Life Story 01

Background and conversion
Beddome was not only a Baptist minister himself but also the son of a Baptist minister. John Beddome (c 1674-1757) was born in Stratford on Avon but moved to London, where he became a member of the Baptist church, Horsley Down, Southwark, the church that called him to the ministry. (The minister at Horsley Down was Benjamin Keach (1640-1704), whom we want to refer to later on this blog in connection with catechisms and hymns. This is the church, of course, later pastored by John Gill 1697-1771 and C H Spurgeon 1834-1892 and that continues today as the Metropolitan Tabernacle.)


In 1697 he moved back to Warwickshire where he became pastor of the Alcester Baptist church. He soon purchased a large property, a former inn, in nearby Henley-in-Arden. This served as a home to himself, his family and others and as a meeting place for the church.
Perhaps the source of the financial outlay involved was his wife Rachel Brandon (c 1676-1758). She was the daughter of Mercy Neckless (d 1726) and Benjamin Brandon, a London silversmith said to be in an illegitimate line from Charles Brandon, first Duke of Suffolk and brother-in-law by marriage to Henry VIII (Cf Haykin, British Particular Baptists Vol 1, 169; Rippon, 314). She received a good education at a boarding school in Nantwich, Cheshire, due to the generosity of an aunt for whom she was named and from whom she later inherited a fortune. (The Aunt, Rachel Spilsworth and on remarrying Rachel Cope, married twice but had no children. She died March 2, 1731 in Hanham near Bristol. Her first husband appears to have been a wealthy timber merchant and her second had previously been married to the Puritan John Flavel’s sister). The author of a nineteenth century memoir describes Benjamin Beddome’s mother as ‘amiable and accomplished’ (Memoir, x). John Beddome was said to be ‘remarkable for his spiritual winning discourse, especially to young converts and enquirers (Roger Hayden, quoted Haykin, BPB Vol 1, 169, from Evangelical Calvinism among 18th Century British Baptists with particular reference to Bernard Foskett, Hugh and Caleb Evans and the Bristol Baptist Academy, 1690-1791, unpub PhD, University of Keele, 113, 114. Now available as a book).
John and Rachel had at least five children who survived infancy. (According to Benjamin’s grandson Samuel, whose ms genealogical notebook is preserved in the archive of the Angus Library, Regents Park College, Oxford, Benjamin’s brother Joseph (1718-94), was an American merchant in Bristol. He died a Quaker in Philadelphia, leaving at least three daughters. Two sisters (Mary and Martha) lived in Bristol, married respectably and had families. The Angus Library also has a ms notebook, c 1807, that appears to be a copy of a poem by Benjamin Beddome, headed ‘The Letter’ and addressed to a sister, or possibly a sister-in-law).
Benjamin, the first child, was born to John and Rachel on January 23, 1717 (Memoir, ix). He spent his first seven years in Warwickshire, where his father ministered from 1697 in Henley, Alcester and Bengeworth, near Evesham, Worcestershire. Beddome Senior originally assisted John Willis, d 1705, a blacksmith and Alcester’s first Baptist minister (from 1660). Willis (with a man called John Higgins) had been a messenger to the assembly in London in September, 1689.

In 1724 the family moved southwest to Bristol, where John became assistant to William Bazley (1673-1757), pastor of the Pithay church, 1723-1736. (This is the church pastored 1677-1721 by the learned Andrew Gifford 1642-1721 and his son Emmanuel 1705-1723. A grandson, also Andrew Gifford 1700-1784 pastored Eagle Street Church, London and is buried in Bunhill Fields.) Bazley had moved there a short time before, just prior to the death of Emmanuel Gifford in 1723. Bernard Foskett (1685-1758) had moved to Bristol to teach in the Academy and to co-pastor the Broadmead Church with Peter Kitterell (d 1727) shortly before in 1720 (following the departure to the church in Exeter of the unsatisfactory Caleb Jope who had been trained by the church in London and Trowbridge from 1707 and had come in 1714).
Broadmead was the smaller of the two Particular Baptist churches and had its meeting place just 200 yards from the Pithay building. (They apparently shared a burial ground in Redcross Street). Foskett and Beddome had known each other in London and had been co-pastors in Warwickshire, 1711-1720. Thus an old friendship was strengthened, the two apparently living in the same house once again. Foskett remained a close friend of the family and, later in life, Benjamin gave the name Foskett to one of his sons. Beddome senior and Foskett eventually shared the same grave.
Thus at an impressionable age Beddome came to live in the bustling seaport of Bristol, Britain’s second city at the time. In his Tour Through England and Wales, c 1720, Daniel Defoe (1661-1731) speaks of Bristol as ‘... the greatest, richest and best port of the trade in Great Britain, London only excepted. The merchants of this city not only have the greatest trade, but they trade with a more entire independency upon London, than any other town in Britain. … the Bristol merchants as they have a great trade abroad, so they have always buyers at home, for their returns and that such buyers that no cargo is too big for them.’ This was the end of the era of men such as Edward Colston (1636-1721) and John Pinney I (1686-1720) whose wealth came chiefly from the flourishing slave trade.
Following schooling in the city, Beddome was apprenticed to a surgeon apothecary (Francis Labee). He seems to have taken well to this and it is said that he never lost his love for things medical. Two of his sons trained in the same field and he himself, it seems, carried on some form of medical practice in Bourton. It is said that he would often turn to the world of medicine for an apt illustration in his preaching. (Remarks in Memoir, xi, which reveals that Foskett also had a medical training).
Benjamin and John were clearly close. Benjamin continued to sit under his father’s ministry throughout his teenage years. He made no profession of faith, however, until he was 20. (He later wrote at least 4 hymns [see Hymns 717-720] that plead with youths to give God ‘the morning of your days,’ ‘your early bloom’. He came to believe that ‘Youth is the most accepted time, To love and serve the Lord’. He saw disease and death, passions, worldliness, ‘vanities of time and sense’, sinful ways, sin’s power to increase its hold and thoughtless presumption as the chief barriers to seeking truth and a heavenly crown.) The Baptist Register speaks of how ‘the bent of his mind affected and afflicted his parents several years’ (Rippon, 316).
On Wednesday August 7, 1737, a Mr Ware of Chesham was the visiting minister (Joshua Ware d 1739 it turns out to be - see here). He preached on Luke 15:7, I say unto you that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety nine just persons which need no repentance. Beddome wrote that it was with that ‘sermon I was, for the first time, deeply impressed’. It made him weep, not just then but, it would seem, for some weeks afterward. He would often hide himself away in a quiet corner of the chapel gallery, making the excuse that he wanted to sit somewhere where he could slip in or out easily which he sometimes had to do in his capacity as a medical practitioner. (Cf Rippon, 316; Haykin, 170, quoting S A Swaine, Faithful men; or, Memorials of Bristol Baptist College and some of its most distinguished alumni¸ London, Alexander and Shepherd, 43). He was later to write,

Lord, let me weep for nought but sin,
And after none but thee
And then I would - O that I might -
A constant weeper be.

(The third and final verse of Hymn 520, Why, O my soul, why weepest thou?). He found relief in reading the Scriptures and was soon brought to Christ.

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