“He was one of the greatest masters of elocution I ever knew.” (Charles Dickens)

Frederick William Robertson was formally the Minister of the Holy Trinity Church. He was well known for his gifts in public speaking and admired by many important people of his day.

Born in London in 1816, Robertson’s childhood was spent moving around Britain due to his Father’s Job as a captain in the Royal Artillery. It his is thought that his early aspirations were to follow his father and join the army. However, after failing in his first and second attempts to sign up, he began studying at Oxford University.

After studying, Robertson joined the clergy at Winchester and he was ordained in 1840. In 1841 he suffered a crisis of conscience and had to take a break. He left for Switzerland to recuperate. On returning, he took up a curacy in Cheltenham. Then a few years later he again experienced “the darkest doubts.”

He returned to Switzerland where again his faith was reaffirmed. Back in England he began the ministry that would be the making of him at Holy Trinity Church, Brighton.

The fashionable Holy Trinity Church had a thoughtful congregation holding varying levels of belief. This suited Robertson(‘s) questioning temperament and in his sermons he came into his own. The sermons were at times radical and unorthodox but thought to contain “a living source of impulse, a practical direction of thought, a key to many of the problems of theology, and above all a path to spiritual freedom.”

Robertson became a renowned preacher and people came from far and wide to hear him speak. He also gave lectures and participated in social reform related to shop workers, and the Working Men’s Institute.

Unfortunately his life was cut short in 1853, he died at the age of 37 after only six years in Brighton. It is rumored that his funeral procession was attended by three thousand people and is the biggest Brighton has ever known.

A book of Robertson’s Sermons was published posthumously. It is available here.

Resources

VictorianWeb.org- Frederick W. Robertson Index

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