Thomas Hunt Baptist Minister

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One of the two known sons of Thomas Hunt and Mary Jacobson was Thomas Hunt, who was to become a Baptist minister. Although he was not our direct ancestor, we have spent much time researching this man, and have collected much material about him. I would like to share some of this with you on this page.

Although I have not traced a record of Thomas’s baptism or birth , his obituary stated that he was born c1762(1). This date of birth is substantiated by information on Thomas’s Death Certificate, which also indicates that he was born in 1762(2).

I assume that Thomas lived with his parents through his childhood years. His obituary relates how, as a young man, he attended the Baptist Church at Prescot Street, Goodman’s Fields, which was near to the Tower of London. It is said that he was taken under the wing of Abraham Booth, the famous hymn writer and author of many religious papers. Booth was the minister at Prescot Street, and encouraged Thomas to join the ministry. This he did, in 1791.

Thomas began his first ministry, at Watford, Hertfordshire, in September 1793, and whilst there, was married to Maria Edwards at St Peter’s, St Albans, on Thursday 22 October 1795(3). Maria was a member of the Baptist Church at St.Albans, and was born about 1763(4).

Our knowledge about Maria Edwards is somewhat sketchy, but we do know that prior to her marriage to Thomas Hunt she lived for some time in the household of Thomas Munn, a yeoman of St Albans, and formerly of Swabridgeworth in Hertfordshire. Maria was apparently related to Thomas Munn in some way, as in his Will he referred to her as his “kinswoman … who now lives with me”. On his death, in 1790, Thomas Munn left the seventeen years old Maria several bequests(5):

  • The sum of two hundred pounds, to be paid twelve months after the testator’s death.
    An annual annuity of twenty pounds, this also to be paid to Maria’s brother – John Edwards.
  • In the event of the testator’s son – John Munn – dying without a spouse or children, the testator’s real estate should pass to Maria Edwards, subject to her paying the above annuity to her brother.
  • On the death of Maria Edwards, the testator’s property that was at the time of his will occupied by John Parker was to pass to her eldest legitimate son. The rest of his real estate was to be shared among her other legitimate children.
  • In the event of her having no children, on her decease the testator’s real estate was to pass to Maria’s brother – John Edwards.

It is apparent from these bequests that Thomas Munn had a very close relationship to Maria Edwards. Sure enough, when the will of his son – John Munn – was proved in 1806 Maria featured as a beneficiary and as an executor, in her rmarried name of Maria Hunt(6). The bequests that were made in her favour by John were as follows:

  • “To Maria the wife of the Reverend Thomas Hunt of Ridgmont in the said County of Bedfordshire Baptist Minister all that copyhold messuage or tenement which is …. in the said Parish of Toddington … with the outhouses, buildings and appurtenances thereto belonging”. This property included two pieces of land, one of which was freehold. The will did not state the tenure of the second piece of land.
  • “And also all ….. my freehold and copyhold lands tenements and hereditaments ….in the said Parish of Flamstead”, except for some lands that had been bequeathed separately to another person.
  • Provision was made in the will for these properties to pass to Maria’s children on her death.

Maria Hunt was also left a lease on certain lands in Flamstead, Bedfordshire, that John Munn held under lease from St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. In the event of the lease being unexpired at Maria’s death, the unexpired period of the lease was to pass to her children.

An article on the Bedfordshire Council website outlines the history of a property called Lancotbury in Totternhoe, Bedfordshire(7). It describes the ownership of this house, and the estate that it was on, from its construction in the mid 16th century to modern times. It relates how Thomas Munn bought both this estate and another property called Middle End, and left them to his son John when he died in 1790. It then says that Maria (Edwards) Hunt inherited these properties in 1805. These dates tally pretty well with the dates of the above bequests, so it seems likely that the properties mentioned above are the same as those mentioned in the Bedfordshire Council article although I find this difficult to reconcile with the fact that John Munn’s will relates to properties in Toddington and Flamstead. Although these places are not far from Totternhoe, they are not the same places.

The article goes on to state that Maria (Edwards) Hunt sold the farm at Middle End in 1838, for the benefit of her two daughters and in 1853, after Maria’s death, her son – Thomas Hunt (the surgeon) – sold the estate that included Lancotbury to Earl Brownlow for £3,690.

Under English law in the early nineteenth century a wife’s separate legal identity was assumed by her husband, and any property that she held became his. Similarly, it seems unlikely that the property left by John Munn to Maria would actually have been transferred to her. Rather, it would have been owned by her husband – Rev Thomas Hunt. Thus, the above mentioned article cites two Estate Surveys that list Thomas Hunt as the owner of that above properties, which were evidently being rented to other occupants:

Totternhoe Estate Survey of 1829(8)
Church End
13: Cottage and garden; owned by Mr. Hunt; occupied by Henry Purton; 15 poles

Totternhoe Estate Survey of 1840(9)
50. Farm house, outbuildings, yards and garden; 2 roods, 20 poles; owned by Thomas Hunt; occupied by Daniel Twidell

Ignoring the confusion I have about the specific geographical locations of the properties included in the Munn wills, it is clear that Maria (Edwards) Hunt inherited significant property in the Wills of Thomas Munn and his son, John, and the income from this property must have been a significant contribution towards the family’s well being.

