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Joseph Spencer
30 January 1845 - 10 June 1860


Joseph Spencer was the eldest child of Edward and Esther Spencer. He was born on 7 November 1815 in Atherstone, Warwickshire. 

His life is characterised by his strong Christian faith and his desire to serve the Lord. As a young man Joseph tells of how he was brought to a knowledge of "the trust as it is in Jesus" and his receipt into church fellowship.  He was fond of books, and devoted his leisure hours to reading and meditation.

Joseph left school at an early age (between 10 and 11 years) and went to work as Rope and Twine Maker, with his father Edward . 

In 1832 one of his sisters died suddenly and this affected him greatly. He had been living and working in Leicester at the time but returned home for her funeral.  While at home in Atherstone, he attended his local church where a sermon by the Rev Miller greatly affected him and he began to think about giving his life to God as a missionary.

In 1835 he was to apply  to become a Missionary with the London Missionary Society.  An entry from the   Minutes of the Candidates Examination Committee for December 21st 1835 reads:  "Joseph Spencer of Atherstone, recommended by Rev. R M Miller, his pastor,  as a schoolmaster. Questions to be forwarded."

On his appearance before the Directors of the London Missionary Society, he was not accepted for missionary work  on account of his "feeble constitution".  Deeply disappointed by this, he was encouraged by his Christian friends to preach the Gospel in villages around Atherstone.  His services were so acceptable that although he had abandoned the thought of devoting himself to the ministry, he was strongly urged  to give himself up to the work at home.

In late 1837  he applied to become a student at Rotherham College. Rotherham College operated from 1795 to 1888. It was a theological college, a training college for Ministers of Congregational churches (also then called Independent churches).   At a committee meeting held on 3 January 1838 the committee members resolved that "Joseph Spencer, aged 22, a member of the church at Atherstone, Warwickshire, having personally appeared before the Committee be admitted on probation"

It was customary for senior students on leaving the college to read a paper at the Annual General Meeting.  At the AGM held on 29 June 1842, Joseph Spencer read a paper entitled "The Poetry of the Hebrews".  At the completion of his studies at Rotherham College, Joseph went on to become minister of the Congregational Church at Bakewell in Derbyshire.

An article in the Derby newspaper the "Mercury" dated 4 October 1842 tells of the induction of the Rev J Spencer to the Independent Chapel at Bakewell: 

 

On Tuesday, the 4th October, the Rev Joseph Spencer late of Rotherham College, was solemnly set apart to the pastorate of the church and congregation assembling in the Independent chapel at Bakewell, Derbyshire. 

The Rev W H Stowell, President of Rotherham college, delivered the introductory address, which was distinguished by great research, perspicuity and force, presenting the historical supports of Congregational principles, and inviting to a careful reflection upon the evidence referred to; the Rev W Blandy of Chesterfield, asked the usual questions; and the pastor-elect, after satisfactory replies, was recognised by the laying on of hands and solemn prayer by the Rev James Gawthorne, of Derby; with great penetration and much solicitude, the Rev Thomas Smith M.A., Classical Tutor of Rotherham College, set forth in the charge from 1 Tim, iv 12-16, the nature, encouragements, difficulties and responsibilities of the Christian ministry.

In the afternoon, many sat down to an agreeable repast, provided by the friends of the chapel, assisted by the unsolicited kindness of Mrs Greaves, on the premises of Joseph Hodgson Esq of Holme-hall, who, with his wonted hospitality, kindly fitted up a room for the occasion, and welcomed visitors to tea. 

The Rev R.M. Miller of Atherstone, (Mr S's late pastor) preached in the evening from 1 Thess v15, and with much energy and faithfulness enforced the duties of the church and deacons, both to each other and to their minister. 

The Revs C Wilson, of Sutton-in Ashfield; J Sargent of Tideswell; W. Colville of Middleton;  and W. Brown of Wirksworth, severely conducted the other devotional exercises of the day: and other ministers and students attended the ordination. The services closed with the desires and hopes of many, that their interest and solemnity might be long remembered with
satisfaction and followed by much spiritual good.

