by Shane Badham

In the days when I was corresponding with Tim Ellis, it was thought that James and Thomas’ parents were Moravian and that there had been a religious split between James and Thomas, except that his eldest son, Thomas Leopold, was baptised by the Moravians. He also became a Moravian minister. We now believe that Thomas’ mother was a Baptist and that the children were baptised in their mid-teens in the church of their choice. There is no proof of this, so I decided to try and find out a bit more about the Moravian connection.

Using the web I searched for Moravian and came up with several hits, which I subsequently explored. The one of most interest was:, which gave the locations of their archives. Click on the text “please click on to enter” then select “Archive” from the drop-down menu on the right. The specific item of interest to me was the Moravian Church, Maudlin Street, Bristol (near the bottom of the right hand frame. I am not sure when the Moravian settlement was pulled down, but the diaries are held at the University of Bristol, Arts and Social Sciences Library, Special Collections. They also have an archive of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s letters, notebooks and drawings, which I have yet to investigate.

I started my research there in January 2006; it seems much longer than a year ago! The diaries are of course hand written, in books of about A5 size and are about an inch thick. These volumes hold three to four years each. The starting and ending years may crossover to the previous or next volume. The handwriting varies considerably depending on who is writing them and the age of the writer determines the style. Some words are difficult to read and the writers use many abbreviations.

I started with Vol. 7 for 1792 and searched up to Vol. 13 for 1809, before I discovered any Badhams. I know that the family of my Thomas Badham (3), James and Thomas’ father, were living in Bristol in 1801, so I reckon that this shows that their parents were not members of the Moravian Church.

I photographed the pages of interest, with flash turned off, and also made notes of the date and gist of each entry. Photography is allowed at the Special Collections archive. After I had transferred the photos to my computer, I made transcripts of the text in which I was interested.

At the moment I am reading Vol. 20, but the previous volume finished in 1869. This is after James and his surviving son, Alonzo Badham, have died.

Joining the Moravian Church

James and Esther’s first five children were baptised at St. Michael’s on the Mount in Bristol. I think it is possible that the vicar at that church suggested that they become confirmed. My belief is that they had experienced Moravian teachers at Church Hill House a private school in Brislington, where they were married. I think that this may have influenced their decision to join the Moravian Church.

They applied to join the church on Whit Monday the 22nd May 1809 and were added to the “society.” This means that they attended the church, but they were not full members of the congregation. People out side of the church were always referred to as “members of the society.”

Their second daughter, Emily Maria, died aged two and a half and they requested that she be buried in the church’s burying ground. They intended to apply by letter to become members of the congregation, so their request was granted. Emily’s funeral was on the 14th May 1811 and James and Esther became members of the congregation that year.


The church members are organised into “Choirs” and James and Esther would have been members of the married persons choir. Another example of these divisions is when their first son Frederic James was made a member of the Little Boys choir in 1818, aged 12. There were choirs for the Little Girls and Great Girls and Great Boys (we would call them youths and the ministers did start to use this description at a later date), and also Brothers, Sisters, and Widows choirs.

In the society a Moravian minister would be given the title Reverend, but within the church he would be known as the “Labourer” of that congregation. All adults were addressed as Brother and Sister, including the ministers. They considered themselves to be brothers and sisters in Christ. Some writers of the diary used the term Surrogate Brother or Sister to distinguish them from natural brother or sister. This was usually abbreviated to S. Br. or S. Sr. It becomes confusing at times, since there became several Br Badhams in the congregation. However, the minister did add initials which helped me identify some individuals.

Each choir would have appointed servants from within the congregation. I am not clear on what their duties were and most of them were not related to my Badhams.

There were also officers of the church and James, and later Alonzo, were elected to the Congregation Council on several occasions. James was also elected as Curator of the Widows Choir.


They also had missionaries; most of whom went to the Caribbean. Among these were James’ nephew Thomas Leopold to Tobago and James’ daughter Rosa Louisa to Jamaica with her first husband William Henry Oates, who was a minister. I know that Arthur Billings died on passage to Jamaica and Stanley West died in Barbados, but I am not sure if they were missionaries.

Rosa’s first husband died within a year of their marriage and she then married his replacement, Thomas Cooke. The diary for 1843 says that Thomas Cooke from Frampton Cotterell applied to become a missionary and subsequently went to Jamaica.

The church raised money to send missionaries to the Caribbean and to support their work there. On Thomas Leopold’s return to England he organised meetings to raise money for the missions and regularly visited Bristol. I believe he married Martha in Tobago and I think had at least one daughter born out there. I found a Mary Badham, aged 13, in the school at Fulneck in the 1861 census. According to the census, she was born in Tobago. Her Grandmother was a Mary.