Continuing my outline of the life of Rev Thomas Hunt, in March 1799 he was appointed Pastor to the Baptist ministry at Ridgmont, Bedfordshire, and I am fortunate to have had access to a photocopy of the Ridgmont Church Book, 1701-1816(10). This source contains a wealth of information about church meetings, which were generally held monthly. Other events, such as baptisms and entries into communion, were also recorded. In the interests of brevity, I shall only deal with the most pertinent aspects of this in this text.

It is apparent that Thomas Hunt was not the first man offered the post at Ridgmont. A certain Mr Kilpin had preached ‘6 sabbaths’ there during 1797-8 but had not taken up the permanent post. The committee offered the post to Thomas following a series of sermons that he had preached there between April and October 1798, and his appointment was completed by 27 March 1799.

On Wednesday 24 April 1799 a church meeting was held, at which two decisions were taken. Firstly, it was decided to ‘make reading of the scriptures a part of Publick worship on Lords Day mornings and afternoons’. Secondly, it was decided to join the United Baptists in their half-yearly social meetings. This indicates that Thomas Hunt’s church was not Particular Baptist or New Connection.

It is recorded that Thomas Hunt did not only preach at his chapel. On 3 June 1801 a meeting agreed that he should preach at nearby Husborne Crawley ‘on a Sabbath evening in connection with the Woburn ministers about once in two months’. On those evenings, there would be no public worship at Ridgmont.

Disciplinary matters were covered in these minutes. Non-attendance at church was an offence, and when this occurred, the offender was visited by two of members of the church, and called to account. The outcome of this visit was reported to the next church meeting. One such case concerned Brother Burr of Kempston. A meeting of 1 July 1801 sent two members to see Burr about his non-attendance. His response was that he had not attended church due to the long distance he had to travel. He asked to be allowed to join the church at Bedford. He asked for his Dismission to allow him to transfer to the Bedford church, but the Ridgmont church decided, as an expression of their disapproval of Burr’s conduct, not to grant this. Instead they gave him a ‘Testimonial only’ – stating that they ‘wish’d He had acted more orderly in filling up his place with us .’. They seem to imply that the Bedford Church had a lower set of values than they did, insofar as they did not mind Burr’s irregular attendance at Ridgmont. They also referred to their ‘small number’. It seems that Thomas Hunt’s church considered itself superior to the church at Bedford. They may also have been extremely concerned at the prospect of losing a member; presumably recruitment was difficult in such small place as Ridgmont.

The church enforced its own code of discipline on its members, as can be seen by the following extracts:

On Tuesday January 29 1805 the church meeting appointed two members to visit ‘Sister Burgoyne respecting some unpleasant reports…to enquire into the Truth of them.’. They reported that they could not prove the charges against her, and that they would try to prevent her accuser from repeating the allegations, which were unspecified.

On Saturday January 25 1806 a dispute broke out. ‘Brother Sybthorpe alledged a charge against Sister Ashwood of Slander & Railing, which he considered as a justifiable reason for his absence from the Lord’s Table.’ He was asked to attend church to make his accusations, but he refused to do so. Members of the church prevailed upon Sybthorpe to comply, but still he refused. He was therefore excluded in May 1806.

Tuesday August 18 1807. An accusation was ‘brought against our Brother Ayres by Sarah Allen ….. that she saw him, at different times taking an unbecoming and indecent familiarity with a Female, who resided under his roof.’ After an investigation Ayres was excluded from the church.

Regrettably, in 1807 there came about a situation in which Thomas Hunt found himself in conflict with the church elders over certain disciplinary matters, and this led to a difficult situation for the pastor:

On Tuesday November 17 1807. Thomas Hunt proposed that ‘Sister Duit’ should be disciplined for her non-attendance at Church; at the request of ‘Brother Gilbert’ consideration of the matter was deferred. Thomas Hunt also requested ‘Brother Geary.. to withdraw. This request was made in consequence of him & his wife having frequently left their places at the time of public worship. He refused to withdraw; and justified their absence accompanied with many unbecoming expressions’. Thomas Hunt was not supported by other members of the meeting, and wrote a letter to the church on the subject:

‘.. If no notice is to be taken of Bro Geary’s behaviour at our last Church meeting; and of his and his wife’s not filling up their respective places among us as becomes members of a Gospel Church, I cannot think it my duty to administer the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper to you while you as a Church connive at such disorderly conduct ‘.

