William Jay (minister)

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The Rev. William Jay (6 May 1769 – 27 December 1853) was an English nonconformist divine who preached for sixty years at Argyle Chapel in Bath. He is considered to be one of the most eminent English Congregationalist preachers of Regency England; one of the first Independents or Congregationalists to articulate the Great Awakening or Religious Revival championed by George Whitfield and John Wesley.

Early life

William Jay was born at Tisbury in Wiltshire. He adopted his father's trade of stonemason and worked with him on alterations to Fonthill House, but gave it up in 1785 in order to enter the Rev. Cornelius Winter's school at Marlborough. During the three years that Jay spent there, his preaching powers were rapidly developed. Before he was twenty-one he had preached nearly a thousand times, and in 1788 he had for a while occupied Rowland Hill's pulpit at the Surrey Chapel in London. Wishing to have time for self-education or scholarly interests, he accepted the humble pastorate of Christian Malford near Chippenham where he remained about two years. This was followed by one year at the more demanding Hope Chapel, Clifton.

Life as a preacher and writer

On 30 January 1791 Rev. Jay was called to the ministry of the Independent or Congregationalist chapel with which he became most firmly connected, Argyle Chapel in Bath. Here he followed revivalist principles by preaching to all people willing to listen, regardless of religious denomination or social rank; attracting note as a populist pulpit orator, religious author and scholar, and a friendly counselor. Sheridan praised his oratorical skills.

William Jay's long connection with Argyle Chapel came to an end in January 1853. He died on the 27th of December following in Bath.

Amongst the best-known of his works are his Morning and Evening Exercises; The Christian Contemplated; The Domestic Ministers Assistant; and his Discourses. He also wrote a Life of Rev. Cornelius Winter, Memoirs of Rev. John Clarke and Female Scripture Characters, along with Jay's Works (first published in the early 1840s, and again in 1856, followed by a new edition in 1876).


One of William Jay's sons, William Jay (1792/3-1837), became an architect, continuing the family's interest in stonemasonry and building design.[1][2] His designs for Surrey Chapel Almshouses were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1814. He designed Dr. Fletcher's Albion Chapel in London, laying the foundation stone the following year. In 1817 he moved to the United States for four years, where he established as an architect in Savannah, Georgia. His American work includes the Owens-Thomas House, the William Scarbrough House, Telfair Academy, and The Savannah Theatre. He returned to England in 1822.

William Jay's eldest daughter, Anne, married Robert Bolton and, among their thirteen children was William Jay Bolton, who became an early artisan of stained glass in America.[3]


  1. William Jay (c. 1792–1837), The New Georgia Encyclopaedia, published November 1, 2004. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  2. Bradbury, Oliver C. William Jay's English Works after 1822: Recent Discoveries, Architectural History: Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, Volume 43, 2000 (archived on JTOR.org). Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  3. George Redford; John Angell James (1855). The autobiography of the Rev. William Jay. New York: Robert Carter & Brothers. p. 102. LETTER IX. His marriage:- his children:- death of his son William:- and of his daughter Statira<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Jay, William (1854; reprinted 1974) The Autobiography of William Jay (repro. ed. : Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 1974)
  • Wilson, S. (1854) The Rev. William Jay: a memoir by the Rev. S. S. Wilson. London: Binns & Goodwin 1854)
  • Silvester, James (1900) Two Famous Preachers of Bath: brief biographies of William Jay and William Connor Magee. London: C. J. Thynne
  • Sherman, James (1854) Ministerial Qualifications and Success:a sermon preached at Argyle Chapel, Bath, on Sunday evening, January 6, 1854, on the decease of the Rev. William Jay. London: Ward & Co
  • Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). [https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikisource.org%2Fwiki%2FThe_Encyclopedia_Americana_%281920%29%2FJay%2C_William_%28clergyman%29 "Jay, William, English Congregational clergyman and writer" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Encyclopedia Americana.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). [https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikisource.org%2Fwiki%2F1911_Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica%2FJay%2C_William "Jay, William" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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