Thomas L. Badham and a Sr Badham corresponded with the Bristol church about their work and the devastating effect of a hurricane which hit Tobago and destroyed their church and school. The missionaries’ house was damaged too. I am pretty sure this Sr Badham is Martha, his wife.

In March 1832 Br Reichel went to Tintern, on a mission to establish a church on the opposite bank of the river Wye. “The crowd of attentive and eager hearers was excessive, amounting to between 2 and 300. They were addressed from Acts 13 v. 26 ‘To you is the word of this salvation sent,’ and a unanimous desire was expressed for the continued preaching of the gospel there.”

The Moravian Church at Brockweir was one of the talks given at the 2004 B1NS Conference in Llangwm Village Hall and appeared in the July 2004 Newsletter.


James and Esther attended Holy Communion as spectators at least twice and then were confirmed in December 1812. They enjoyed their first communion together just a few days before Christmas.

This seems to have been a regular procedure for those members wishing to be confirmed. Of all their children the only ones I can find that were confirmed are Arthur, Oliver, Emily Emma, Alonzo and Stanley. It is possible that some of the others were confirmed at other Moravian settlements. That only leaves four that I am not sure about: Arabella, Frederic, Rosa, and Sidney. Five children died before they reached their teens.

Oliver and Stanley Badham were confirmed together in May 1844. Oliver would have been 32 years old, which is quite late to be confirmed. Stanley, on the other hand was only 20. The last reference in the diaries for Sydney is 1849, when he left the Moravian Church aged 24. Oliver and Sydney are the only children of James whose dates of death are not known to me. They must have died between the events mentioned above and 1857, when James made his Will. Neither of them are mentioned in his Will. There are only 8-13 years to check, so I must do a trawl through the death indexes to try and find them.

Comings and Goings

For several years I have been puzzled as to where the children were housed. The only child I have seen at home with James is Emily Emma, in the 1841 and 1851 censuses. However, in the diaries the minister mentions as to where members went and from where they came. At the end of the year, there is a list of occurrences, which include comings and goings, births, confirmations, marriages, deaths, visitors, etc.

It is possible that Emily Emma, Alonzo, and Sydney were educated at the Bristol settlement. All the others went away to school: Arabella to Tytherton, Frederic and Arthur to Ockbrook, Walter to Haverford West, Rosa to Wyke, and Stanley to Mirfield. I do know that Alonzo went to Niesky on the Polish border in Germany, for his further education. This is a teacher training school called a Pädagogium in German.

James made several business trips, some to London, Germany and to Spain. All probably connected with his wool and oil merchant business. I have not seen any mention of his job with the railway.

Various visitors are mentioned, but one is of great significance to me. There is a gap of four years between the marriage of James’ parents and the birth of the twins. Since it was a tradition for the first two male children to be called James and Thomas, I would expect a daughter or daughters to be born at this time. Some visitors from Stockbridge were introduced to the congregation by James and among them was a Sr Grinfield, who is described as follows. “1829 Nov 29th Mr. Jas. Badham, Brother of our Widowed Sr Grinfield was by his particular request presenting a guest...”. There is no mention of the names of the other guests. This triggers-off further research!

An interesting little snippet appeared in September 1850, “Br La Trobe returns from Clevedon and then proceeds to Budleigh Salterton where he was much refreshed. He returned on the 5th October after 12 days at the seaside, much benefited.” [Come to sunny Salterton, for fresh air and fun! Ed.]

Births and Baptisms

The Moravian register usually gives the date of birth and baptism, but not always. The diaries sometimes say something like, “Sr Badham was safely delivered of a Daughter,” and the date is specified.

The baptisms are also recorded. These usually take place at the Children’s meeting, where the phrase “...the infant son born to Br and Sr Badham was baptised into the Death of Jesus and called Oliver Antes” is used. When I was on my pilgrimage I read the acts of the various apostles and Paul mentions this form of words connected with baptism. I do not remember it being used in the Church of England.

All nine baptisms are recorded in the diaries. If you add the five baptised at St. Michael’s this gives 14 children in all. 

Betrothals and Marriages


It does not always appear, but often there is a mention of a betrothal, for example, “1837 Dec. 4th Widower Br J. B. Badham and the Widow Sr Mary Maud were betrothed.” This is James’s 2nd marriage.

Of course, the Moravians were not allowed to perform marriages, but sometimes the marriage is mentioned, for example, “1838 Jan. 17th The Widower Br Badham and the widow Sr Mary Maud were married at St. James' Church.”

After 1837 they were allowed to perform marriages, for example, “1842 April 4th In the morning at 8 o'clock Br W. H. Oates was married to ye S. Sr Rosa Louisa Swertner Badham in our chapel.”

Note the use of “ye” the older style of “the,” probably an older Brother writing in the diary.

