Author Topic: The Plymouth Brethren  (Read 1089 times)

Offline Ayashi

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The Plymouth Brethren
« on: Monday 05 June 23 22:20 BST (UK) »
Hello all.

A new rumour has suddenly started in my family and none of us have heard of it before. Unfortunately my mother told everyone I could solve it!

An extended relative has alleged that my grandfather and his brothers were "brought up by the Plymouth Brethren". This isn't something I've heard of before and my grandfather's youngest brother has made some statements about family members for historical purposes that haven't mentioned it either.

My great grandfather and his wife married in 1917 in Plymouth, in a Wesleyan Methodist church. His own christening (and that of his siblings) took place in an Anglican church. His parents also married in a Methodist church (of unspecified subset).

I haven't found any christenings for their children, but it may fall under "too recent". They were almost certainly christened in some capacity. The family remained in the Plymouth area until somewhere between 1923 and 1928, when they moved to London. Both parents were alive and present throughout the childhoods of their sons.

My grandfather's army records from 1933 claim him as Church of England (although they also got details like his eye colour wrong so some army details can be taken with a pinch of salt).

With the first child being born in 1919 and the family moving within ten years, if they were brought up by the Brethren they perhaps weren't brought up very far! Unless there was a branch in London instead. From what I've read of their reputation, at least in modern times, they sound like a difficult religious sect to extract oneself from once involved.

I'm not sure what I can do in this case other than to try to prove they stayed consistently Methodist, although I think my grandfather did end up in a C of E church? He died before I was born so I'm fairly clueless there. His brothers also signed up for duty but I don't have their records (too recent again, I had to get my aunt to authorise me obtaining my grandfather's).

Anyone got any thoughts?

Regards
Ayashi

Offline Ruskie

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Re: The Plymouth Brethren
« Reply #1 on: Monday 05 June 23 23:30 BST (UK) »
Some of my family were Plymouth Brethren.

They were strict but from what I gather it wasn’t exactly a sect. The first known members of this branch were christened C of E and for reasons I have not discovered, ‘converted’ at some time. Non Plymouth Brethrens married into the family. My grandmother left to marry my grandfather but remained in touch with her family.

In my family the clue is in their Australian death certificates with “Brother someone” officiating.

PS. Births in Warwickshire in the mid 1800s, christened CofE and eventually emigrated to Australia. Maybe less staunch here at that time? Some deaths from the 1930s with “Brother” officiating.

Offline Ayashi

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Re: The Plymouth Brethren
« Reply #2 on: Monday 05 June 23 23:52 BST (UK) »
Thank you. I know when they died and where my grandfather was buried but I haven't seen any actual burial records. I have a note that apparently my great grandmother had her ashes scattered. I feel like if someone in living memory was buried with a Brethren service someone would surely remember. My great grandfather died in the 1950s (and my great grandmother in the 1970s, when my mother was an adult) so his might be the only one that could in theory without someone recalling.

As a thought, I might be looking a little bit in the wrong direction. My great grandmother was born in Plymouth as was her father, although he also married Wesleyan Methodist. A cousin of my mother's recalled his death to me years ago, but also didn't mention anything like this about his funeral. He also divorced his second wife- not sure how that would have gone down with the family orientated Brethren?

Who knows, maybe there was a short-lived conversion sometime in the 1920s  :-\ If only the 1921 and 1939 included religion...

Offline MaecW

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Re: The Plymouth Brethren
« Reply #3 on: Tuesday 06 June 23 02:23 BST (UK) »
Plymouth Brethren actually started in Ireland but are known as "Plymouth" because that is where they first appeared in England in the early 1800s. They come in three main divisions : The Exclusive Brethren, who prefer to keep themselves to themselves, often living in their own communities of housing; the Open Brethren, who are much like the mainstream non-conformists, fitting into the general community, and who also go under the name "Gospel Hall"; and the Closed Brethren who are a more conservative version of the Open Brethren. Overall they are quite a large denomination and spread all over the country and overseas. (see Wikipedia for more !)
It is probable that the Brethren who may have looked after your great-grandfather would have been from the "Open" branch whose beliefs are (or were) not that dissimilar to the Methodists.
Baron (of Blackburn), Chadwick (Oswaldtwistle), Watkins (Swansea), Jones (x3 Swansea), Colton (Shropshire), Knight (Shropshire/Montgomery) , Bullen (Norfolk), White (Dorset)


Offline Elwyn Soutter

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Re: The Plymouth Brethren
« Reply #4 on: Tuesday 06 June 23 02:48 BST (UK) »
There are quite a few Open Brethren where I live in Co. Antrim.  They don’t like the term “Plymouth Brethren” and even shy away from “Brethren.”  In the 1901 & 1911 Irish censuses they often described themselves simply as “Christian.”  They don’t have anyone qualified to marry them and so their marriages are usually in a Register Office (in Ireland anyway). Can be a clue.
Elwyn

Offline KGarrad

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Re: The Plymouth Brethren
« Reply #5 on: Tuesday 06 June 23 06:09 BST (UK) »
"Brought up by Plymouth Brethren" could mean anything?!

