Brethren Archive
Tuesday November 10, 2015

Fascinating Acquisition! - Manuscript Notebooks of the 1831 Powerscourt Conference

These three notebooks I acquired last week are my new my new pride and joy! They are handwritten notes of the 1831 Powerscourt conference; these conferences (under God's hand) played a key role in the development of modern Dispensationalism as well as what we know as the 'Brethren Movement'. Almost nothing has been known of the actual discussions held until now, but these little books that have been hidden away for 180 years give a fascinating insight into what took place. For anyone who follows 'Brethren History', I think it could be one of the most interesting discoveries for some time.

It did cost the price of a small house in some places to get hold of them, so I am not sure exactly what I intend to do with them yet, but I will put some of it at least on the website, hopefully in the near future, and anyone particularly keen to see the rest can get in touch. In the mean time I would like to collect together all the information that is currently known about the Powerscourt conferences; there isn't much, but I can recall reading comments here and there in various books over the years that gave little insights. Please add a comment if you know of anything. 

Here are some extracts from the bookseller's description to start with,

In This Section

Gregsy said ...
Wonderful news. It would be great to get Powerscourt back on the map as far as Brethren are concerned. Is there enough material around to organise an exhibition at Trinity College for example? The bi-centenary is a little way off admittedly.
Wednesday, Nov 11, 2015 : 09:22
Tim Grass said ...
These will make a very significant addition to our understanding, and it's good that researchers will be able to ask you about consulting them.
I know that many scholars have given 1831 as the date of the first conference, but an early pamphlet, 'Questions for Eight Weeks' Consideration ...' lists 1830 as the first, and gives the main questions due to be considered. It's reproduced as an appendix to the Chapter Two edition of Lady Powerscourt's Letters and Papers, and they also issued it as a leaflet. Unlike the others, 1830 wasn't apparently reported in the religious press - at least, not so far as I know - which may explain why 1831 has often been given as the date of the first.
Wednesday, Nov 11, 2015 : 10:16
Ray Armstrong said ...
Could these be lodged with the brethren Archives of the John Rylands Library in Manchester UK
Thursday, Nov 12, 2015 : 00:32
Tom said ...
Greg, An exhibition would be an interesting idea, though as you say is there enough material at present? Who knows what else is out there though? Maybe in the family archives of some of these attendees there might be papers of interest hidden away? That is an avenue of research I might look at though! Amazing that apparently these books were just found in a second hand shop or similar, their value not being appreciated, so very possible there might be more stuff of interest that will appear one day.

Tim, Thanks for the info .. I see that pamphlet is available online so I'll add to the website shortly.

Ray, first sentence of my post probably answers that question!

Thursday, Nov 12, 2015 : 10:30
Lance said ...
Very good fine Tom!
Have you no idea who wrote the diaries?
Where are you located please?

On another note I still cannot register - is the problem from my side?
Friday, Nov 13, 2015 : 12:09
Ed said ...
Well done for acquiring this Tom. No doubt like many who have read about the Powerscourt Conference from various sources and books, I have often wondered about the detail of the subject matter spoken on and who the main speaker/s actually was/were. I would love to get a look at the content of your acquisition at some time.

Regards, Ed
Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 : 00:17
Tom said ...
Hi Lance, Thanks; there is no indication at present who wrote the diaries. I am based in London. Yep the registration system is still bust and just back from my holidays to sadly discover my home internet is still not fixed, so I can't do anything about it right now, but hopefully soon.

Thanks Ed, I'll post more on the notebooks shortly I hope. Course if you are ever in these parts come pay me a visit :-) And sorry not been able to reply to your email properly yet, still no home internet so reduced to sitting in Starbuks with my laptop :-(
Wednesday, Nov 25, 2015 : 18:13
Gabriele said ...
One of the laymen attending the conference at Powerscourt Castle was William Pennefather (1816–1873); he then was just a boy of 15 years. William was distantly related to J.N. Darby: his uncle Edward Pennefather (1774–1847) had been married to Darbys oldest sister Susannah (1785–1862) since 1806.
Robert Braithwaite in “Life and Letters of Rev. William Pennefather” (John F. Shaw and Co., London, 1878) on p. 253 writes: “The subject of unfulfilled prophecy, especially in connection with the second coming of the Lord, had been one of deep interest to Mr. Pennefather almost from his childhood. When scarcely more than a boy he had the privilege of intercourse with many deeply taught students of Scripture, some of whom were in the habit of meeting at the invitation of Theodosia, Lady Powerscourt, for the mutual study of prophetic truth. Those meetings, though marred to a certain extent by great difference of opinion, and eventually broken up, left behind them an abiding influence in thoughtful minds, and the interest so early kindled remained with Mr. Pennefather in all his after years. ‘The blessed hope’ became an integral part of his spiritual life, and permeated his whole ministry.”
William Pennefather later became minister of the Church of England i.a. in Christ Church in Barnet (Hertfordshire) near London, since 1864 in St Jude Mildmay Park, Islington.
Friday, Dec 25, 2015 : 21:10
Researcher said ...
In a chapter (4) entitled ‘Canonicity and Radical Evangelicalism: The Case of Thomas Kelly’ of the book ‘United Islands? The Languages of Resistance’ edited by John Kirk, Andrew Noble and Michael Brown, published by Routledge 2012, Dr Mark S Sweetnam of Trinity College Dublin writes:

