John Angier of Denton, Puritan

I recently visited Denton in Manchester. Surprisingly, its church is still made of timber, as constructed in Tudor times, with some Victorian extension. This was the parish of John Angier, the greatly respected puritan preacher in the seventeenth century. Although an Essex man, Angier was set to emigrate to New England, until he married Ellen Winstanley, from Wigan. A committed Presbyterian and nonconformist, the bishop of Chester respected his learning and gentleness, even when Archbishop Laud demanded he be removed. At Denton, he was known for his ‘sweet, moderate, healing spirit…a man mighty in prayer, a hard student, of an exact conversation, very affable and courteous and in general a pattern of holiness’. Although he received a poor stipend at Denton Chapel, he was known to invite the poor to his kitchen after church on Sundays and fed them well.

When the Act of Uniformity was passed, requiring all clergy by St Bartholomew’s Day to give up preaching and read the Prayer Book, some ministers preached farewell sermons. Other capitulated, surrendered their principles and conformed. Angier apparently did neither. When ‘Black Bartholomew’s’ Sunday came, he entered his pulpit as usual, preached his sermon, and down he went. He must have decided to wait and see what happened, knowing ‘sufficient for the day is the evil thereof’. This state of affairs seemingly continued for fourteen more years, which is remarkable considering the times. His second wife’s connections to local gentry families no doubt assisted, as did his reputation for courtesy and civility to Anglicans when his party was in the ascendancy. Local magistrates may have assumed that he had little time left to live; better to let nature take its course than be seen turfing out a well-liked old man. One of his curates was John Jollie, brother of Thomas, the Independent minister at Altham and Wymondhouses. 

Despite the fury of persecution directed against God’s people, the Lord allotted Angier a gentler retirement. He was a great man, and his chapel still stands, testament to the glory days of Puritan England. The local council, quite rightly, has erected a blue plaque in his honour.