Extracts from the Diary of Rev Edward Miller 1841-1842 by Carolyn Hammond

From Journal 20 (2011)

Chiswick Library has recently been given some typewritten extracts from this diary by a descendant of one of the families mentioned. Sadly the whereabouts of the original diary is unknown. Entries have been selected which give a picture of life in Chiswick in the 1840s as seen through the eyes of a dissenting minister, retaining his own spelling, capitalisation and abbreviations and indicating omissions with a line of dots. Explanatory notes have been added in larger text. The full typewritten extracts are available in the Local Studies Room at the Library, and it is planned to upload them onto the Local History Society’s website in due course.

Mr Miller had been a civil servant for 30 years but in 1838 was invited to become the pastor of an Independent or Congregational group who met for worship in a small chapel at the bottom of Chiswick Lane, conveniently close to his house in Mawson Row. He resigned in 1850, when he was aged 65, perhaps due to ill-health, and his name disappears from the records in 1855. In 1841 the congregation were raising money to rebuild their chapel which was described as ‘dilapidated, unsafe, unwholesome and unsightly’.

Chiswick, 18th Feb 1841
To: Thos Farmer Esq

My Dear Sir,

I could not at the Meeting on Monday evg with propriety say anything in reply to your memdm, in which you decline to assist the fund for building a new Chapel in this place, but I venture to offer you two or three remarks, and shall rely on your piety and friendship for a favourable reception of what I say. I am surrounded by a population of 5000 souls – I am labouring amidst darkness and depravity of the most fearful sort – I preach regularly in the Village 5 times a week for a salary of less than £50 a year, I am of course expending much other property with my large family – and the Chapel is almost tumbling about our heads.

Under such circumstances is it not reasonable to expect that Persons of Property residing in the N’hood should come forward to my help. I am happy to say that some have done so, and I do hope you will not refuse so strong a claim upon your kindness. I do not doubt Your extensive liberality in other directions, and that at times you may have to make what may be called a sacrifice; but I believe no-one will ever be a loser for what they do for the Lord, and few make such heavy sacrifices as the Ministers of Christ, yet with me I can conscientiously say it is cheerfully made Yrs sincerely E.M.

[Thomas Farmer lived in Gunnersbury House – the Small Mansion in Gunnersbury Park – he supported the Wesleyan Day School for Girls which opened in 1846, and was involved with the building of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Gunnersbury Lane a few years later.]

Chiswick, 22nd Feb 1841

My Dear Edward,

On Satdy aftn at ¼ to 5 dear little Frederick left us for a better world, and very thankful we were to see him released in so gracious a manner, for the nature of his disease lead us to expect the Screaming Convulsions, but a gentle sigh released him . . . Whether it is that there is much in me to correct, much dross to be purged away, or whether it is to qualify me better for my Ministerial Office, or for both purposes, but so it is – that for many years I have not been without some serious trials . . .  The loss of 3 children in eighteen months is no small trial, and yet I have been enabled to bear it and hope to have strength to endure all that God has appointed for Me. Poor Mamma has had her hands full.

Fri 5th March

In the omnibus all that I could hear was the praise of Theatrical Amusements and other trifling subjects. How very empty in general is the conversation of Men of the World. When I travel I always put Tracts under the Seats of the Conveyance, for the men employed.

[George Cloud’s omnibuses provided a half hourly service from outside the George IV pub on the High Road to the centre of London.]

Chiswick Mall from St Nicholas to Whittingham’s Printing works, detail from Leigh’s 1829 Thames Panorama. The chapel was behind the printing works

Sat 20th March 1841

Several things required my attendance in London and I am happy to record that I succeeded in them all. The Xtian Instrn Society [Christian Instruction Society] in this neighbourhood, having agreed to furnish every house with a suitable tract, I have seen Mr Tam of the Religious Tract Society upon the Matter, and hope to be assisted by them in our object.

Finding it necessary to consult Mr Welstead, the Lord of the Manor, I saw him in Berners Street – when the following conversation took place

‘I have brought the Plan of the New Chapel as you requested’

‘I wanted to know what you were going to do and for what use you meant the building’

‘You are aware Sir, from Mr.Hindley, that the place has long been used as a chapel’

‘I thought it was used for Schools’

‘The British Schools operated there until 1837 – there are Sabbath Schools now taught there, but the lower part is used as a Chapel, and it is licensed – but it is in such an unsafe state as that very little pressure would send in the roof

‘But it ought to have been kept in repair’

‘So it has as far as possible, but it is too rotten to do anything with. We have had the place valued by two separate persons, who think it worth £100, we are willing to take that away and to erect a building worth £600’ ‘

