The Peterborough Advertiser Rev Henry Knee died April 30th 1913 aged 58 years
A Prominent and Beloved Pastor
The Rev Henry Knee was born in Lacock, Wilts on May 11th 1854 being within a few days of his 57th birthday. Although his parents were Wesleyan Methodists he was early attracted to the ministry of Rev W Mottram now of London, but then of Melksham 4 miles distant, an ardent social and temperance reformer, and under his direction and encouragement, intended on entering a congregational college with a view to ministry in that denomination. Just at this time, however, his mind was exercised on the question of Christian Baptism and after careful enquiry and investigation he was led to believe in the scriptoralness of Believers Baptism and avowed his belief by observing that ordinance at Hay Chapel, Bath. He was enrolled as a student of the Pastors College in 1876 at the age of 22 and then came under the influence of that Prince of Preachers, Charles Hayden Spurgeon that dominated his whole career. Up to that time Mr Knee had been in business with his father. While still at college he declined invitations to pastorates in Surrey and North Shields. But in 1879 he accepted the succession to the Rev T G Tarn at the pastorate of the Peckham Road Baptist Chapel in London. It is a somewhat perilous thing for a student to go straight from the college to a pastorate of a London church with 300 members but Mr Knee was equal to the demands made upon him in that capacity. A heavy debt was cleared off the buildings and the congregation was maintained as the church grew and there was unity amongst the members and for 5 years he experienced a fruitful and influential ministry. It was whilst he was at Peckham that Mr Knee was married to the daughter of the Senior Deacon, Miss Creasey and it was a compliment to the young minister that Mr Spurgeon himself conducted the ceremony. Owing to the great physical strain of so large a church, Mr Knee felt constrained to accept the pastorate of Counterslip Church, Bristol as the successor to WR Skerry. During 12 years of service characterised by magnificent zeal and splendid spiritual energy Mr Knee grappled a church debt and maintained the splendid traditions situate in what was rapidly becoming a slum, lent to which his eloquence, his earnestness, his great and real gifts as a preacher attracted a large congregation from all over the City. Every honour which his fellow ministers in Bristol could confer on one whom they so admired and held in affection.
It was from this church, from such happy associations, that he came to Peterborough in Dec 1900. The honour of being asked to succeed the Rev Thomas Barrass, Peterborough’s veteran pastor ‘The Non Conformist Bishop’ of nearly 50 years labour was as great as any that could be offered to any Baptist Minister in the Kingdom. Called to succeed one who was described as one of the saints of the 19th century, Mr Knee wrote a letter of lofty purpose which characterised the whole of his ministry ‘My only desire’ he wrote ‘has been set in harmony to the Divine will and my constant prayer ‘Lord what wilt thou have me do’. After a period of painful perplexity I have a firm conviction that in obedience to my Master’s command I cannot do other than accept your call. I shall hope to be received into your hearth and home and that you allow me to share not only your joys but your sorrows also. I shall esteem it a great honour and privilege if I am taken into your confidence in all matters pertaining to spiritual things’.
‘’An admirable and amiable man, a good organiser, a thoughtful theologian and preacher, a platform speaker of more than ordinary courage and eloquence” such was the recommendation with which Mr Knee entered upon his Peterborough Pastorate on Dec 23rd 1900. How well he fulfilled all the expectations of him. The energy, the splendid zeal, the high spirituality, the faith inspired devotion with which he led the first Baptist church in Peterborough is known through out the City . Everyone who knows how, from the first, his power as a preacher began to be felt. How he was always ready to lend the aid of his eloquence and influence to such good causes as might properly claim his sympathy and how he stood like a rock when the calamity of 1905 overtook the Queen Street community. Soon after his settlement at Peterborough, Mr Knee was interviewed for the Baptist Monthly and the interviewer wrote;’ On Sunday morning following this interview I heard Mr Knee preach and listened critically. He quoted Tennyson and old Thomas Brookes the Puritan in the same sermon and there seemed to me other blendings.’ There was that theological background so clear to the old P’s and at the same time all the breadth and freedom which characterised preachers acceptable to the old G’s. Very soon the Queen St chapel was found to be inconveniently situated for the church’s activities but there was a debt of more than a thousand pounds on the building and of course extension was impossible there. Looking back there were many who regard the fire which destroyed the building
on that Monday morning in the autumn of 1905 a providential blessing in disguise, but it imposed a tremendous burden of anxiety and work on Mr Knee and his officers – a burden which would have crushed many a man of lesser ability, faith and energy. But the masterly leadership of the church in those difficult times which really exhibited to those not intimately acquainted with him , the qualities which most distinguished Mr Knee , is still fresh in the memory of those who are the tangible evidence in the fine building on Park Road erected at a cost of £13,000, with the weekly congregation of over a thousand souls which have gathered in the new church to be inspired by the earnest preacher.
An appreciation (by a fellow worker)
The end has come with such appalling swiftness that it would be far easier to believe that the sad events of the past few weeks were, after all, only a bad dream. I had more opportunity of knowing him than have ever come in the way of the rest of my ministerial brethren perhaps more than have come in the way of any outside his own family circle. We have spent a great many hours together in cycle rides around the county and by travelling to meetings at Nottingham, Leicester and Derby.
Born and bred a farmer’s boy, he knew the ways of the wild creatures of the fields and woods, his quick eye for the common things of nature was a revelation to a town bred man. He knew men in their weaknesses and in their strengths. He had a swift and clear perception of character and in his handling of people. He knew affairs gamely, comprehensively – committees- sometimes do foolish things but no committee where he was present could go into folly without running against light and knowledge.
A good minister of Christ, he has done his work, run his race and gained his crown. GWK