For example: I was christenend C of E; went to a Methodist Sunday School; and then attended a Plymouth Brethren youth club! (They had a large Scalextric set!).

It could be construed that i was "brought up" by the Brethren?  :D
Garrad (Suffolk, Essex, Somerset), Crocker (Somerset), Vanstone (Devon, Jersey), Sims (Wiltshire), Bridger (Kent)

Offline Ayashi

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Re: The Plymouth Brethren
« Reply #6 on: Tuesday 06 June 23 10:18 BST (UK) »
Thanks again all.

I had a look at the Wiki before but the overall history didn't help in specific terms. The Open being close to Methodist is an interesting tidbit though.

Unfortunately my mother was the one who took that phonecall KGarrad, and reassured her cousin that I was the person for the job lol

It does occur to me that I've heard of my grandfather and one or two of his brothers described as non-smokers and keen sportsmen in their youth. Sending the kids to some kind of Brethren Sunday school or youth club sounds more plausible.

Offline bridgwatergirl

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Re: The Plymouth Brethren
« Reply #7 on: Wednesday 07 June 23 09:55 BST (UK) »
As someone who was 'brought up Brethren', echoing what others have said - that if they were Open Brethren, it wouldn't be a big deal.  They might well have 'shopped around' for churches that suited them.

My great-grandfather was the one who started us off in the denomination, around the time your family were growing up, and he attended both the Baptist Chapel and the Brethren Gospel Hall for many years.

If your family were brought up in the Brethren church, there probably wouldn't be much to tell you - Brethren don't practice infant baptism/christening, they have adult baptism (and even if someone attended for many years they might not ever get baptised).  I'm not sure what records the Brethren kept then, generally or locally, and they may well still retain them today (where they're still going).

Meeting places are officially 'Gospel Halls' although in practice we often just called ours a chapel anyway.  They don't have ministers - ours had a group of members (all the adult, baptised males) who formed an 'overseeing' committe (known as "the Oversight.")  We had a communion service in the mornings and a gospel service in the evening, which is pretty usual, but there is always a communion service weekly (wiki says 'remembrance services' although we called ours 'the Breaking of Bread'.*)  The communion service is not led by any speaker - in theory like the Quakers where you wait for inspiration, but in practice (when I was a child) it was pretty formulaic (and had music).  People who moved from one branch to the other would take a letter of introduction (which said whether or not they'd been baptised and could take the communion).

We had a Sunday School & Bible Class and also a Youth Group, so your family could easily have just attended something like that for a while.

Re. marriages - they were held in the Hall, but attended by the registrar and only recorded in the Register Office; so they have no registers (unless someone gets licensed, but generally, given the minister-less situation, that's less likely with Brethren than other non-c denoms).  My parents were married in the Brethren Gospel Hall by one of the members, legalised by the registrar present, as did my aunt and uncle. 

Wiki's Open Brethren page has some links to Brethren organisations at the bottom, which might possibly help in trying to find if there was a local Brethren hall to your family at the time, or maybe would know about records, if any:

http://www.gospelhall.org.uk/ -> for finding a current Brethren place where your family were.  if they still exist, you can contact them about if they have any archive of newsletters or other records that someone might be able to check for you.

https://www.brethrenarchive.org/
http://www.brethrenhistory.org/

(I attended in the 1980s, but ours really hadn't changed much since the 60s when my parents went there - except maybe to grow more conservative rather than less, so some of the things would definitely have still be very similar in outline.)


* My Dad one time abbreviated this as "B&B" when doing the announcements and ended up with: "On Sunday we meet for Bread and Breakfast as usual."   (HIghlight of the year for everyone but poor Dad, of course.)
Somerset - YOUNG, GADD, WASHER, VENN, SULLY, PAIN, ROWSELL, PADDON, BEER, DIBBLE.  Devon - TURNER, TOMS, BERRY, SHAMBROOK, GRIBBLE.  London - JEWITT, HARGRAVE, NELMS, FORSTER, TAYLOR.  Glamorgan - EVANS, JOSEPH, THOMAS, GRIFFITHS, LEWIS.  Lincs - JEWITT, BARWICK, BROWN.  Kent - TAYLOR, GODDEN, MACE.

Offline Top-of-the-hill

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Re: The Plymouth Brethren
« Reply #8 on: Wednesday 07 June 23 13:19 BST (UK) »
  That is very interesting. I believe there was a congregation in a neighbouring village when I was a child, but I think they may have been Exclusive Brethren. I remember my mother saying that they kept out of village affairs, and I think the women wore headscarves.
Pay, Kent
Codham/Coltham, Kent
Kent, Felton, Essex
Staples, Wiltshire