John Towill Rutt

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John Towill Rutt (4 April 1760 – 3 March 1841) was an English political activist, social reformer and nonconformist man of letters.

Nonconformist Protestant Christians in Wales and England who did not follow the Church of England

In English church history, a Nonconformist was a Protestant who did not "conform" to the governance and usages of the established Church of England. Broad use of the term was precipitated after the Restoration of the British monarchy in 1660, when the Act of Uniformity 1662 re-established the opponents of reform within the Church of England. By the late 19th century the term specifically included the Reformed Christians, plus the Baptists and Methodists. The English Dissenters such as the Puritans who violated the Act of Uniformity 1559—typically by practising radical, sometimes separatist, dissent—were retrospectively labelled as Nonconformists.



Born in London on 4 April 1760, was only son of George Rutt, at first a druggist in Friday Street, Cheapside, and afterwards a wholesale merchant in drugs in Upper Thames Street, who married Elizabeth Towill. In early boyhood he was placed for some time under the care of Joshua Toulmin at Taunton. On 1 July 1771 he was admitted at St. Paul's School, London, under Dr. Richard Roberts. The headmaster recommended his parents to send him to university, but they were strict nonconformists, and would not accept the advice. Rutt went into his father's business, and continued for most of his life.

Cheapside street in the City of London

Cheapside is a street in the City of London, the historic and modern financial centre of London, which forms part of the A40 London to Fishguard road. It links St. Martin's Le Grand with Poultry. Near its eastern end at Bank junction, where it becomes Poultry, is Mansion House, the Bank of England, and Bank station. To the west is St. Paul's Cathedral, St. Paul's tube station and square.

Joshua Toulmin English Dissenting minister

Joshua Toulmin of Taunton, England was a noted theologian and a serial Dissenting minister of Presbyterian (1761–1764), Baptist (1765–1803), and then Unitarian (1804–1815) congregations. Toulmin's sympathy for both the American (1775–1783) and French (1787–1799) revolutions led the Englishman to be associated with the United States and gained the prolific historian the reputation of a religious radical.

Taunton Country town of Somerset, England

Taunton is a large town in Somerset, England. The town's population in 2011 was 69,570. Taunton has over 1,000 years of religious and military history, including a 10th century monastery and Taunton Castle, which has origins in the Anglo Saxon period and was later the site of a priory. The Normans then built a stone structured castle, which belonged to the Bishops of Winchester. The current heavily reconstructed buildings are the inner ward, which now houses the Museum of Somerset and the Somerset Military Museum.

Rutt joined in 1780 the Society for Constitutional Information. At the time of the French Revolution he became an original and active member of the Society of the Friends of the People. Concern for the reformers Thomas Muir, Thomas Fyshe Palmer and William Skirving led him to visit them as convicts on board the hulks, when awaiting transportation, and he sent papers and pamphlets to them in New South Wales. He was a vigorous public speaker. His religious convictions gradually became Unitarian, and by 1796 he was a leading member of the Gravel Pit congregation at Hackney, of which Thomas Belsham was the pastor. With Joseph Priestley and Gilbert Wakefield he was on close terms of friendship. He supported Priestley after the riots in Birmingham, and he was one of Wakefield's bail, smoothing matters after his incarceration in Dorchester gaol. Another intimate friend was Henry Crabb Robinson.

The Society for Constitutional Information was a British activist group founded in 1780 by Major John Cartwright, to promote parliamentary reform.

French Revolution Revolution in France, 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.

The Society of the Friends of the People was an organisation in Great Britain that was focused on advocating for Parliamentary Reform. It was founded by the Whig Party in 1792.

On his partial withdrawal from business about 1800 Rutt lived for some years at Whitegate House, near Witham in Essex, afterwards at Clapton and Bromley-by-Bow, and finally settled at Bexley. As a member of the Clothworkers' he worked in the administration of the company's charities, and he laid the first stone of the Domestic Society's school and chapel in Spicer Street, Spitalfields.

Witham town in Essex, United Kingdom

Witham is a town in the county of Essex in the East of England, with a population of 25,353. It is part of the District of Braintree and is twinned with the town of Waldbröl, Germany. Witham stands between the city of Chelmsford and the town of Colchester, on the Roman road between the two. The River Brain runs through the town and joins the River Blackwater just outside.

Essex County of England

Essex is a county in the south-east of England, north-east of London. One of the home counties, it borders Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent across the estuary of the River Thames to the south, and London to the south-west. The county town is Chelmsford, the only city in the county. For government statistical purposes Essex is placed in the East of England region.

Clapton, London district in east London, England

Clapton is a district in the London Borough of Hackney, in northeast London, England. Subdivisions of Clapton are Lower Clapton and Upper Clapton. Clapton lies 5.6 miles from Charing Cross.

He died at Bexley on 3 March 1841.


He aided in founding the Monthly Repository , was a regular contributor to its columns, and occasionally acted as its editor; he also wrote in the Christian Reformer . In 1802 he edited a Unitarian Collection of Prayers, Psalms, and Hymns.

The Monthly Repository was a British monthly Unitarian periodical which ran between 1806 and 1838. In terms of editorial policy on theology, the Repository was largely concerned with rational dissent. Considered as a political journal, it was radical, supporting a platform of: abolition of monopolies ; abolition of slavery; repeal of "taxes on knowledge"; extension of suffrage; national education; reform of the Church of England; and changes to the Poor Laws.

The Christian Reformer, or New Evangelical Miscellany was a British Unitarian magazine established in 1815 and edited by Robert Aspland.

Rutt was the author of a volume of poetry for Thomas Fyshe Palmer, entitled The Sympathy of Priests. Addressed to T. F. Palmer, at Port Jackson. With Odes, 1792. In conjunction with Arnold Wainewright, he published in 1804 an enlarged edition, brought down to the date of death, of the Memoirs of Gilbert Wakefield, originally published by Wakefield in 1792.

The years between 1817 and 1831 were chiefly spent in editing the ‘Theological and Miscellaneous Works of Dr. Priestley’ in twenty-five volumes, portions of which were subsequently issued separately. The first volume Rutt separately issued as Life and Correspondence of Joseph Priestley, 1831–2, 2 vols. Rutt also edited with notes, historical and biographical, the Diary of Thomas Burton, M.P., 1656 to 1659 (1828), Calamy's Historical Account of my own Life, 1671–1731 (1830), and The Life, Journals, and Correspondence of Samuel Pepys. With a Narrative of his Voyage to Tangier (1841). He contributed articles to the Encyclopædia Metropolitana .

Thomas Burton, of Brampton Hall, Westmorland, was an English politician, the Member of Parliament for Westmorland from 1656 to 1659, known as a parliamentary diarist.

The Encyclopædia Metropolitana was an encyclopedic work published in London, from 1817 to 1845, by part publication. In all it came to quarto, 30 vols., having been issued in 59 parts.


He married, in June 1786, Rachel, second daughter of Joseph Pattisson of Maldon, Essex. They had thirteen children, seven of whom, with his widow, survived him. Rachel, the eldest daughter, married Thomas Noon Talfourd.

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