The strange ways of a controversial cleric from Romford

�As Halloween approaches, Havering Museum is delving into the quirky and ghoulish side of the area’s history and exploring the lives of some of its oddest inhabitants.

Scotsman Samuel Hanna Carlisle came to Romford in 1826 and was appointed minister of the Congregationalist Union Chapel in North Street in March 1827.

However, almost immediately he began falling out with various members of his church; four of his five deacons were persuaded to resign within a year, and the fifth had to be ‘excommunicated’ apparently because they didn’t pay him enough.

Over the years, Carlisle’s belligerence and eccentricity developed into severe mental instability.

He wrote two books, Sancho and Nimshi, which nobody but he could understand – indeed one reviewer said that “it was absolutely necessary the author should go wherever the book went to explain it”.

He repeatedly chided his congregation for failing to support him financially and, in 1846, a small group broke away and formed the Coverdale Chapel on the other side of North Street.

The minister’s most alarming act involved having the body of his young son Wallace (who had drowned in the River Rom in 1833) exhumed from the dissenters burial ground at Havering Well for fear of it being stolen by body snatchers.

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Carlisle then had the body embalmed and kept in his hallway.

He is rumoured to have done the same with his son Oscar in 1849, this time storing the corpse in his bedroom.


Carlisle died on November 15, 1852 and was buried at Havering Well.

One obituary reported that “a more extraordinary man never lived” and that “his strange vagaries, if chronicled, would fill a volume”.

The Union and Coverdale chapels were reunited the following year but only after holding an extraordinary meeting to remind Carlisle’s divided and confused congregation what their church actually believed in!

Discover more about Samuel Hanna Carlisle and other local eccentrics at Havering Museum’s Haunted Havering…and Beyond! exhibition until November 24, and at the Havering’s Extraordinary Eccentrics talk on Thursday next week.

n For more information, or to book a place on the talk, phone the museum on 01708 766 571.