The following year at the age of 27 he married Jane Robinson Joseph and Jane had seven children: 

Robinson b. 30 January 1845, Bakewell
Maria Louisa b. 1850, Bakewell
Julian Francis b. 1851, Chinley
Agnes Elizabeth b. 1857, Chinley
Janet b. 1858, Chinley
Joseph b. 1859, Chinley

 The 1851 Census shows Joseph and Jane living at 125 Church Street, Bakewell with Robinson, Robert and Maria. 

He remained at the Independent Chapel in Bakewell  for eleven years before moving in 1853 to become the pastor for Tipping Street Chapel in Ardwick, Manchester.   It is recorded that he seemed peculiarly adapted to his new sphere and laboured usefully in it during the three years he served at the Chapel.  On leaving his ministry at Tipping Street Chapel, his parishioners presented him with a writing desk as a memorial of his time spent as their Pastor together with the sum of 27 pounds. Joseph's health had deteriorated in this time and he sought an office in the country.  When the church at Chinley heard of this, he was invited to accept the office of its co-pastor with the Rev E Glossop who had been the pastor at Chinley Chapel for 50 years.  This he did in 1856.  An invitation was given to the "Christian public" of Chinley to a service and afternoon tea  on Wednesday afternoon, June 25th 1856, to welcome the Rev J. Spencer  and to hear a Testimonial for the Rev E Glossop.  

To support his  large family, in addition to his duties as pastor of Chinley Chapel, he was obliged to add to his duties a day school to provide for their support, and he worked hard to fulfil his duties in both capacities.   

Joseph  was to serve as Pastor at Chinley Chapel for only four years before he died unexpectedly at the age of 44 on Sunday morning, June 10th 1860.

 The family received many letters of condolence on Joseph's passing.  One letter sent to his eldest daughter, Maria, aged 10 calls on her to try to comfort her "poor Mamma":

"My dear little Maria

             I have just written a few lines to your Mamma but think I have time for a short note to you also, to tell you how much I feel for you in the loss of your dear Papa.  He was a kind, good father and friend.  I would not say to you, that you must not fret about his being taken from you, for I know my dear, you cannot help it, but I hope you will try to comfort your poor Mamma in every way you can and not make her feel worse by seeing you unhappy.  Ask God to take care of you and I am sure he will for he says in the Bible, that he is the "God of the Fatherless".  Your poor dear Papa is happy now, and will be for evermore.  You must try to remember all the good things he said to you and when you are tempted to do wrong ask God to guide you from temptation and then when he takes you from this world, you will join your Papa in heaven to be separated no more. 

I think perhaps Mama will send little Agnes to see me.  I should like to see you very much, but I do not ask you to come just now, because I think you will be a comfort to your Mamma. I hope however to see you after a while, give my best love to Robinson and Freddy and,

 Believe me my dear girl.

Your affectionate friend
Fanny Girdler
 282 Norton Place, Longsight
 Manchester, June 12th 1860

 

 

 

 

The booklet "The History of Chinley Chapel" records the following about Joseph's ministry there:

 The Ministry of Joseph Spencer 1857 - 1860 

Shortly after the death of Ebeneezer Glossop, the Rev Joseph Spencer was appointed Minister, but he only lived for four years after his appointment.  It is stated on his tombstone that he faithfully and affectionately preached the gospel. His death was lamented. His ministry opened with great promise to be a worthy successor to Ebeneezer Glossop, whose long ministry had a laid a good foundation. 
His life was cut short, but not before he left a good influence.  He died on 10th June 1860 aged 44 years. 

Joseph is buried with his wife Jane in the churchyard of Chinley Chapel in Derbyshire.

 His headstone reads:

 Sacred to the memory of: 

The Rev Joseph Spencer, who for 4 years faithfully, and affectionately preached the Gospel to the congregation worshipping in the adjoining chapel,

 and died the 10th day of June 1860,

 aged 41 years.

 'Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from hence forth,
yea saith the spirit they may rest from their labours,
and their works do follow them'.

 

Also Jane Spencer, wife of the above who departed this life November 13th 1905 in the 88th year of her heritage.

 

'Her children arise up and call her blessed'

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