Nostalgia: Havering’s Rev Samuel H Carlisle’s spooky tales of yore

Cllr Andrew Curtin

Cllr Andrew Curtin - Credit: Archant

Thousands of Havering children are taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge in the borough’s 10 libraries. The theme is Creepy House.

Samuel Hanna Carlisle. Photo: Michael Carlisle

Samuel Hanna Carlisle. Photo: Michael Carlisle - Credit: Archant

It is a theme the Rev Samuel H Carlisle (mid-1790s-1852), minister at one of the non-conformist chapels in North Street, Romford, from 1827 to his death, would find familiar.

He was also a writer who knew how to instil a sense of fear in his novels.

A charismatic figure, he opposed plans to build the new Anglican St Edward’s Church in the market in the 1840s, and caused division in his own congregation leading to a breakaway chapel existing in opposition to his from 1846 until he died.

He wrote two novels; Nimshi: The Adventures of a Man to Obtain a Solution of Scriptural Geology, to Gauge the Vast Ages of Planetary Concretion and to Open Bab Allah – the Gate of God (1845) written in Romford and seemingly inspired by the life of the Iranian mystic Bab-Allah (1819/20-1850) and Sancho, The Sacred Trophy; and the Unparalleled Operations of the Episcopacy; with A Presbyter’s Hat published in 1824 while he was working near Chelmsford.

Carlisle's home in North Street. Picture from Brian Evans

Carlisle's home in North Street. Picture from Brian Evans - Credit: Archant

Sancho tells the story of a man who was transformed by hearing a Presbyterian preacher. Before this he had a “furious hatred to the Lord God”, beat his wife and children with “his clasped hand and iron-knobbed foot” and would “plunge a bayonet” into the breast of Christians, crushing them “as a moth beneath his feet”.

He gave “hell itself a new shock of horror.” After conversion, Sancho was so changed that his wife asked him, “Husband, are you ill?” and his words were “like the droppings of perfume”.

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The rest of the story tells of Sancho’s persecution at the hands of the established Anglican Church, who Carlisle rails against as burying the power of Christianity “in the midst of convulsive monotony”.

Carlisle’s novel touched upon controversial themes of the time.

The fear of revolution and of public disorder was high on the political agenda after the French Revolution of 1789 and domestic disturbances such as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre in Manchester in which 11 people were killed and hundreds injured by troops at a mass meeting calling for Parliamentary reform.

Though calling for the separation of Church and state, which some saw as revolutionary, Carlisle emphasised that his aim was “to defend [the] monarchy from her infidel revolutionaries.”

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