, maintained and vindicated the claims of Unitarian Christianity upon the congregation. This presentment, in calm, clear, earnest appeals, by such prominent laymen, made a deep and lasting impression on one young hearer, and he became thoroughly convinced that his duty was to adhere to the Unitarian side. This was the more remarkable, as Mr. Crompton had always shown kindly personal regard towards that youthful member of his Sunday Vestry Class, recommending him books to read, and even lending to him handsomely bound volumes from his own fine library, including a set of Dr. Priestley's Works. It has been remarked by others, what was illustrated in this instance, namely, that Dr. Priestley's pure and clear style of writing is well calculated to interest and charm young readers. For example, his pourtrayal of the corruptions of early Christianity, his picturing of Chrysostom as a preacher, his exposition of the Unity of God, sustained by arguments drawn from the lessons of Nature, will never fail to be remembered by that destined Unitarian minister, so utterly unconscious then of so high a vocation.
The result of the agitation at the Octagon was that about three-fourths of the congregation remained firm to the Unitarian allegiance, and about a fourth, including Miss Martineau, of Bracondale, went forth with their valiant leader, Mr. Crompton, to advance their Free and Unsectarian Christian Mission. Mr. Crompton, though placed in a most favorable position for propagating his liberal gospel in the old Dutch Church, the former choir of a monastic Church, and handsomely repewed by the generosity of Miss Martineau, did not find any great success attending his new effort,
The Norwich M.N.C. student did not fail to keep up his early and always engaging friendship with the former pastor of the Octagon, and would attend occasionally the Dutch Church services, when College vacations permitted. He became himself convinced, that this Free Christian enterprise would never take deep root, having no defined doctrinal basis ; or attract more than a limited number of adherents, who, like the old Athenians, devoted themselves ' either to tell or to hear some new thing. Indeed, Mr. Crompton himself, in the course of some years' experience, appears to have come to the conclusion, that he must abandon his novel Free Church Mission, and take orders in the venerable Church of England. Some time after he had gone over to the Establishment, serving at a very old parish church, in Norwich, the present scriptor met his old Octagon pastor, who tried to persuade the M.N.C. student to follow his example. But, asked the latter, “ How about the adoption of the Athanasian Creed ?” “0,” replied the ordained Joseph, “I told the Bishop that I didn't intend to read it, and he said he didn't intend to proceed against me, if nobody else did.” The Bishop of that period happened to be more interested in mathematics than theologics.
COLLEGE CAREER. The College life at Manchester had both its recommendations and drawbacks. The classes were very small, that of classics for the undergraduates consisting of only Messrs. Holland, Wood, and Blazeby, so that the Professor was able to devote an unusual amount of attention to each student personally. The building used for the College was an old brick house, not very convenient, and far from collegiate in appearance. The weather was something awful that year
the rain, it rained every day,' and the students, who taught every Sunday, and on a week-night also, at the Moseley Street Schools, crowded with big, ignorant lads, had to endure martyrizing experience. Still, good and profitable for those future ministers, was it for them to be brought into living contact with those poor, hard-worked, Manchester lads, and to do each one's best to instil rudimentary and Scripture lessons into their dull minds. A Teachers' Conference, that met in a classroom for prayer and scripture-study on some week night, when Miss Winkworth, authoress of “ Lyra Germanica," occasionally attended, and expressed her religious sentiments, exercised a marvellously religious stimulus on the attenders, the frequent prayers and earnest exhortations attaining, indeed, the fervour of similar Methodist meetings.
Student Blazeby had presented to him, at the close of the Session, “Corpus Poetarum Latinorum," handsomely bound, " as a Prize for Proficiency in Classics during the Session 1852-3.” He afterwards passed his matriculation at the University of London. The College being removed to University Hall, Gorden Square, London, Mr. Blazeby enjoyed, by the M.N.C. arrangements for the students, two years' study at University College, under the Professors Francis Newman (brother of Cardinal Newman), Latin Classics; Malden, Greek Classics; De Morgan, Mathematics. He took the Degree of Bachelor of Arts in the First Division. The next three Theological years were duly spent in attending the lectures, on Ecclesiastical History by the Rev. Principal J. J. Tayler; on Mental and Moral Philosophy by Professor James Mar