In 1850 James married for the third time to Eliza Nixon, nee Buckland, at Calne in Wiltshire. She applied to join the church and after an interview and several meetings of the councils and the committee, she was accepted, but subsequently she withdrew her application. James got into trouble with the congregational council, but I am not sure if this was a result of the withdrawal of his wife’s application or some other matter. The out come was that he resigned from the church. 

Illness and Accidents


There are short accounts of Esther Badham’s illness before her death and also Mary Badham, formery Maud nee Seifferth (James’s second wife). In both cases the minister wrote of pastoral visits to these two ladies.

Shortly after Alonzo Badham and Helen Davis got married he was very ill for about seven weeks. Many people at that time thought that illness was a divine punishment for wrong doing. The minister visited him several times. On his recovery, the minister said that, “His mouth overflows with thankfulness to the Lord.”

Accidents among the members of the church were often reported in the diaries. Alonzo, at about age four, fell and broke his collar bone. Sara Davis, I don’t think she was a relative of Helen Davis (Alonzo’s wife), was hit by a “conveyance” in the Broadmead and eventually died.

Historical events were recorded, such as the Reform Act riots in the city and the failure of the commander of the troops to act quickly. Several buildings were burnt down including the Mansion House. Some of the members of the Moravian Church acted as Special Constables. According to one of the archivists for the Special Collections, Brunel was also a Special Constable and wrote about the riots.

Cholera was a feared disease and in 1832 and 1834 the congregation gave thanksgiving for their preservation from it, although Sr Mary Maud lost her husband Samuel. It was rife again in 1841 and I believe her family was again a victim of the cholera. Her two surviving children aged 13 and 8 both died within two days. They were buried in the Moravian burial ground and then the funeral was held around the grave, rather than bringing the coffins into the church. The service was well attended, and many of the bearers, old and young were much affected. Prayers for the victims of the cholera were said again in 1849.

Deaths and Burials

Two of James and Esther’s children died in infancy and were baptised at the parents home, because they were not expected to live long - Theodore and Fitzjames. Two more died within a year or two of their birth - Emily Maria and Sidney Constant.

James’ wife Esther Sarah died in 1832. She had left the Moravians for the Methodists only a few years earlier, but James successfully requested that she be buried in their burial ground. There was no “memoir” in the entry for her funeral, so the names of her parents still remain a mystery to me.

Normally there would be an announcement of the death in the diary and then a short bit about the funeral and burial. If it was an older child who had established a character, or an adult, there would be a “memoir” of their life. Sometimes the memoir would be printed and distributed by the relatives. Below is the memoir for Walter Luton, aged 12. His complaint was probably a muscle wasting disease like MS, Duchesne, Cystic Fibrosis, or motor-neuron disease, but in 1819 they did not have a diagnosis for it.

Memoir of Walter Luton Badham

1819 Nov. 28th - “The mortal remains of Walter Badham, a child of about 12 years old were committed to their resting place. For 9 years he had been more or less affected with illness, this during that period exhibited many proofs that his heart was moved by grace. His bible and Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress were his delight. When unable any longer to articulate words, he signified his peace of mind by a sign with his hand, at his mother's request. It was at Monmouth that he died, but according to his own wish his body was conveyed hither and interred in our buying ground. It was brought in a boat down the river Wye, across the Severn and up the Avon in one day, a passage unusually speedy, for which the parents felt especially excited to praise the Lord.”

It is possible that the family knew someone, possibly a relative, in Monmouth who had experience of looking after a terminally ill child.

Memoir of James Billings Badham

Despite having resigned from the church, James funeral took place in the Moravian Church, at Alonzo’s request and he was buried in their burial ground.

July 2nd, 1858 was the Funeral of Mr. J. B. Badham of Kings Parade, who had been long an active, intelligent, and generous Member of the Church, but who was constrained to withdraw about six years ago, serious differences having arisen between him and the Congregation Authorities. His latter years were passed under a cloud - His last long sickness however seems in the Lord's hands to have quite subdued his strong will. He was taught to look upon past events in a very different light, to what he had been accustomed to do, and having found pardon thro' His Saviour's super abounding grace and merits, thro' faith in His atoning blood, he sought reconciliation with all our Brs and Srs. Of himself he spoke in the most humiliating terms, and his only hope, and his only boast was, "The Saviour's blood and righteousness." His end was peace, and leave having been cordially given by the Congregational Council, he was interred in our Burial Ground, where his remains, assure[?] believe, rest in hope of a joyful resurrection. A faithful Memoir drawn up by his son Br Alonzo Badham, was read at the Funeral. The Discourse was on the text, "In the world ye shall have tribulation" re se [sic] John XVI.33

Yes, he sure had tribulation in this world! Alas, I doubt if I will ever see that memoir.

I have other Memoirs, some of which are a potted history of the persons life, but they must keep for another occasion. One of them runs to 11 pages in the diary. This and another Memoir have saved me a lot of effort in tracing their family histories!