Bett, Dr Henry
1876-1953; e.m. 1899

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WM minister and church historian, born at Maidenwell, Lincs. From 1923 he taught Pastoral Theology and Church History at Handsworth College, where he was also Resident Tutor and affectionately known as 'Uncle Henry'. In 1934 he gave the first of the Wesley Historical Society Lectures, on the early Methodist preachers, and in 1937 the Fernley-Hartley Lecture on The Spirit of Methodism. His year as President of the Conference (1940) was a challenging one for a convinced pacifist.

His wide-ranging interests included the medieval Church and he received his LittD from Manchester for studies of Joachim of Fiore (1931) and Nicholas of Cusa (1932). These, together with his study of John Scotus Erigena (1925) were pioneering works on neglected medieval figures. His expertise in hymnology issued in The Hymns of Methodism in their Literary Relations (1913; with revised and enlarged editions in 1920 and 1945) and in service on the committee which produced the 1933 Methodist Hymn Book. His well-informed devotion to Charles Wesley led to the retention of so many of the Wesley hymns in that book. His simple, yet theologically stimulating sermons were preserved in The Exalted Name (1929) and his mastery of the essay in books like Studies in Literature (1929). He published many other works on history, literature, folklore and spirituality and was a frequent contributor to the Methodist Recorder and the London Quarterly and Holborn Review.

He died on 1 April 1953. A selection of his 'Recorder' articles, published posthumously under thr title Wisdom and Wit, illustrates in detail the wide scope of his learning.
  • Methodist Recorder, 18 July 1940, 9 April 1953
  • Conference Handbook, 1940
  • John Munsey Turner, 'The Last of the Wesleyans: Henry Bett', in Paul Bolitho (ed.), Silver Jubilee Miscellany [of the West Midlands Branch of the WHS] (Warwick, 1990) pp.14-19