Richard Hall 03

Sadly, there was division after Gill's death and his young successor John Rippon (1751-1836) was not liked by all. Hall's son later wrote “In consequence of a division in the Church on the death of their Minister my father's mind appears to have been very unhappy and for a time he was unsettled. Much animosity and contention existed in consequence of the majority of the Church choosing Mr. Rippon, (afterwards Doctor), who was ordained to the pastoral Office November 11th, 1773. My father was one of the minority who signed the protest against this step, and with that minority chose Mr. Button to be their pastor, for whom it appears that they built a new Place, but owing to some shyness between the members he discontinued his attendance and in 1776 was set aside by the Church”. (Exactly what this last sentence means is unclear. Button served faithfully at the new place in Dean Street for many, many years).
Hall, says MR, always viewed this as most ungenerous conduct on the church's part. He never forgave Rippon (who remained as pastor for 63 years all told). Cathcart's Baptist Encyclopedia (1881) says "When about twenty-one he became the successor of the great Dr. Gill, in London. Mr. Rippon had neither the talents nor the learning of his predecessor, but he was bold, witty, and ready in speech; his "preaching was lively, affectionate, and impressive; his administration of church affairs was marked by great prudence, and he soon became very popular."
MR suggests a more personal slant. He says that Rippon took a fancy to Hall’s daughter Martha – then just 16. Hall, MR suggests, was having no Devonshire hot-head messing with her affections! Spurned by the family, Rippon turned his attentions elsewhere and soon found an alternative bride.
Later family diaries recount: “On 20th August, 1776 my father was much pleased by the baptism of his beloved wife at Leominster by Mr. [ie Joshua] Thomas and on the 6th November, 1777 that pleasure was enhanced by his daughter (Martha) giving in her experience to the same Church and being baptized by the same minister on the 20th of the same month.” Such pleasure was short-lived because two years later daughter Martha went back to Rippon’s church! Hall was horrified and his relationship with his daughter deteriorated. He seems to have regarded her as something of a “wild child”. Matters improved in time but at some stage after 1785 (when she married) contact dwindled to the extent that they barely spoke or corresponded. For the last 10 years of his life they never met or wrote to each other. Hall was to die without resolving their differences.
Hall remained unmoved and carried his grudge against Rippon to the grave. The dislike was reciprocated – at Richard’s funeral Dr Rippon wrote a short eulogy, not, as was normal, praising the deceased for his fine qualities, but stating: “Mr Hall was certainly not distinguished among his religious connections for the felicity of his disposition but we are given to understand that he has left behind him the testimony of an affectionate husband a kind father and a sincere friend.”
Hall made his distaste for Rippon clear to all and sundry. A letter from a friend who was the Baptist Minister in Bedford dated February 16, 1773 reads: “… you complain in your letter you are like a sheep without a shepherd. May the great Head of the Church afford you support, relief, direction and consolation. But I always think it must dismay a humble minister to think of succeeding the great Dr Gill of precious memory.”
Hall refers to his sadness at matters being “very quarrelsome”. He was still attending Rippon’s services – and indeed having him round for tea – but matters were coming to a head and on August 16 he records “was at Church meeting. Very disagreeable disputes and contentions”. Later in the year (October 11) he records “Was at Church Meeting – things very confused. A protest against the proceedings delivered in – signed by 19 persons. Very fine day. Like Summer. Cool”. There is a reference to Rippon's ordination (November 11 – “to my great concern”).
In summer, 1774 Hall appears to have made a visit to Bourton, which he did from time to time. In 1775 he was there again and we read interestingly "1775 - Sept 8th – after 10 o’clock at Night when at Bourton a Shock of Earthquake was felt. Mr Beddome felt the bed rise up three times. Felt at Oxford, Bath, Salisbury etc."
Then on January 16, 1799 Snooke died. Richard later wrote “After a short illness of about five days of a paralytic stroke departed my worthy friend and brother-in-law William Snooke Esq. aged 49. My dear wife and self went to Bourton on hearing of his illness but he died the day before we got here. We stayed the interment which was on the 17th.”
It must have been a huge blow to Richard says MR – William was all the things Richard was not – rumbustuous, charming, always laughing at his own mistakes. Richard, always pious and invoking the Lord, must have envied William his simple Faith, his generosity – and of course his enormous wealth!

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