Manasseh James

Author: Deirdre Duff
Date published: 14/05/2021

Manasseh James
He was born on 4 April 1771, the only son of the Rev. d David James, minister of
the Newbury (Presbyterian) Upper Meeting House (1764-1805), and his first
wife Sarah White, daughter of Benjamin White, a weaver. His birth record
states that he was born “about 40 minutes after 4 o’clock in the morning”. He
was baptised on 13 May 1771 by the Rev. d Mr. Davis, the minister at
His mother died (date unkown) and on 31 May 1787 at St. Mary le Bow,
Cheapside, his father married again to Delicia Maundy, daughter of Henry
Maundy and Philippa née Hughes. Her father had been a whalebone merchant
and both her parents were deceased. The Rev. d David James and his new wife
went on to have 3 children: Anne born 29/5/1788, and died on 13/12/1811;
Philippa born 20/4/1790 who married on 14/8/1817 Rev. d John Kitcat, the
minister of the Newbury Upper Meeting House (1805-1827) after her father;
and Sarah born in 1792 and died in Reading on 30/5/1808.
Manasseh James married his first wife Mary Brown on 30 March 1808 at St.
Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, City of London. The 1815 census records that his
occupation was mealman and he was residing with his family on the west side
of Northbrook Street. His wife Mary was aged 27, their son George aged 7
years, daughter Sarah Ann aged 2 years and infant Esther who died on
15/10/1815 aged 10 months and 6 days. There were 4 servants. Another
daughter Elizabeth was born c. 1820 and a son David born c. 1821.
His father died in his 85 th year on 20 April 1822 “while in the act of writing a
letter to a friend” and on 27 April he was buried under the pulpit in the Upper
Meeting House. His wife Mary died on 11 November 1822 and she was buried
on 16 November in the Upper Meeting House burial ground.
He married his second wife, Mary Coombs, a widow, on 7 June 1825 at St.
James’s Church, Westminster. He continued to trade as a maltster and corn
dealer in Northbrook Street.
Following the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 which overturned the old
closed order and established that municipal boroughs were to be governed by
town councils elected by the burgesses, Manasseh James was one of 12 new
councillors elected on 26 December 1835.
As the previous members of the Newbury Corporation were by virtue of their
office also trustees of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and had resigned, a separate
election took place in August 1836 and Manasseh James was elected to be one
of the new 12 trustees (later increased to 17 trustees) of St. Bartholomew’s
Hospital and the Grammar School. Previously the charity had been brought to
the Court of Chancery in respect of irregularities in the management of its
affairs by the previous trustees. It was up to the newly elected trustees to
fulfill their obligations as set out by the Court of Chancery. It took several years
of hard work by all parties to establish a sound administration for the Hospital
and the future of the Free Grammar School. In addition, he was a trustee of
Coxedds’ and Pearce’s Charity as well as Kimber’s Charity.
From the 1841 census he and his wife Mary were living at No.2 Bartholomew
Terrace; the Rev. d William Wilson, minister of the Upper Meeting House, was
lodging with them. Manasseh James had become a teacher of mathematics,
an interest he would have inherited from his father who along with his
extensive knowledge of English literature and theology opened a classical and
mathematical school in Dulverton, Devon, before he became the minister at
the Newbury Upper Meeting House.
On 7 December 1843 his wife died at home at the age of 73 years.
From 1844 to 1850 he was the sub-librarian of the Newbury Literary and
Scientific Institution. He contributed material for the “The History &
Antiquities of Newbury and its Environs” edited by his fellow councillor/trustee
Edward William Gray and published by Messrs. Hall & Marsh in 1839, the same
year that E.W. Gray became Mayor of Newbury.
1851 census – aged 79 years, an annuitant, his unmarried daughter Elizabeth
(age 31), a dressmaker, was living with him, plus Elizabeth Baily a house
servant. Elizabeth later married John Elkins, a currier, at the Baptist Chapel on
13/2/1861. She died aged 64 years and she was buried in the Cemetery on
Manasseh James died on 5 November 1855, aged 84 years.
His son David was appointed sole executor and his daughter Elizabeth
appointed the residuary legatee.
Mrs. P. Code W102, page 18
Sources: E&W Non-Conformist Births and Baptisms, Newbury Upper Meeting
House and Registration at Dr. Williams’s Library on 11/2/1773; Faculty Office
Marriage Licences of his father’s 2 nd marriage; Reading Mercury dated
4/6/1787; E&W Births & Baptisms of his stepsisters; marriage record to his first
wife Mary Brown at St. Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, London, on 30/3/1808; his
father’s burial record and his first wife’s burial record Newbury Upper Meeting
House; Joseph Toomer’s 1815 Census page 73 and 96; Westminster Marriages
1825; 1830 Pigot’s Directory; 1839 Robson’s Directory; 1852 Slater’s Directory;
1841 and 1851 census; Death Index 4Q 1855; Will dated 20/3/1855.
Extract from The History & Antiquities of Newbury and its Environs including
28 Parishes edited by Edward William Gray and published by Hall & Marsh
1839, pages 123 to 125.
Reading Mercury dated 4/1/1836, 11/1/1836, 14/11/1836, 9/12/1843,
27/4/1844, 6/4/1850, 15/12/1855.
Newspaper Announcements
Source: Reading Mercury
Date: 10 November 1855
On the 5 th inst., at his residence, Bartholomew-terrace, Newbury, aged 84, Mr.
Manasseh James. Deceased was some years since a member of the Town
Council, and one of the trustees of the Municipal Charity Estates.
Also in the same edition:-
In our obituary of this week will be observed the name of Mr. Manasseh James
who for the very long space of upwards of 84 years had been an inhabitant of
this town. A death like this cannot pass off without a brief notice being taken
of the departed, and it is in sorrow, but yet with consolation, that we record
the death of a gentleman so greatly esteemed, and so much lamented by all
who had the happiness and pleasure of knowing him. Mr. James was the only
son of the Rev. David James who, with so much zeal and ability, in conjunction
with his fellow labourers, the Rev. J. Winter and the Rev. James Bickens,
conducted their respective Churches in Newbury, for so many years.
Mr. James from early habits was much attached to the arts and sciences, and
which to the very last he prosecuted with a zest which was only controlled by
decaying strength. Mathematics and astronomy were peculiarly his delight,
and often has he worked out the most difficult problems in the former, and
made some beautiful and scientific observations in the latter. Easy of access,
although of retiring disposition, kind and benevolent, so far as his means
would allow to all Mr. James has been called to those regions, “where the
wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.” We may say perhaps
of this excellent man, that “to die,” with him, “was gain,” and if so, we mayfurther indulge the hope, that he will receive, “Et decus et pretium recti.”

Sources: as above

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