Well I wished to know what was going to be done, and that I might be sure, if the old place was removed another would be erected’

I assured him of the correctness of our intentions, as the parties united with me were respectable men. He said he should not like to encourage anything against the Established Church and hoped we had no design to pull that down – I told him I thought some things in the Church required to be improved – to which he replied ‘Churchmen think so too’. He expressed regrets that so much bad feeling had been excited about Church Rates – I told him I objected to them, upon principle, for I thought every denomination should provide for themselves, but I could only seek their removal in a proper manner -I told him I was a Dissenter upon principle, but if he would take the trouble to enquire, he would learn that I was a peaceable man. I asked if his lease with the Dean and Chapter expired when ours with him did, or whether he held onward – he replied he held longer, but did not say how long, only observing that it would not be worth our while to cancel the lease of 18 years for another of 21 years -I explained to him about the rent in future. He said ‘You did right in applying to me and I have no objection to your plans’. I asked whether he considered he had power to object – when he said ‘I should not suppose that I had’ – so finished our interview.

Called on Mr Hindley and showed him the plan, when he kindly said he would give the promised £30 in May or July as it was required. Mrs Hindley is still very unwell.

[Charles Welstead was Lord of the Prebendal Manor and lived in Newman Street in London, near the Hindleys who were furniture makers with a shop in Berners Street. The British School had been in Chiswick Lane from 1832, but then moved to a new building in British Grove in 1837.]

Mon 12th April 1841

Took my Boys a walk in to a large Brickfield and learnt something about the process, spoke to some of the labourers and gave them a few tracts

The new chapel, from History & Antiquities of Brentford, Ealing & Chiswick, Thomas Faulkner, 1845

Thur 22nd April 1841

The foundation of the New Chapel is being laid and by request I wrote a paper and secured it in a bottle to be inserted into a brick – I wrote as follows:-

“This Chapel was built for a body of Independent Dissenters, the foundation being laid on the 22nd April 1841.

The Revd Edward Miller

Rev E Miller, Mr Robt James Millar, Mr Stephen Salter
Lessees and Trustees

Monday 3rd May 1841

An extensive effort is being made by petitions to Parliament to get rid of that Offensive Tax the Church Rates, and my good friend Mr Watson having sent me a Petition which I much like, for signature of the people here, I subjoin a copy of it – I announced it twice from the pulpit yesterday and I hope the hateful burden will soon be removed :-

‘To the Honourable Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament Assembled.

The Petition of the Undersigned Members of the Church and Congregation of Protestant Dissenters, assembling at Chiswick Congregational Chapel in the County of Middlesex – Humbly sheweth –

That your petitioners regard the imposition of Church Rates by which the several religious Denominations of Xtians are made to contribute to the Maintenance of the Established Church, as a wrong and a grievance – a Violation of Equity – and an infringement upon the rights of Conscience.

Your Petitioners therefore pray your Honourable House immediately to adopt such measures as may appear expedient for the abolition of Church Rates.

And your petitioners will ever pray . . .’

[The tax, called the church rate, levied on every household and used for the upkeep of the Anglican parish churches was deeply resented by the other denominations who had to depend on what could be raised by their own congregations to pay their church expenses. The tax remained compulsory until 1868.]

13 May
The Rev Mr Packer, Chelsea

My Dear Sir,

I have been applied to by a Female to allow her to sit down with the Members of the Church under my Charge in this Village. I learn from her that some time since she used to take the Lord’s Supper in the Established Church under Mr Dale’s ministry at Denmark Hill, after that she used to sit down at Chelsea with your Flock – she has removed near to me and wishes to be united with us. Will you do me the favour to say if you know anything, and what, of this person.

I am dear Sir, Yrs in Xtian Love, E.M.

Her Name is Ann Cooper. She is a Servant.

[Mr Dale was the father of the Rev LWT Dale, Vicar at Chiswick Parish Church from 1857 to 1898.]

Satdy 15 May 1841
Mr. Hindley

My Dear Sir,

I am much obliged to you for the cheque for £30, which you so kindly promised for yourself and family as a subscription toward the building of our New Chapel, with which we are getting on rapidly. We desire to sympathise much with you as it regards the sickness of Mrs Hindley, and pray that her mind may be kept in peace staying on her Saviour. It is a mercy that he can support in every time of need, and make even Affliction a Blessing.

Earnestly do I remember you at the Throne of Grace – which is all that I can do.

Yrs Sincerely, E.M.