“The Early Printed Books collection of the Library of Trinity College Dublin holds copies of some of the many versions and editions of hymnbooks produced by Dublin evangelical clergyman and secessionist Thomas Kelly (1769-1854). Among its holdings is a copy of the sixth edition (1826) of Kelly’s ‘Hymns on Various Passages of Scripture’ which is inscribed ‘For Lady Powerscourt’. Theodosia Wingfield, Lady Powerscourt was the widow of the fifth Viscount Powerscourt, the chatelaine of the great Powerscourt estate in County Wicklow, and a person of definite significance in Irish society. At first glance, such a personage might seem an unlikely recipient for the gift of a small volume of hymns, written by an enthusiastic evangelical who had seceded from the established church, and established a denomination of his own. The fact that the gift was perfectly chosen, and eminently suitable is an indication of the extent of the impact that radical evangelicalism was having on the shape of Irish society.”
Saturday, Dec 26, 2015 : 09:05
Tom said ...
Thanks for those last two comments. As an update on this .. I have had the books 'Professionally Scanned' now (along with two other manuscript book I possess from 1848). Probably going to start putting some of this online in the next week or so.
Wednesday, Dec 30, 2015 : 21:10
DavidS said ...
This is exellent news Tom and I am looking forward to being able to read them online.

Saturday, Jan 16, 2016 : 14:41
Timothy Stunt said ...
Although my focus is primarily on the later Powerscourt Conferences, please forgive the self-publicity, if I draw your attention to my essay "Trinity College, John Darby and the Powerscourt Milieu." This was a contribution to a conference at Trinity College, Dublin in September 2010 on "The Future of Millennial Studies," the proceedings of which were published in Joshua Searle, Kenneth Newport [eds.], Beyond the End: The Future of Millennial Studies (Sheffield [Sheffield Phoenix Press] 2012). My essay is on pages 47-74, and touches on the strange career of William [de] Burgh and his contributions to prophetic study. I am very interested to see whether he was present at the 1831 conference.
Timothy Stunt
Thursday, Feb 11, 2016 : 16:48
Tom said ...
Thanks Timothy, you're most welcome to publicize that here. There doesn't seem any evidence in the books that Burgh was present, though of course it is only the contributors who are listed, but I imagine if he was there that he would have said something.
Thursday, Feb 11, 2016 : 18:20
Cecil Weston said ...
Concerning "the Irvingites" - we must remember that the gift of tongues is a ligitimate spiritual gift and we should not conduct ourselves as though it NEVER existed in Christ's Church.
Wednesday, Nov 1, 2017 : 01:21
James said ...
Have these been accessed/reviewed yet? Are they available for consultation?
Tuesday, Dec 24, 2019 : 01:43
Tom said ...
Hi James,
Yes they are all available online here;
Thursday, Jan 2, 2020 : 20:17
James said ...
Tom, thanks, I look forward to reviewing these in detail. I noticed from the bookseller's description, it lists a four day conference that apparently begins on a Tuesday (Oct 4) and runs through Friday (Oct 7), and says that the fourth was the first day of the session, which contradicts "Questions for Eight Weeks Consideration" which lists Monday (Oct 3) as the first day of the conference and lists the topic as related to the gifts of the Spirit. Can you tell me whether the notebooks lend support to either of these two claims?
Tuesday, Jan 28, 2020 : 01:32
Timothy Stunt said ...
My guess is that Tuesday (Oct 4) was the first full day of the conference which was also attended by non-resident participants. However there was probably a goodly number of invited guests who arrived the evening before. This favoured elite sought to redeem the time on the eve of the conference with a preliminary discussion which (not surprisingly in 1831) took 'The gifts of the Spirit' as a topic for consideration. 'Questions for Eight Weeks' Consideration ...' confirms that Tuesday's discussion was confined to an evening session. Some fifty years ago Harold Rowdon noted in his 'Origins of the Brethren' (1967 p.88) that the report of the conference which appeared in the 'Christian Herald' (i [Dec. 1831] p.176) included 'a laconic statement, evidently drawn from the prospectus for the conference and inserted without comment. . . "By those who can arrive on Monday, the subject of the gifts of the spirit will be considered that evening." ' Timothy Stunt
Tuesday, Jan 28, 2020 : 06:07

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