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Fry Collection

Date range: 1815–1938

Number of items:

The Fry Collection contains papers relating to Benjamin Wills Newton (1807–1899), a founder member of the Christian Brethren, and to the Biblical scholar Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (1813–1875).

The collection was assembled by Alfred Charles Fry (1869–1943), a member of Newton’s congregation, and employed as Newton’s colporteur on the Isle of Wight. Also among Newton’s congregation was Frederick William Wyatt (c.1850-c.late 1920s), a watchmaker, Greek and Hebrew scholar, and close associate of Newton; he took notes of Newton's lectures and of their conversations.

Benjamin Wills Newton was born in Plymouth. He matriculated at Exeter College, Oxford, in 1824, where he underwent evangelical conversion. 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.

However, 17 years after the founding of the first Brethren assembly in the UK, tensions developed between Newton and Darby, and in 1848, the Brethren movement divided into the Exclusive Brethren, who followed Darby, and the Open Brethren, who preferred to retain their autonomy. Newton moved to London and became a regular preacher at an independent chapel in Queen’s Road, Bayswater. He continued to write on religious themes, notably eschatology, and retired to Orpington, and later Newport on the Isle of Wight.

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 provided part of 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 movement. He was a supporter of Newton, and following the division of 1848, both Tregelles and Newton left the Brethren movement.

The collection contains material on the early history of the Brethren movement, and is particularly useful for anyone wishing to understand the divisions among 19th-century Brethren, and the roots of modern fundamentalist Christianity.

The collection includes:

  • Notebooks of Newton, Fry and Wyatt, with transcriptions of Newton’s notes, personal conversations and readings, and bible study. There are also personal diaries of Fry and Wyatt;
  • Correspondence of Newton, Tregelles and Fry;
  • Notes on biblical subjects, bible study and lectures, and a small amount of printed material.

Further Information:

Collection available online via ELGAR.

Other resources:

Further notebooks from the Fry Collection can be viewed at brethrenarchive.org.

Alternative form:

The notebooks of the Fry Collection have been digitised and can be viewed at: Manchester Digital Collections.

Location: