Aitken, Robert

Anglican clergyman, born on 22 January 1800 at Crailing, near Jedburgh and educated at Jedburgh Grammar School and Edinburgh. Reacting against his Presbyterian background, he was ordained Anglican priest in 1824, was appointed curate at St George's, Douglas, IOM and built Eyreton Castle, Crosby, in 1834. He supported the building of a WM chapel at Crosby (1833) and of Castletown WM chapel (1834). In conflict with the Anglican Church, he applied for recognition as a WM minister (1834-35). This was refused, but he was granted the status of local preacher in the Douglas Circuit. Accused of subversive activities because of his association with Manx WR, he left the Island and supported the WMA in Lancashire. In 1836 he founded the Christian Society in Liverpool and became pastor of a congregation at Zion Chapel in Waterloo Road.

In 1840 he was re-instated as an Anglican priest and returned to the IOM in 1847. He engaged in evangelistic temperance work in the North of England and was invited to supervise St John's Episcopal Church, Glasgow. He was briefly (1842-1844) curate of Perranuthnoe, Cornwall, then incumbent of St. James's, Leeds, and finally returned to Cornwall as the first incumbent of the new parish of Pendeen, though still travelling extensively, mostly on temperance crusades. He died suddenly in London on 11 July 1873.

Although a maverick, he was widely recognised as an eloquent and impressive preacher. His combination of evangelical fervour and sacramentalism was reminiscent of the Wesley brothers themselves. His son, William H.M.H. Aitken (1841-1927) was the founder of the Parochial Missions Society.

  • Benjamin Gregory, Autobiographical Recollections (1903) pp.108-12
  • E.V. Chapman, The Rev. Robert Aitken (IOM, 1982)
  • Malcolm Ray Thorp, 'Popular Preaching and Millennial expectations: the Rev. Robert Aitken and the Christian Society, 1836-40', in Malcolm Chase and Ian Dyck (eds.), Living and Learning: essays in honour of J.F.C. Harrison (Aldershot, 1996), pp.103-17
  • R. Yates, 'Revd Robert Aitken (1800-1873); Catholic Evangelical', in Publications of the Thoresby Society, 2nd series 20 (2010) pp.87-99
  • Oxford DNB


Entry written by: FC
Category: Person
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