Rev. Ramsden Balmforth (1861-1941)

Ramsden Balmforth was a Unitarian minister who spent much of his life based in South Africa.


He was born in Lockwood in 1861, the son of knife grinder and mechanic Watts Balmforth (1826-1904) and his wife Nanny (née Moorhouse).

By 1891, he was working as a clerk. By the following year, he was a member of the Huddersfield School Board.

He married Agnes Ellam, daughter of commercial traveller John Ellam, on 30 March 1893 at St. Thomas, Huddersfield.

He resigned his position on the School Board in January 1894 after obtaining a Daniel Jones Scholarship to "one of the Oxford Colleges" with a view to "preparing himself for the work of the Unitarian ministry".[1] A few months earlier, in October 1853, around 50 members of the employees of the Huddersfield Industrial Society Limited gave Balmforth various tokens to show their "respect and esteem" after 21 years of service, including a marble timepiece, ornamental vases, and a copy of Ruskin's "Stones of Venice" (3 volumes).[2]

The Rev. Balmforth began his ministry at the Unitarian Church on Fitzwilliam Street, Huddersfield, in July 1894, having graduated from Manchester New College, Oxford. He succeeded the Rev. Herbert Pole.[3]

In January 1896, he was fined 20s. plus expenses in his absence for "neglecting to have his child vaccinated." It was stated he "had a conscientious objection to the vaccination."[4]

Ill-health forced him to resign from his post at the Fitzwilliam Street Unitarian Church in May 1897. However, he was immediately offered an invitation from the Cape Town Unitarian Church in South Africa, which he accepted.[5]

He spent most of the rest of his life in South Africa, where he wrote a sizeable number of books and journal articles. In 1915, he was a founding member of the South African Peace and Arbitration Society.

The Rev. Ramsden Balmforth died in late December 1941 in Cape Town, aged 81.

In his article about Balmforth, F. Hale concludes by stating:

Although Balmforth stood theologically quite far from most other ministers in South Africa, for four decades he interacted with many of them and with a broad spectrum of lay people, not least in his efforts to promote peace at home and abroad. He merits considerably more scholarly attention than he has received.

Further Reading

Notes and References

  1. "Huddersfield School Board" in Huddersfield Chronicle (06/Feb/1894).
  2. "Presentation to Mr. Ramsden Balmforth" in Huddersfield Chronicle (11/Oct/1893).
  3. "Fitzwilliam Street Unitarian Church, Huddersfield" in Huddersfield Chronicle (10/Jul/1894).
  4. "An Anti-Vaccinationist" in Yorkshire Evening Post (22/Jan/1896).
  5. Leeds Times (29/May/1897).

Rev. Ramsden Balmforth (1861-1941)


People | Vicars, priests and ministers
This page was last modified on 16 November 2017 and has been edited by Dave Pattern.

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