The letter was signed ‘Your afflicted Pastor, Thomas Hunt’.

Later, a messenger was appointed by the church to visit Bro Geary and his wife. They expressed regret at their behaviour and after discussion the Pastor decided not to leave.

On Thursday 31 December 1807 Thomas Hunt again raised the complaint about Sister Duit. In addition to her absences from church she was accused of theft. Two members of the church were sent to interview her. Hunt also made serious charges against a Deacon named Brother Ashwood. He was accused of three offences:

  1. Neglect of prayer meetings.
  2. Withdrawal of half his subscription.
  3. Failure to lead the church in prayer for the recovery of Hunt when he had been ill and unable to work for two Sabbaths.

Two church members were appointed to visit Ashwood about these matters. On Friday January 29 1808 the report of the deputation to Sister Duit was heard. The messengers believed her innocent of theft. She explained her absences from church, and said that she felt that the Pastor had not treated her properly, insofar as he had not asked ‘how she did’ when he called on her one morning. She complained that ‘several Members looked coal upon her’, and that the church had not contributed towards the support of two parish children who were in her care.

After discussion of these issues Thomas Hunt was resolved to exclude Sister Duit from the church. There was dissent from this view. There was a suspicion that Sister Duit had not mentioned all the reasons for her conduct, and that she should be allowed to appear in front of her peers before judgement of her case was passed. Somebody thought that she really wanted to transfer to Woburn church. Hunt dismissed this suggestion. He stated that the church at Woburn was not ‘of the same faith and order with us’ and that as she had ‘walked disorderly’ the church could not give her satisfactory references.

On the same day a report of the deputation’s visit to Mr Ashwood was heard. He had explained his reason for not praying for Hunt when the pastor was sick. He also explained that his reason for not attending Wednesday prayers was that he could not leave his shop. Ashwood sent word that he resented Hunt’s suggestion that he did not attend church unless it was his turn to pray. He had withdrawn half of his subscription to the church because he had less money than had been the case previously. After hearing this evidence, the record shows that ‘Our Pastor said he could not think that Brother Ashwood was fit to be a Deacon.’

There followed a discussion of the above disciplinary matters. There being dissent from Hunt’s view, he said that ‘he would not administer the Lord’s Supper to disaffected members.’

On Sunday 31 January 1808 a report was given of a meeting with Sister Duit. She had admitted that she had ‘walked disorderly’, and acknowledged her non-attendance at church. She expected to be excluded, and a vote was taken to bring this punishment to bear. On the same date Hunt again raised the matter of Mr Ashwood. The church met without their Pastor to consider this matter, and proposed ‘that those members who were dissatisfied with our Pastor’s Ministry should be allowed the liberty of going to hear elsewhere occasionally where they thought proper for a Twelve Month’. During this period they would not be able to attend the church.

Thomas Hunt could not accept this proposal. He maintained that such action was against the principles of the church, and added that if Ashwood had admitted his wrong-doing when the matter had first been raised, he would not have brought any charges.

It is apparent that relations between Thomas Hunt and the senior members of his church had now broken down irrevocably. After attempts to resolve these disputes had failed, on Sunday February 28 1808 Thomas wrote a letter of resignation to the church, in which he catalogued the people and events that he disapproved of. In response, the church Members wrote to Hunt on Sunday 27 March 1808, requesting him to withdraw his resignation, having voted by 10 to 3 in favour of him staying. They said that ‘those things you have considered as impediment shall be removed.’ In spite of several attempts to persuade him to stay, Thomas Hunt left the church at Ridgmont at Michelmas 1808.

The image of Thomas that comes across to me from these minutes is that he was a worthy man, with strong principles. It appears that the members of the church attempted to resolve the dispute by showing some flexibility, but Thomas found it impossible to reciprocate. Maybe other Baptist ministers of his era would have also found it impossible to compromise their principles; I do not know. All I can state is that the view of Thomas that I gain from this superb record is one of a somewhat inflexible man. This impression is confirmed by the description of him in the obituary published by the Baptist Tract Society on his death, according to which he had a:

‘happy expression of countenance (and) snowy, silken locks'(11). He is generally described as a worthy man, but not inspirational, having an ‘inflexible adherence to the doctrines and ordinances of the Gospel’.

After Thomas Hunt left Ridgmont he is known to have served as Pastor at the following churches:

  • Dunstable, Bedfordshire (12)
  • Tring, Hertfordshire (13)
  • Wingrove, Buckinghamshire (14)

On his retirement, Thomas lived at Upper Clapton, Middlesex. He preached occasionally at the Baptist chapel at Bow, in East London, where the minister was a friend of his. He died on Wednesday 16 October 1844, due to ‘Natural Decay’, which I take to mean old age. He was buried a few days later in the St Thomas’s Square Independent Burial Ground at Hackney (15).

