Philip Doddridge was born after thirty-six hours labour in London in 1702. He was the last of twenty children of Daniel Dandridge, a prosperous merchant, and his wife, Monica. Philip and his sister Elizabeth were the only survivors of the twenty children.
From an early age his mother began to teach him the history of the Old New Testament In his youth, Philip Doddridge was educated first by a tutor employed by his parents and he was later boarded at a private school in London.
Following the deaths of both his parents a Mr Downes, his late father’s business partner, assumed guardianship of Philip. Downes moved him to a school in St Albans where the principal was Dr Nathanial Wood, a Nonconformist Minister. Whilst at this school he became acquainted with Revd. Samuel Clark, a Presbyterian minister and he joined Clarke’s church.
His guardian Downs declared himself bankrupt having squandered the majority of Philip’s inheritance. Now destitute Philip was given shelter by his sister Elizabeth and her husband.
He felt called to the ministry but with his financial situation the opportunity of finishing his education had disappeared. However The Duchess of Bedford offered to finance his education providing he would promise to become an Anglican clergyman. Doddridge had set his mind on becoming a Dissenting minister and refused her offer. Samuel Clark then offered to finance Doddridge's studies and found him a place at a Dissenting academy in Kibworth Harcourt. The academy was situated at the rear of the ‘Old Crown Inn’, now ‘The White House’ on the right-hand side of the main A6 Leicester Road just beyond the Main Street junction, when travelling north.
The dissenting academy in Kibworth was founded in1715 and run by John Jennings. Initially in Kibworth Harcourt until 1722 at which time the academy moved to Hinckley. Following the death of Jennings in 1723 the academy closed. Doddridge was one of the last pupils to complete Jennings’s course, and his correspondence from that time contains a wealth of information about the quality of the courses at Jennings’s academy. Jennings’s innovative teaching methods were scholarly and liberal, students were encouraged to read widely in philosophy, theology and history as well as receiving a thorough training in classical, biblical, and modern languages, mathematics, physics and geography.
In 1725 Doddridge moved to Market Harborough and whilst ministering to a rural community around Kibworth he continued a self-directed course of further education. Philip Doddridge opened a Dissenting academy in Market Harborough in 1729 and began to take a small group of students through a course of lectures based on those he had attended at John Jennings’s academy. His lectures were published after his death as ‘ A Course of Lectures on the Principal Subjects in Pneumatology, Ethics and Divinity’ .
In September of that year he received an invitation to become pastor at the Castle Hill Church, Northampton and after much thought and a lot of persuasion he accepted the post. In December 1729 he moved to Northampton and in the following year he opened an academy at Castle Hill.
He married Mercy Maris on 22 December 1730.
Realising Northampton needed a hospital, Doddridge ran a successful campaign in 1743 with a newly arrived doctor, James Stonhouse, and they raised sufficient funds to establish the first infirmary by the end of that year. Fifty years later in 1793, the infirmary was moved to a bigger site and is now Northampton General Hospital. Both men are listed as the hospital’s founders.
Doddridge was a prolific writer. His book ‘The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul’ first published 1745 was translated into seven languages. Reading this book led William Wilberforce, the anti-slave trade campaigner, to become a Christian. Besides a New Testament commentary and other theological works, Doddridge also wrote over 400 hymns of which many are in common use. Most of the hymns were written as summaries of his sermons designed to help the congregation express their response to the truths they were being taught. A well-known hymn of Doddridge's is ‘O happy day that fixed my choice, On Thee my Saviour and my God’. It was written in the middle of the eighteenth century and was originally entitled, "Rejoicing in our Covenant. Engagement with God". It was a fitting choice by Queen Victoria when one of the princesses was being confirmed.
Doddridge’s health had never been very good and in 1751 his health deteriorated due to tuberculosis and on the advice of his doctor he went to Lisbon. He sailed for Lisbon on 30 September 1751 however his condition did not improve with the change of climate and he died on 26th October 1751. Philip Doddridge was buried in the British Cemetery in Lisbon.
