Anglezarke’s Mr Gray

Andrew Gray wrote his will on the 23rd November 1727 in which he styles himself ‘Clerk’ and was of Anglezarke, but who was he, when and where did he come from?

The first clue comes from his will which names his wife Dorothy, three daughters Ann (wife of Richard Lowe), Mary and Margaret, and three sons John, Thomas and Bennet.

Initially a search of the local church registers shows his daughter Ann married Richard Lowe at St Peter’s Bolton in 1723 but there are no baptism records for his children locally. Widening the search finds the unusually named Bennet baptised in 1694 of Hayfield, Derbyshire, then John in 1700 in Mottram-in-Longendale followed by Ann in 1702, Mary in 1705 and finally Margaret in 1707. We can therefore assume Andrew was born before 1673.

According to William Fergusson Irvine, Andrew Gray was a Scot, who began clerical life as a non-conformist Minister at Tintwisle in Mottram, initially preaching in a barn purchased by the congregation in 1689 on the act of Toleration, which became the site of Tintwistle chapel.

According to Urwick’s “Non-Conformity in Cheshire”, Gray was described as well-read, thoroughly evangelical in spirit and doctrine, and forceful and terse in his style. He championed the non-conformist cause for several years, but suddenly abandoned the cause, took orders and was inducted as Vicar of Mottram. He was ordained Deacon by the Bishop of Chester in September 1697 where he stayed until 1716. His chapel flock were so curious at his sudden swing, they attended his first service at the Mother Church wishing to know “what face Mr Gray would demean himself in the very robes which he had so often denounced as the ‘foppery of Babylon!’ ”.

So what made Andrew ‘switch sides’. Perhaps he had a true revelation, however, the rural chapels, known for their piety, ministers received only small stipends with small contributions from the congregation. With a growing family and a wife to support, perhaps Andrew needed a higher income.

His curacy at Mottram was to last nearly two decades during which time he published two books, “The Mystery of Grace” and “A door opening into everlasting life”, one of which he dedicated to Miss Mary Reddish of Hill-End his ‘dear helper in the Lord’.

Seemingly settled in Mottram, what made Robert move to Rivington? One possibility is the marriage of Miss Mary Reddish to Samuel Bowden of Mellor, by Licence in February 1716, Andrew was in his forties, possibly even his fifties and perhaps had lost his sponsor to her new husband.

The area around Rivington had a history of non-conformism, and both church and chapel had staunch leanings. Also, the previous incumbent Ralph Ainsworth died before the 27th March 1716 (the baptism records at Rivington are poorly recorded throughout 1714) when his will was proved by Jeremiah Finch.

By the time Andrew Gray and his family left Mottram in 1716, his son Bennett was twenty-two years of age. He married Elizabeth Holland and became a clergyman in Salford. John and his daughters were teenagers, and to date, there is no trace of Thomas.

Aged twenty-one, his daughter Ann married Rivington weaver, Richard Lowe in the summer of 1723, and Andrew’s first grand-son Thomas, then Bennet and Andrew followed.

Little is known of his decade in Rivington until he wrote his will on a Sunday in late November witnessed by William Brown, Thomas Mather and John Morris.

He was buried less than a month later, on the 16th December 1727.

His personal estate was appraised in February and although his home in Anglezarke isn’t named we find it has a Brew House, Parlour, Buttery, Shop, Stairs-foot, Parlour chamber, Hall chamber and chamber above the shop. He has cattle, geese and swine, corn and hay and husbandry gear; a total personal wealth of £192, with his books alone worth £23 14s.

His son John stayed in Anglezarke and in 1730 married a local woman, Elizabeth France and they had children Mary, Andrew, John, Dorothy, Robert and Betty. Andrew’s wife Dorothy and daughters Mary and Margaret moved to Heath Charnock, where Mary died a few months later. Margaret married another local man John Taylor. His widow, Dorothy, was also buried at Rivington on the 4th April 1736.

The Gray family burial plots in Rivington churchyard are in P7, alongside the Hollands who are in P8 & 9.

So Mr Gray was a well-read, forceful, terse Scot. A family man who published well respected religious treatises, and spent his latter years on a Lancashire moorland farm with his books.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.