I have been watching the Workmen at the Chapel with some little anxiety – the walls are 18 ft high, and they are raising 5 heavy girders to go across the walls for the School Rooms, each girder is about 13 cwt and it was possible for the Chain or rope to break – the men did not know that I was looking up for them to God to preserve them from accident. I doubt if there is a praying man amongst them.

Wed 26th May 1841
To the Duke of Devonshire KG

My Lord Duke,

Surely it cannot be known to your Grace that there are poor men working on the Chiswick Estate at the very Lowest Wages with which they can obtain the mere necessaries of life for themselves and families, say 14/- per week, and when they are ill for a short time, part, sometimes ½, their wages is stopped, so that they are reduced almost to want. If your Grace will condescend to enquire, you will find this Statement correct; at the same time no one can suppose you are aware of the fact.

A Friend to the Poor

Tues 1st June 1841
The Rev A Fuller, Agent to the Christian Instruction Society,

My Dear Friend,

What about Tent Services this Summer? Can I serve the Society anywhere in this locality, so as to return at night? May I suggest that the Tent should be pitched on Turnham Green Back Common, as last year, and be kept up two or three evenings and a series of services be conducted. I think with some assistance from London the Brethren around would cheerfully concur, and I believe Mr Cumming would gladly see the tent again in South Street, Hammersmith as last year. I am ready to correspond further with you when you have thought of the matter, or I should be happy of an interview if it would better serve the purpose.

Yours most truly, E.M.

[Rev John Cumming was a dissenting minister in Hammersmith, working at the West End Baptist Chapel Hammersmith in the 1830s.]

Fri 18 June

Closely occupied in writing my two sermons for Missionary collections on the Sab. We maintain a Native Missionary in the East Indies named ‘EDWARD MILLER’ for whom we pay £10 annually and the produce of the missionary boxes and the Annual Sermons is donated.

12th July

Dear Mrs Hindley,

Will you pardon me if I address a few lines to you in the present season of Affliction, for sometimes the sympathies of a friend serve to furnish consolation to a sufferer. It has pleased God to afflict you for some time past, but he doeth all things well, he takes no pleasure in our sorrows – his design is to do his suffering children good. It has been your privilege to sit under the preached gospel, and to learn from the Sacred Volume of Truth that whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth – that many are the afflictions of the righteous – that in this world we must have tribulation – and that these things are necessary to wean us from the World, and lead us to seek better blessings at the right hand of God. The furnace may be much heated, but the Lord regulates the heat, so it shall not consume you, only purge away the dross. The trial may appear long, but it shall not continue one moment longer than will accomplish the purpose of God, and do your soul good. I know you have need of patience, but God is able to furnish you with a large supply of that Christian grace – I know you have need of faith, but God is able to increase your faith and make it hold out to the end of the conflict. Perhaps you are sometimes tempted to think your case hard and peculiarly trying, but I pray you to remember that SIN is the cause of all you suffer, and that His strokes are fewer than your crimes And lighter than your guilt

My Dear Wife and Daughter unite in Kindest Regards Believe me to be, Your sincere friend E.M.

Tues July 20th

Yesterday while I was at Brentford, the Brick of the Stonework over the Portico at our New Chapel fell with a crash into the yard, but thro’ mercy no one was on the spot.

Friday 23rd July

I was watching the workmen at the Chapel this morning (I have spent a good deal of time in so doing) when I was a little touched by a remark ‘You’ll feel a little irked I should think Sir, when this job is done’. I replied ‘It is recreation, and serves instead of a walk or reading, but I have always enough to do – time is never heavy unless I am ill’. But perhaps (I have been thinking) I spend too much time there and the men may think that I lead an idle life – we want wisdom in all things.

Mon 26th July

So much iniquity abounds on the Sab on the Common, where the Chapel stands at which I now preach, that I considered it right to send the following letter:-

J Frere Esq,

My Dear Sir,

I trust you will pardon me for troubling you, but I think it my duty to call your attention to the state of things on the Common at the Back of Turnham Green on the Sabbath Evening. It is a place of resort of the Idle and Dissolute, where the Game of Cricket is carried on, accompanied with fearful Swearing. I write from observation, and as the Congregation under my charge is now worshipping at Providence Chapel, near to the spot of this Sabbath Desecration, it is to us a source of grief. If you can abate the evil, or instruct me how it is to be done I shall feel obliged.,

I am, Dear Sir, Your grateful servant, E.M.

[John Frere was a magistrate and a wealthy landowner who lived in Stamford Brook House overlooking Stamford Brook Common].