On Saturday 13 April 2013 Malcolm Deacon, author of ‘Philip Doddridge of Northampton’ unveiled a Blue Heritage Plaque commemorating the life of Philip Doddridge at The White House, 51/53 Leicester Road, Kibworth
Kibworth is the birthplace of two people who changed the course of English literature and English education: Anna Letitia Aikin, who published mostly under her married name, Barbauld, and her brother, John. They were born here, in 1743 and 1747, because their father, the Reverend John Aikin, kept a school in the house now known as the Old House. His son was one of his pupils. Anna Letitia, being a girl, could not enroll in her father’s school, but she learned much on the side, foraging in her father’s library and picking up knowledge from her brother. Eventually she persuaded the Reverend Mr. Aikin to teach her some Latin. She and her brother were very close from childhood until his death in 1822. In a poem addressed to him she remembered that “hand in hand with innocence we stray’d / Embosom’d deep in Kibworth’s tufted shade.” It was in Kibworth too, probably, that Anna Letitia developed a deep lifelong love of History. The passion for History, she wrote many years later, is awakened by curiosity about our own surroundings. One bit of her surroundings that she must have seen many times from her front door was the Munt, a local mystery. Was it Roman? Medieval? A fort? A tomb?
In 1758 the Aikin family removed to Warrington in Lancashire, for the Reverend John had been invited to join the faculty of a new Dissenting academy there. At Warrington Anna Letitia began to write, and from there she published her first book, Poems (1773). The book made her famous overnight. But it might not have come to print without her brother’s urging and aid. John Aikin, having taken a medical degree at Edinburgh, set out to have a literary career and brought his sister along. After her Poems, brother and sister collaborated on a volume of essays, Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose (1773). The two of them went on to be leading names in the literary world of London - and Anna Letitia became a famous name in the early United States as well. She did so through her books for children, published under her married name, Mrs. Barbauld: Lessons for Children (1778-79) and Hymns in Prose for Children (1781), written while she was teaching school with her husband in the village of Palgrave in Suffolk. Lessons initiated treating the child reader as the main character in a story that is completely realistic because it is based on the child’s life. Hymns in Prose encouraged the child reader to love Nature as the work of a loving divinity. Both books are set in country villages like the village of Palgrave where they were written – and like the village of Kibworth, where Anna Letitia herself had learned to love Nature.
Anna Letitia went on to write further poems and essays, to engage in political controversy (a daring move for a woman in the 1790s) on the liberal side, and to work as a reviewer and editor. She could be called England’s first woman of letters, something like the Virginia Woolf of her time. Her brother, John, practiced as a doctor but moved over into literature. He published on many subjects — medicine, poetry, politics, natural history - but was most influential as the editor of a national magazine in the 1790s, The Monthly Magazine, and a multi-volume biographical dictionary, a predecessor of today’s DNB. He and Anna Letitia continued to collaborate; she contributed to his most popular work, a collection of tales and dialogues for young readers, Evenings at Home (1792-96, and many later editions on both sides of the Atlantic).
Anna Letitia and John were one generation older than the writers who are known today as the first of the Great Romantics, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. They knew Wordsworth and helped Coleridge get started: Anna Letitia was among the first to recognize Coleridge’s genius, and John was among the first to publish his poems. John also hired young Robert Southey, Coleridge’s friend and a poet, to write for his magazine. Young Walter Scott avowed that he owed to Anna Letitia his inspiration in poetry. So between them, Anna Letitia and John played midwife to British Romanticism.
Late in life Anna Letitia published her longest poem, Eighteen Hundred and Eleven (1812), a lamentation over the horrors and human waste of the Napoleonic Wars. The poem was badly received by a public that had learned to view war as glorious and the war against France as necessary; today, however, Eighteen Hundred and Eleven enjoys the admiration of literary historians on both sides of the Atlantic. It is respected as one of the major poems of its time.
In 1800 John Aikin revisited Kibworth on a holiday trip, but Anna Letitia never saw her birthplace again after leaving it at age fifteen. After Warrington, John lived in Suffolk and the London suburb of Stoke Newington; he died there in 1822. After Warrington, where she married Rochemont Barbauld in 1774, Anna Letitia lived in Suffolk and the London suburbs of Hampstead and Stoke Newington; she died in Stoke Newington in 1825. She and John are buried there in the graveyard of St. Mary’s Church on Church Street.
Article kindly provided William McCarthy, professor emeritus of English at Iowa State University. He is the author of 'Anna Latetia Barbauld:Voice of the Enlightment' and co editor of 'The Poems of Anna Letitia Barbauld'
On Saturday 11 May 2013 a blue heritage plaque dedicated to Anna Letitia Barbauld and John Aikin was unveiled at the Old House, Main Street, Kibworth Harcourt.