Biography of clergyman set for Norwich launch
An illustrated biography of an early nineteenth-century clergyman, writer, campaigner and philanthropist, co-written by a Norwich author, is set to be launched at Norwich Cathedral on Thursday (October 30).
William Stephen Gilly: An extraordinarily busy life, is an illustrated biography of the clergyman, who was born in the Diocese of Norwich, at Hawkedon in North Suffolk, in 1789 and died in 1855.
Canon Gilly worked in East London, Durham and Norham in the Borders. One of his major causes was the Waldensian Protestants of Piedmont (then in the kingdom of Sardinia, now in northern Italy).
The book is co-written by Nicholas Groves, author of The Medieval Churches of the City of Norwich.
One of two launch events is taking place in Norwich Cathedral Library, on Thursday October 30 (from 5 to 7 pm) and is open to all.
According to publisher Lasse Press, Gilly has a life which was remarkable in its depth and breadth of achievement – as preacher, writer, social reformer and philanthropist.
Gilly spent his early years in south-east England, including a spell as a student at Christ’s Hospital. He later lambasted the public school system of his day. As a young clergyman in East London he preached to an inattentive Charles Dickens.
But the main path of his life was set by two events: his second marriage to a connection of a Bishop of Durham, which brought him access to considerable funds, and his visit to the valleys in Piedmont where Waldensian Protestants had settled.
Gilly spearheaded English attempts to help the Waldensians, including the setting-up of a college to train their pastors. He also became a notable agitator for social reform in north-east England, where he was prebend of Durham Cathedral and vicar of Norham. He worked to relieve poverty in the city of Durham and championed the hinds, the travelling labourers of the Borders region. He published many books and articles, and a number of memorials to his work survive.
This thoughtful and wide-ranging review of Gilly’s life and work is illustrated with maps, genealogies, photographs and contemporary illustrations, including sketches by Gilly’s wife Jane.
Pictured above is William Gillys.