“Understanding yesterday, for the benefit of today and tomorrow”
Philip Doddridge was born in London on 26th June 1702, the son of Daniel and Monica Doddridge. He was the youngest of twenty children born to his parents, but only the second one to survive infancy. Indeed, when he was born his health was so poor he was not expected to live, and he was plagued by ill health all of his life. His only surviving sibling was a sister, Elizabeth, who later married a clergyman.
Monica Doddridge died in 1711 and Philip was placed in the care of Daniel Mayo of Kingston-
About this time, Philip's guardian (Daniel's former business partner) was declared bankrupt and Philip had to sell what remained of his family heirlooms, with the exception of his grandfather's German Bible, in order to save himself from the debtor's prison. Now destitute, Philip was offered a home by his sister, and the Duchess of Bedford offered to finance his education providing he would agree to become an Anglican clergyman, even though he was set on becoming a Dissenting minister. Fortunately for Philip, Samuel Clark, who had become like a second father to him, offered to finance his studies, and, in 1719, secured a place for him at the Dissenting Academy at Kibworth Harcourt, run by Rev John Jennings.
The Kibworth Academy was founded in 1715 and was located in the White House main building. Dissenting Academies had become established because nonconformists were barred from attending Oxford and Cambridge universities. The Academy rivalled the great universities of Oxford and Cambridge, teaching Hebrew, Greek, philosophy, logic, algebra, trigonometry and theology.
Following his studies, Philip Doddridge became pastor at Hinckley for a year, but returned to Kibworth as pastor and principal of the Academy after the death of John Jennings. He remained for seven years. In 1725 Doddridge moved house to Market Harborough and until 1729 the pastorates of Kibworth and Harborough were shared.
In 1729 the Kibworth Academy closed, transferring to Northampton, when Doddridge was appointed pastor at Castle Hill Congregational Chapel. Around this time, Doddridge married Mercy Maris.
The Northampton Academy, in Marefair, became a famous and influential seat of learning and, it is said, even Church of England ministers sent their sons there rather than have their morals corrupted at the universities. Students attended the Academy from all over England, Scotland, and the Netherlands. In 1736 the University of Aberdeen awarded Doddridge a Doctor of Divinity degree because of his many accomplishments.
By the age of 48, Doddridge had developed consumption (tuberculosis) and, on the advice of his doctor, was sent to Portugal, where it was hoped the sunshine and warm air would cure him. The cost of the trip was paid for by Doddridge’s many friends and admirers. Unfortunately the trip was too late to save him and he died on 26th October 1751. He is buried in the English cemetery in Lisbon.
Doddridge’s book: “The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul”, led William Wilberforce, the great anti-
A memorial plaque to Doddridge, shown here to the right, still exists in the Old Chapel.
Photograph of part of a montage of pictures and photographs of the ministers and pastors of Kibworth Congregational Chapel that was on display in the chapel until closure in 1997.
The following article is extracted from ‘The Life and Times of the Royal Infirmary at Leicester, The Making of a Teaching Hospital 1766-
The Reverend William Watts (1725-
Watts’s campaign in Leicester may have been based upon that adopted in Northampton, but in their scheme to establish a hospital, the planners had followed Bristol (1735), Winchester (1736), Exeter (1743) and Shrewsbury (1745) where, in each, the motivation came from the endeavours of a clergyman. In so far as Northampton is concerned and certainly in so far as the interest of Leicester was related, the influence of the Rev. Philip Doddridge is the back-
Philip Doddridge (1702-
With their Anglican tradition, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge were still not admitting dissenters and it was chiefly for that reason that the nonconformist academies originated, the largest of them at Warrington, in 1734. Without a licence from the bishop, even the keeping of a school by a dissenter was contrary to law and Doddridge found himself arraigned before the civil court at Westminster, in 1734. He won his case and, from that time, dissenters could engage in teaching without episcopal authority. His academy prospered to the extent that in 22 years, with general subjects directed towards entry to the professions and ranging through algebra, trigonometry, languages, history and logic, it had more than two hundred students of whom 120 entered the church. One of the latter was the Rev. Job Orton who, for seven years, was a member of Doddridge's teaching staff and one of his four assistants at the chapel. Born in Shrewsbury, Orton returned there in 1741 and was instrumental in establishing the Salop Infirmary, in 1747.
By any standard, Doddridge was a remarkable human being. In a relatively short life span of 48 years (he died in Lisbon of pulmonary tuberculosis, having been sent by his congregation to recuperate), he accomplished a quantum of work and service that was exceptional. The two colleges of Aberdeen University, Mareschal and King's (the college of William Watts), each conferred upon him the honorary degree of doctor of divinity, an honour unlikely in his own country because of his nonconformity. He wrote more than 370 hymns and there are few hymn books today that do not contain several of his compositions. He counted Isaac Watts, John Wesley and Dr Herring, Archbishop of Canterbury, among his friends, but Samuel Clarke, of St Albans, remained the friend of his age as well as his youth, "far above the casualties of time or variations of health or fortune".
Doddridge had passed to his rest in 1751, but in so far as Leicester Infirmary was concerned and even though he had been dead for six years before William Watts was appointed physician at Northampton, his influence was still very much alive for James Stonhouse (1716-
Transcribed by N Harrison 8 Sep 2012