Date range: 1815–1938.
The Fry Collection contains papers relating to Benjamin Wills Newton (1807–99), one of the founder members of the ‘Plymouth Brethren’, and to the Biblical scholar Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (1813–75).
The collection was assembled by Alfred Charles Fry (1869–1943), who was employed by Newton as his colporteur on the Isle of Wight. Fry later ran a Sunday School and taught the children of Newton’s congregation.
Benjamin Wills Newton was born in Plymouth.
He matriculated at Exeter College, Oxford, in 1824, where he underwent evangelical conversion under the influence of Henry Bellenden Bulteel.
With the support of John Nelson Darby, he was appointed an elder of Providence Chapel, Plymouth, in the 1830s, and built up a considerable following in the surrounding area, preaching in similar independent chapels and devoting himself to evangelism and the study of prophecy.
A heated conflict developed between Newton and Darby in the 1840s over the former’s eschatology and authoritarian style of leadership. This led to the historic division of the Brethren into the ‘Open’ and ‘Exclusive’ wings, following which Newton distanced himself from the Brethren movement.
Samuel Prideaux Tregelles was born at Falmouth and educated at Falmouth Classical School. On leaving school, he worked at Neath Abbey ironworks until 1835, studying Welsh, Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic in his spare time.
In 1838 he commenced a critical study of the Greek New Testament based on ancient manuscripts. This was to be his major life work, for which he travelled extensively. His work on this project and other publications provided the foundation for the Greek edition of the New Testament published by Westcott and Hort in 1881, and the Revised Version of the English Bible of 1881.
In 1846 Tregelles settled in Plymouth and became associated with the Brethren. He was the cousin of Benjamin Wills Newton’s first wife, and he defended Newton in the controversies of the time. Like Newton he diverged from the Brethren after the 1847 rift.
The collection consists of notebooks, letters, diaries, notes of Bible lectures and Bible study, and other items relating to the life and work of Newton and Tregelles.
It contains much material on the early history of the Brethren movement, and is particularly useful for anyone wishing to understand the divisions among nineteenth-century Brethren, and the roots of modern fundamentalist Christianity.
Collection available online via ELGAR.