Brackenbury, Robert Carr

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Squire of Raithby Hall (Lincs), born at Panton, Lincs., c. April 1752. He entered St. Catharine's College, Cambridge with a view to Anglican ordination. He was influenced by Methodist preaching in Hull, met John Wesley in 1776 and travelled with him in England, Scotland and Holland. Sent by W to the Channel Islands in 1783, he established societies and built chapels in both Jersey and Guernsey. On returning to England in 1790, he continued this work, notably on Portland, Dorset. A modest, educated and generous man, he spent himself for Methodism though he never sought, as a preacher, to be an ordained itinerant. In spite of this, Wesley included him in 1784 in the Legal Hundred. Poor health and a nervous disposition led to periods of depression.

The work he began was supported by his second wife Sarah (née Holland, d.1847) long after his death. In accordance with his wishes, she destroyed his papers after his death at Raithby on 11 August 1818. The chapel he built over the stables at Raithby (opened by John Wesley in 1779), though in private ownership, is still in use and there is now an annual Brackenbury Memorial Lecture.


John Wesley's Journal:

July 1779: 'In the afternoon we went to Raithby. It is a small village on the top of a hill. The shell of Mr. Brackenbury's house was just finished, near which he has built a little chapel. It was quickly filled with deply serious hearers. I was much comforted among them, and could not but observe, while the landlord and his tenants were standing together, how "Love, like death, makes all distinctions void." '

July 1788: 'We went on to Raithby; an earthly paradise! How gladly would I rest here a few days; but it is not my place! I am to be a wanderer upon earth. Only let me find rest in a better world!'

'Possessed of a genuine missionary spirit. An acceptable preacher. Extremely modest. Would never suffer his left hand to know what his right did. An eminent instance of a gentleman of fortune consecrating his talents, his influence, his time, and his substance to the spread of true religion, at home and abroad. Left it as a solemn request, that nothing should be said of him by way of eulogy, in any sermon, or written of him by way of memoir, after his death.'

Wesleyan Takings (1840), pp. 316-17

'Mr . Brackenbury was a man of family and fortune; he was educated at the University of Cambridge, and in early life was brought to a saving knowledge of God. He formed an intimate friendship with Mr. Wesley and became a fellow-labourer in connexion with him. In the pulpit his address was calm, but impressive; his sermons were polished, instructive and edifying. He was somewhat nervous in his temperament, and occasionally, when he was engaged to preach, thought himself unable to perform the duty; and then the footman was required to take the pulpit, and the disappointed congregation heard the man instead of the master, who was mourning in secret over his infimities. One Sunday evening, at Raithby, I remember, he was sorely troubled on account of the imperfect manner in which he had that day ministered the Word of life, and said he thought that he would never attempt to preach again. Mrs. Brackenbury, a shrewd and sensible person, who knew that in these seasons of depression words of condolence and sympathy only increased his grief, replied tha\t indeed he was not qualified to preach, and would do well never again to enter a pulpit, but leave the people to find the way of salvation as best they might, or perish in their sins. This roused him from his despondency, and after observing that she resembled "Job's comforters", he dropped the subject.'

Thomas Jackson, Recollections of my own Life and Times (1873) pp.74-5

  • R. Smith, Raithby Hall: memorial sketches of R.C. Brackenbury esq. (1859)
  • 'The Will of R.C. Brackenbury' in WHS Proceedings 20 pp.170-74; 33 pp.125-28
  • Frank Baker, in Methodist Recorder, 7 May 1958
  • T.R. Leach, 'The preaching squire' in The Lincolnshire Historian, 1964
  • E.H. Metherell, 'Robert Carr Brackenbury's Chapel at Raithby', in WHS Proceedings, 20 pp.170-74
  • Oxford DNB
  • [Sarah Brackenbury:] Methodist Recorder, Winter Number, 1901, pp.94-96