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Rev. J. D. G. Pike. (1784-1854)

and a history of Brook Street General Baptist Church of the New Connexion, Derby

Rev. J. D. G. Pike. Courtesy Derby Local Studies Library.

Early years in London

John Deodatus Gregory Pike was born in Edmonton, London, on 6th April, 1784. His mother, the daughter of a London merchant, claimed descent from Oliver Cromwell and ran a boarding school for young ladies at Enfield. His father came from Lavington, Wiltshire, and became a unitarian preacher (he later fluctuated between Presbyterian and advanced rationalist views). About 1791, his father practiced as a doctor and for a time devoted his energies to a boarding school run by two of his brothers-in-law, at Edmonton.

After being educated at home John Deodatus attended Wymondley (Baptist) College, Hertfordshire and became a Particular Baptist. For 3 years he was a class room assistant in the Edmonton school run by his uncles.

He was baptised in August 1804. He was received into Rev. Dan Taylor's Chapel Lane Meeting House, Whitechapel, London, in 1808. Under Taylor's pastoral care he was soon formally licensed to preach.

From his earliest days Pike had taken a deep interest in Foreign Missions. In 1809 he records 'My mind today has often engaged on a mission to Africa, and on becoming, if heaven prolong my days, a missionary to that injured land'.

Brook Street General Baptist Chapel, built in 1802. Courtesy Derby Local Studies Library.

Brook Street General Baptist Chapel, Derby

The first Baptist sermon had been preached in Derby on 31st May 1789, by Pike's former pastor in London, the Rev. Dan Taylor. There is no record of where meetings were held but they were probably held in rented rooms near the County Gaol, Friar Gate. Preachers from outside Derby (from Castle Donington, Kegworth, Melbourne and Ilkeston) had taken turns to continue services, but there was no one minister. It was decided in November 1800 'they seek a better room'.

The first baptisms had taken place on 30th August,1791, when Gilbert Dallison, Joseph Burrows, John Etches, Joseph Johnson, Samuel Hill, Mary Porter, Jane Porter, Rachel Etches and Mary Pipes were baptised in the River Derwent, near the Morledge, in front of a throng of onlookers.

Before 1796 the membership had increased to 40 and then had begun to decline; so that by 1799 there were only 28 members and the Church was close to dissolution. A decision was taken to appoint a resident pastor and the nephew of Rev. Dan Taylor; Rev. James Taylor, took up residence in 1800. It was decided to build a chapel and a plot of land was bought on Brook Street. The Chapel opened on July 20th 1802. Membership increased but conversions were few. These discouragements persuaded Rev. James Taylor to move to Yorkshire in 1807.

Derby map of 1806. 1. Brook Street General Baptist Chapel of the New Connection, built in 1802. 2. Site of the new church on St Mary's Gate, opened in 1842. 3. Site of the first baptisms (five men and four women) in 1791. reproduced courtesy of the Derby Local Studies Library.

The banks of the River Derwent close to the first baptismal site, as it is today.

Rev. Pike's Pastorate

The Brook Street Chapel had a sister chapel at Duffield, just outside Derby, where Brook Street sometimes held church meetings, and were responsible for the rent. There is no record of an invitation to Rev. Pike but there was some rivalry between Derby and Duffield as to who should secure him. Pike preferred country to town life, and writes about Leicester 'Leicester is a good town, but I like no towns'. We know from his son that his partiality for village preaching continued to the last. However, Brook Street secured his services and he commenced his ministry on 8th July 1810. In the same year Duffield split away from Brook Street.

Rev. John Pike married Sarah Sanders in 1811, a native of Derby, and they had 4 sons, (3 of whom became Baptist ministers), and 2 daughters.

The membership was 63 at the start of his ministry. By the middle of the following year it had risen to 114. In addition, in country divisions of Alvaston, Weston-on-Trent, Darley Abbey and Littleover, extra members totalled 68. 11 persons were baptised. Chapels at Belper (1823) and Wirksworth (1818) were formed.

It was decided to increase the accommodation by adding a gallery and some schoolrooms. To achieve this Rev. Pike travelled the country for 6 months with a 'begging case' and collected £400.

Pike kept a boarding school to supplement his income. A new chapel was opened in 1815, three times as large as the first; after four years it was enlarged.

In 1812, when news was received of the disastrous fire at Serampore, where William Ward's Printing Office was destroyed, Rev John Pike brought the matter before the Midland Conference urging churches to make collections. He induced his Derby friends, though few in number, to undertake the entire support of one of the native preachers at Serampore. He endeavoured, by oral and written appeals, to excite a missionary spirit within the Churches of the General Baptists and urged the formation of a General Baptist Missionary Society, either as an auxiliary of the existing Society, or as a separate Society. With advice from Andrew Fuller, who considered the lack of unity between the Particular and the General Baptists was a problem, the latter option was decided upon. At the Annual Meeting of the Association at Boston, Lincolnshire, in 1816, Rev. John Pike proposed the formation of a General Baptist Missionary Society of the New Connexion and the vote was almost unanimously passed. Pike was elected its first Secretary and issued a pamphlet on behalf of the Committee..

The first Annual Meeting of the Society was held at Castle Donington on 24th June 1817. Although Pike was unable to become a missionary, Bampton, who with Peggs became the first missionaries of the Society, were educated by Pike at his own house. In 1819 he undertook a preaching tour of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire to excite a missionary spirit.

In 1822 he became joint editor, with Adam Taylor of London, of the monthly periodical 'The General Baptist Repository and Missionary Observer'.

One of the original members who had been one of the first to be baptised in the Derwent in 1791, brother Etches, had said that if he should see the chapel filled in his lifetime, he should think every exertion well recompensed. The ground floor had been filled, the new gallery filled, and now additional side galleries to seat 150 more were needed. In 1826 the membership was 256. But the demands of the new Society meant frequent absences from his Chapel and deacons felt it suffered as a consequence. In 1827 an attendance of between 1300 and 1400 for a baptismal service was reported, with aisles, stairs, windows, and every available space being crowded.

In April 1829, Pike's son, Mr. J. C. Pike became a member of the church and soon devoted himself to the ministry. He joined the Particular Baptist Academy at Stepney where he trained for 4 years. Mr J. C. Pike said of this step " Probably some staunch General Baptists may think this step of mine very unorthodox, but I care less and less for the distinction between the two bodies."

In 1842 a large house was bought in the centre of Derby (on St Mary's Gate) belonging to Mr. Evans, and converted to a chapel. Pike writes 'I rather think that the chapel will have the largest area in the Connexion'. Membership was 426. Spacious school rooms were added as the scholars now numbered 600.

His numerous religious tracts had a wide circulation, both here, and in America. It has been estimated that at least 800,000 were distributed at home, and over 600,000 in America. On 4th September, 1854, Rev. John Pike had attended a prayer meeting of dissenting ministers in Derby. In the afternoon he went into his study to write several letters. Only a few words of a letter to Bourne, Lincolnshire were written when he passed away. He was found by his eldest daughter seated at the library table, pen in hand. An inquest was held and the jury returned a verdict of 'Died by the visitation of God'. The procession to the grave was nearly half a mile long and included 12 clergyman of the Church of England.

During his long ministry Rev. Pike had baptised 1300 people.

Sources: 'Dictionary of National Biography' London, 1889; 'The Baptist Encyclopedia'. Revised. Edition. Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1883; and 'Records of the First General Baptist Church in Derby', S Taylor Hall, 1944.

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