by Shane Badham

I have found several new sources at:

After clicking on "Useful Websites" and looking down the page you'll see one of the sources is the University of Bristol Arts and Social Sciences Library. Here they have the diaries for the Moravian Church in Upper Maudlin Street. Most of the text describes the services of the church, such as the bible readings and prayers.

The interesting information is in the baptisms, betrothals (they were not allowed to do marriages until 1837) and burials, often with dates of birth and death. The deaths of children are treated with much compassion and I defy anyone not to be moved by some of them.

There are some historic comments by various incumbents, which include riots, roofs falling in, and near drowning! I was so fascinated by these accounts that I started reading the diaries rather than scanning for information about my G-G-Grandfather’s family!

One part of the records, which may prove useful to me, is about who visited the settlement in Bristol, who moved away and where they went, also who came to the settlement and from whence they came. For example I have found out that Arabella Badham, James and Esther Badham’s first child, was sent to the settlement at Tytherton when she was about 6 years old. Whether this was specifically for her education, or possibly to get her out of Bristol city for health reasons, I am not sure. Certainly the city was unhealthy and many children died young.

I noticed that for several members of the congregation the minister would write an account of an elderly persons life as they remembered it, if they were unwell and likely to die. These accounts also make interesting reading and were used by the church as examples of living a good Christian life. They would be read out at church meetings. Associated with this is the tradition of giving a child, as middle name, the name of a prominent member of the church. My middle name is “Martyn” and it is the same as that of my Grandfather. I have found out that the name is that of a Moravian Bishop called John King Martyn, who died about two years before my grandfather was born, so he would have been named after him.

At the end of each year, the minister wrote a “Memorabilia” of the year’s occurrences and a list of the births, deaths, and comings and goings of the members. However, the memorabilia became irregular around 1800. I think this was because of the numerous changes of minister.

A story I copied was of this fascinating account of one man’s deliverance from drowning. He was very lucky indeed, or perhaps it really was a divine intervention.


September 28th, 1809

After a disc. to the Comte on the D.W. of the 27 (Pr.31,8) “Thou hast set my feet in a large room,” Br West read to the Congn the following Narrative by Br Jenkins, who returned back last Saturday from a visit to Leominster, of the Lord’s deliverance vouchsafe to him in great danger on Saturday Sept. 16th, when he set out on his journey to Leominster.

Being too late for the Coach, & the tide at the Aust passage, I was obliged to proceed to Purton Ferry, about 20 miles North of Bristol. I enquired of several persons in the neighbourhood of the Ferry, the mode of passing over, & was informed that at low water it was fordable to persons on foot. No mention was however made of the necessity of procuring a guide. The river in this part is nearly two miles wide. The first channel I waded thro’ was not more than a foot and a half deep, & extended two or three hundred yards. I then passed over a firm sand, somewhat elevated in the middle, till I came within a quarter of a mile of the shore. Some water, which I afterwards found to be the main channel at length presented itself to my view and the current rolled along with astonishing rapidity. I walked on with wetness and composure, till the water reached my waist, when I stopped a minute to deliberate on the propriety of proceeding on so hazardous an attempt. But, however perilous it might be to advance, it seemed not less so to retreat, as the tide would have considerably raised the water which I had already passed, by the time I would return to it. I therefore resolved to advance, but scarcely had I gone a few yards further, when my umbrella getting under water, it was acted upon with such force, as to throw me down, & not without many struggles was I enabled to recover my feet. Presently afterwards the same accident occurred, my hat was lost, & I expected myself to be carried down by the violence of the stream. I now stood a minute or two to take rest, calling upon the Lord to help me in my distressed condition, and He graciously heard my prayer, & appointed means for my deliverance. Some little children, playing on the shore, seeing my falls & conflicts with the water, gave the alarm to some boatmen, who took me up just as I was getting into quick sands, & must have made my last desperate attempt to gain the shore by swimming, which I was afterwards told I could never have affected with the weight of my clothes & boots. When I afterwards reached a wood, I kneeled down to return thanks to our Lord for this gracious deliverance!

After hearing this Narrative the Comte Congn kneeled down & thanked our Savr jointly for preserving the life of our dear Brother to his wife & children. The whole Congn was much moved on this occasion.

To put this period in context, George III’s accession was on Oct. 5th of the same year.

(N.B. Link to website active as at 5/8/2014)