History of the Bible Students in Britain

Long out of print, A.O. Hudson’s book Bible Students in Britain (1989) documents in detail the first 100 years of IBSA / Watchtower history in the British Isles. When a few used copies occasionally become available on Amazon.com, the sellers typically demand rather high prices (usually well over $100 USD). I have provided a link to those sellers below this article. For those who would like to take a look before buying their own copy, I am pleased to announce that I’ve recently added a PDF version to our Documents pages in the 1980-1999 section.

THEY CAME off the boat at Southampton, that autumn day in 1881, two American evangelists, J.C. Sunderlin and J. J. Bender, commissioned by Pastor C.T. Russell to plant in Great Britain the message he was assiduously preaching in the United States. They set foot on these shores with the enthusiasm of men entering upon virgin territory. The States had known this evangelist for two years past; it was as yet unknown in this country. The time had come to proclaim it.

Well-written and researched, this may be the definitive history of the first British (and perhaps European) Bible Students that eventually became the UK branch of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society. Our several hundred UK readers should enjoy reading and sharing this history with their friends and family members.

At the same time activity was manifest in London. Since the first distribution of “Food” in 1881 there had been a number of interested individuals in touch with the Pastor and it was in the year 1883 that a study group to discuss these things was commenced in the North London home of a rather remarkable woman and her husband. Elizabeth Horne was the type of person, who having acquired an exposition of the Divine Plan which resolved all her theological doubts and misgivings, must needs tell it out to others. Within a few years she, in common with others in her group, was conducting open-air meetings in Hyde Park—perhaps the very first of the “public meetings” which became so pronounced a feature of the fellowship in later years. It is recorded that this redoubtable lady preached in the Park for three hours at a stretch, to “attentive, respectful crowds of orderly, thoughtful looking people gathered to listen,” to quote the records. At a slightly later date, 1891, she organized the meetings for the first visit of Pastor Russell to this country, entertaining him at her home, from which she appears to have been as good an organizer as she was a preacher. This Elizabeth Horne must have been quite a girl! Like the sister group at Glasgow, this was apparently a small and inconspicuous company of earnest students—names that have survived are those of Samuel Bather with wife and daughter, John Brookes, Arthur Carey, but nothing very definite. As a company it grew in numbers until it was ultimately absorbed by the larger meetings which developed in London in later years.

This quality history of the British Jehovah’s Witnesses is even more interesting and timely now that the Watchtower has come under fire in Britain for its unconscionable child abuse policies. For the most part, British Witnesses have had a rather good public image during most of their history. Now they face almost constant criticism and investigation by government charity agencies as well as several human rights and activist groups in connection with their protection of pedophiles and shunning practices. Link to Bible Students in Britain on Amazon.com Link to Bible Students in Britain (PDF) in our Documents Section…


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