Thomas Hunt’s will was proved in the PCC on Friday 6 December 1844 (16) . He left his house, furniture plate, linen, books, glass, pictures and household effects to his wife, who acted as his executrix. Any other property held by the testator at the time of his death was to be shared equally between his three children. An entry in the Death Duty Registers of the Inland Revenue shows that his bequest to his three children was valued at £833. 14s. 8d.(17)

Thomas’s wife, Maria, lived on a few more years before being dying on Tuesday 14 March 1848, the cause of her death being stated as Tumor in right iliac fossa & diarrhoea(18). She was buried in the same grave as her spouse four days later.(19).

As far as we know, the union of Rev Thomas Hunt and Maria Edwards produced four children:

Martha Hunt (1796 (20) – 1875 (21)).
Martha was born at Watford in Hertfordshire on Wednesday 7 September 1796(22), and on 16 September 1830 she married George Box Drayton, a widower surgeon, at St John, Hackney(23). Her spouse had been born in Gloucester in 1784, and had four children from his previous marriage.(24).

We are fortunate to have had access to a private publication by a descendant of Martha & George Box Drayton, and this enables us to gain insights into the characters of these people. Both Martha and George are described as being strong characters.

They “lived often near Clapton, often at Herne Bay. He was seldom at home. One heard of him buying and selling properties here and there, attending to his affairs elsewhere. In 1854.his fourth son (second by his second wife) George wrote, rather slyly I feel, to his sister: ‘as to our proceedings, I have no doubt the Reverend G.B. Drayton keeps you informed.

A somewhat close-fisted man, perhaps, for a surgeon of some distinction and easy means. In 1840 he was writing to his wife in Gloucester, perhaps when travelling down for … Lectures: ‘See that Tom has clean aprons when we travel. It does not look good that he appear in dirty ones. I do not know what I may well give you for a New Year’s present, unless you will accept of the lead plate of the Last Supper that hangs in the dining room to be for your absolute use. And New Year’s, not Christmas or Boxing Day, was then the big season for giving!”(25)

The reference to lectures in this source relates to the fact that George Box Drayton used to regularly give public lectures on medical subjects. As an example, we have seen a poster advertising two of his lectures in Gloucester in November 1840, one on on the Human Mind and one on the Human Frame(26).

George Box Drayton Grave

George Box Drayton's Grave

Martha and George had four children:

  • John Box Drayton (abt 1832(27) – 1909(28)) m Emily Beck(29), lived in London then Kent
  • George Edwards Drayton (1833(30) – 1867(31)) m Caroline Beck, a missionary, died in Africa, as did his spouse.
  • Thomas Munn Drayton (1835(32) – aft 1900(33)) m Emma Lemon(34) and emigrated to Canada
  • Maria Hunt Drayton (1837(35) – 1917(36)) m John William Roberts(37). Lived in London then Kent

George Box Drayton died on Saturday 19 September 1857(38) and was buried a week later at Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington, Middlesex(39), then a burial ground for non-conformists. His gravestone can still be seen there (see the image to the right of this page).

Martha (Hunt) Drayton lived on for a further eighteen years, first at Stoke Newington and later at Islington, where she died on Wednesday 9 June 1875(40). She joined her husband in being buried at Abney Park Cemetery three days later(41). When her will was proved by her eldest son – John Box Drayton – on Monday 12 July 1875(42) her estate was valued at “under 7,000″, a very substantial sum.

Thomas Hunt (1798 (43) – 1879 (44).
Thomas was a London Surgeon, who married twice and enjoyed a long and prosperous life. You can find out about him by clicking here

Maria Hunt (1803 (45) – 1884 (46)).
Maria never married, and after living with her parents in their old age she lived out her life in Clapton, Middlesex, living on income from dividends. (47). On her death she left a sizeable personal estate, which was valued at £8198 3s 2d. The executors of her estate were two of her nephews, George Greenway Hunt, son of the above Thomas Hunt, and John Box Drayton, son of the above Martha Hunt and her spouse George Drayton(48).

John Hunt (1805 – 1832 (49)).
We know little about John. According to Haberdashers’ Company records he was apprenticed to a certain Mr.Sharp, of Berners Street, an upholsterer, c1820 (50), and he set up a business c1826 (51). Additionally, in 1830 he signed as a witness to the marriage of his sister, Martha Hunt, to George Drayton(52).

According to the Bankes Pedigree Book John Hunt died on Saturday 27 October 1832(53), but we have not found any other evidence of this.

G M Culshaw December 2005
Updated December 2007 & January 2011

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  • This page was last updated on Saturday July 2nd, 2011.