John Kensit’s Visit to Manchester

Brother John Kensit

Bro John Kensit

On 25 January 1899 John Kensit, a London Orangeman, the founder of the Protestant Truth Society and a campaigner against ritualism in the Church of England, spoke under the auspices of the National Protestant League at what was described as a ‘Great Protestant Demonstration’ at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester.  This was said to be the largest Christian meeting held in Manchester for twenty-five years with five thousand people in attendance.  Mr Robert Phillips chaired the meeting and with him on the platform were Samuel Smith MP, Canon Woodward of Liverpool, Colonel John E Bingham of Sheffield, who was the Deputy Master of LOL 844 Sheffield,  Mr T Hayward, Bro Rev T Dickinson, rector of St Clement’s Openshaw and a member of John Bradford Memorial LOL 627 and Bro Rev C Fenwick Ward, an Orangeman and rector of the Albert Memorial Church, Harpurhey.  A report of the meeting said ‘John Kensit met with an enthusiastic reception on rising to propose ‘that this meeting, believing that the preservation of Protestantism in the National Church is a matter of paramount importance, and the spread of the doctrine of the mass and auricular confession being disastrous to the spiritual and moral welfare of the nation, pledges itself to support only those candidates for Parliament who undertake to assist legislation for the maintenance of the Protestant character of the Church of England and the suppression of these evils’.

Manchester Free Trade Hall (1900)

Free Trade Hall Manchester 1900

‘Proceeding to speak of the conduct of some of the Ritualistic clergy, Mr Kensit said that these men, if they could not preach, could at least bow and scrape and turn their backs to the people.  He hoped that when the clergy took to turning their backs upon the people the latter would remember the old adage ‘One good turn deserves another’ (Laughter and applause).  God’s house, he maintained, was not the place for the clergy to play the fool in; and the eastward position was a sacerdotal position, which must be resisted to the uttermost.  He appealed to the Free Churchmen of England to stand shoulder to shoulder with them and to sink minor differences for the present – even to stop clamouring for pulling down the Church.  The day might come when it might be necessary to pull down the Church, but he hoped that Free Churchmen would rather assist Churchmen to try and purge the Church of the evils of the mass and the confessional (applause).  He approved of a recommendation to the electorate to return Parliamentary candidates who would uphold the Protestant constitution of the realm and who would also promise to give their support to any bill in Parliament brought forward for that object.  In Manchester and elsewhere they meant to put their Protestantism first and their party politics second (Loud applause).
Colonel Bingham (Sheffield) seconded the resolution.  He expressed the opinion that it was part of the programme of the Ritualists to break up the Protestant succession to the throne’.

Bro. Colonel John E Bingham


Bro Colonel John E Bingham, prominent Sheffield industrialist and Deputy Master LOL 844 Sheffield

A further report of the meeting stated that Kensit ‘said he little thought when a few months ago when he attended a church to stop the clergyman brawling

(applause and laughter)

that his simple act would be used by Almighty God for the stirring up of this nation to a sense of duty towards God

(Hear, hear)

.  In this effort to stop brawling on the part of clergymen they had been so far successful, and they were determined that if the Bishops would not do their duty, they would attend the churches to see that the law was maintained in them (applause).  According to the law they had not brawled.  That was the verdict of thirty magistrates in London.  They had for far too long allowed the clergy to be little Popes in their parishes, and he was sure they did not intend to allow it any longer.  These men were blind leaders of the blind, they knew nothing in their hearts of the power of the Gospel.  They said ‘We cannot preach but we can perform’


.  If they could not preach they could wear their petticoats, and bow and scrape, and turn their backs on the people.  When they turned their backs on the people, the people should remember the old adage ‘one good turn deserves another’

(laughter and applause)

.  Some people asked what did it matter to them if the clergyman did make a fool of himself?  If the clergyman wished to play the fool let him go where they played the fool and that wasn’t the House of God


.’ Referring to nonconformists ‘he asked them to stand up with the Protestant Churchmen and to try and purge the evil of the Mass and the Confessional remembering that the Church of England even today they had men like Canon Woodward and Bishops like J C Ryle


.  Speaking of the Confessional, he said it was an abominable thing for the clergyman to be made the sewer of the parish.  The resolve of the Protestant League for the Parliamentary action was a right one.  It was time they bearded the lion in its den, and it was time they had a man in Parliament who would ask the meaning of some of the ecclesiastical appointments that were made.  The whole country was at last really and truly waking up and he appealed to them all in that meeting to go away determined to do their duty



Bro. Rev. C Fenwick Ward

Bro Rev C Fenwick Ward, Minister of Albert Memorial Church, Harpurhey

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