Monday 2nd August

One of the Haymakers, who has been hearing me for some weeks called for 4 more testaments, and took his leave. He said kindly ‘I think we get on better here than in the country – should we be spared to come up again, I hope we shall find that you have had more souls added’. I have been interested in these men, 7 in number, and their conduct has been most pious and pleasing.

College House, used by Charles Whittingham’s Chiswick Press

Sat 28th August

It will be an amazing relief to my spirits when the new chapel is finished, as I am continually called from home to the building etc. Mr Whittingham fancies our School Rooms will prove a nuisance, as the children can over-look his garden on the Sabbath. O, what trifles do men make troubles of when not quite friendly to an object. Of course we will not offend if possible.

[Charles Whittingham’s home and printing works (the Chiswick Press) were on the corner of the Mall and Chiswick Lane, next door to the site of the chapel.]

Hand Bill


A NEW CHAPEL having been erected in this Village, for the Congregation under the Charge of the Rev EDWARD MILLER, and also spacious ROOMS for the Sabbath Schools, the same will be opened on

Tuesday 7th September1841, when

TWO SERMONS will be preached, that in the Morning, BY THE REVEREND GEORGE CLAYTON Service to commence at 11 o’clock And that in the Evening

BY THE REV JOHN MORISON D D To commence at Half Past Six O’clock After which collections will be made in aid of Expenses incurred in erecting the building

Your Company and that of your friends will be esteemed a kindness both by the Minister and the Congregation

Dinner and Tea will be provided in the School Rooms at a moderate charge

Tues 7th Sep

Today the New Chapel was opened. The Rev G Clayton and Dr Morison preached. The Rev Messrs Richards, J Millar, Cummings and Ratterns prayed. Hymns by Rev Messrs Younge, Ashton, Mirans, Clark and self. The Chapel was well filled both morning and evening. 103 dined and quite 120 took tea in the New School Rooms. Other ministers were there, namely Messrs Dukes, Kneller, Newberry, Robinson, Fitt, Vardy. It was a day of much mercy. Oh that I had been able to feel and enjoy more. May I be greatly helped there in my future attempts to glorify God and serve man.

Thurs 21st July 1842

This has been our anniversary at the Chapel – to me a mixed pleasure and pain. Such seasons are too noisy, and too exciting to my feelings, and temper too – but one is obliged to give up one’s own views and feelings sometimes to please others. I am obliged to be a party to the provision made for dining etc, and the Singing Men must have an extra Shouting of some noisy tunes. How mixed are all our employments end enjoyments.

Tues 16th August

I had much talk today with Mr Salter, about the Friends of the Chapel. I hope to be preserved from an undue anxiety about money in connexion with my labours, but it is painful to see the sad want of consideration in many about their Minister’s subsistence – some never pay if they can help it, and some putting it off, and while they admire the Chapel and the comfortable accommodation and condescend to applaud the preacher – they like it all as cheap as possible. They cannot serve the Lawyer or the Physician so, nor should they serve the Preacher so.

11th Sep

The deranged lady from Dr Tuke’s was at Chapel this aftn with her attendant, and in the pew where she sat was a small parcel found, neatly put up and addressed to me. It contained a pretty silk purse – made I judge by the Lady, and was accompanied by a note nicely written with blue ink, of which the following was a copy:

To the Rev -— Miller.

Gold and silver have I none but such as I have I give thee.

Accept dear Sir this little mite I pray,

Which I with pleasure bring to thee this day,

Not with a view your service to requite

For what can recompense such streams of light?

But ‘tis a little offering of love,

This is the sweet command of Him above

I Him will pray to fill it with all speed

That thee and thine no good thing ever need,

I am His captive for the truth

And your obliged sister-in-bonds

Harriet Isabella Maria Hope

Chiswick Manor House, 9th mo 1842

Chiswick Manor House, about 1860, Chiswick Local Studies collection

[The Tuke family had recently set up their asylum in the Manor Farm House in Chiswick Lane, it moved to Chiswick House in 1892.]

Fri 16th Sep

I have had an interesting event to cheer me today. Several of my kind hearers at Chiswick, and most of the Members of the Church planned a visit to Windsor and invited my dear Mary and myself to accompany them. They hired an omnibus, the party being 15, they provided dinner and tea – took us to the Royal Chapel and Round Tower, and at dinner most respectfully and affectionately drank our health, and expressed a hope of many years continued union amongst us. I was affected.


The Editor would like to thank Marion Addington for donating the typescript to the Library, and the Rev Patrick Tuft for his help with ecclesiastical questions.

Carolyn Hammond is the Editor of this Journal, and co-author with her husband, Peter, of Chiswick (1994), Chiswick Then and Now (2003) and Chiswick Through Time (2010).

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