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Edward Bickersteth (1786-1850)

Edward Bickersteth was born in Kirby Lonsdale, Westmoreland, the son of a surgeon. He was educated at the local grammar school before becaming an articled law clerk in London. In 1812 he set up in practice with his brother-in-law as a solicitor in Norwich.

Bickersteth had been raised in the Anglican Church and during his time in London, became a convinced evangelical. He founded a Church Missionary Society Auxiliary in Norwich and was invited to lead an investigation into missionary work in Sierra Leone. For the purpose of his visit to Africa, Bickersteth was ordained into the Anglican ministry.

After his return to England, Bickersteth was appointed CMS deputation secretary and placed in charge of its training college. He did much to promote the growth of the CMS at a grassroots level and in 1824 became the principal secretary of the CMS.  During these years, Bickersteth also wrote a range of devotional publications that proved extremely popular, selling hundreds of thousands of copies.

In 1829 Bickersteth became the minister of Wheeler Chapel, Spitalfields, London and a year later he became the incumbent of Watton in Hertfordshire. This period coincided with Bickersteth's involvement in controversial issues such as premillenialism, the Church Pastoral Aid Society and the London City Mission. He also played the leading Anglican role in the Evangelical Alliance.

Bickersteth's closing years were marred by his own disappointment at such developments as Tractarianism and the emergence of class conflict. Despite the fact that some of his own views were increasingly at odds with those of other Anglican Evangelicals, Bickersteth continued to be a much respected figure. His son Edward Henry Bickersteth also joined the ministry and went on to become Bishop of Exeter.

Bickersteth was a friend of the veteran Wesleyan minister and President of Conference Henry Moore.

Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995) and MAM Fl 5/5/1 (MARC).

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