Rev Thomas Townsley Dilks
"The Dilks Revival"
My great-grandfather, Thomas Townsley Dilks was born in Derby in 1824. It is possible his parents, Henry Dilks (a colour maker) and his wife Ruth Townsley adopted him as he was born 5 years before their marriage at St Alkmunds church, Derby. He had two younger siblings, Mary and James. Mary Dilks married the Rev. Richard Hart.
1847 Lerwick Shetland, 1850 Aberdeen, 1852 Greenock, 1855 Dumfries, 1858 Ramsey IoMan, 1861 Douglas IoMan, 1864 Penrith, 1867 Ashton under Lyne, 1870 Leek, 1873 Plymouth King Street, 1876 London St George-in-the-East, 1879 London Hinde Street, 1882 Norwich, 1885 Manchester Grosvenor Street, 1888 Bridgwater, 1891 Clapham Sup., 1894 Taunton Sup. North Curry.
Isle of Man Times 23 April 1898
Thomas Townsley Dilks was born at Derby in 1824, of Wesleyan parents, who shortly after removed to Leith. His training was, therefore Scotch, and he could well remember the Rev. Horatius Bonar catechising the class to which he belonged. He dedicated himself to God when in his teens, and as a young man he delighted in the preaching of Dr Chalmers and other famous Scotch divines.
He was apprenticed to Messrs W and R Chambers, the eminent publishers, and with this firm his literary tastes were formed. His first class ticket was received in 1837 and bears the signature of Samuel Dunn. He entered our ministry in 1847 and was ordained at Newcastle, Dr Hannah being President. Mr Dilks’ first appointment was to Zetland (Lerwick) and it is characteristic of him that he never left the islands or took a holiday during his three years. In 1850 he was married to Mary E. Lumley, at Leith, and then followed eight years of service in Scotland – Aberdeen, Greenock, Dumfries. He was accustomed in those days to preach three times every Sunday to the same congregation, and once during the week, besides frequently addressing the fishermen on the beach on Sabbath evenings.
The six years spent by Mr Dilks in the Isle of Man was perhaps the brightest and most successful period of his ministry. A remarkable revival took place under his preaching in Peel, spoken of to this day as “The Dilks’ Revival.” A Jew, Christopher Joseph, now a missionary to the Jews in Jerusalem, was converted at this time, and another young man dedicated himself to the ministry of our Church.
Mr Dilks made a great feature of temperance work, at a time when the cause was very low, and when it was deemed a most eccentric thing to dispense with wine at social gatherings. He was a most enthusiastic champion of total abstinence principles and has been called the “Father Matthew of the Isle of Man.”
Penrith was his next appointment, a circuit then thirty miles wide, and there he was Financial Secretary of the Carlisle District. While at Ashton-under-Lyne he was often called upon for United Kingdom Alliance work, his splendid voice making him a most acceptable speaker in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester. His daughter Mary died here.
In addition to circuit duties in Leek and Plymouth, he acted as Secretary to the Macclesfield and Devonport Districts. In two London circuits Mr Dilks did good service – St. George’s-in-the-East and HInde-Street in the West. About this time he was elected to the Legal Hundred by seniority and on removing to Norwich, he was appointed to the Chair of that District. During his three years at Manchester (Grosvenor-street) he served on the Chapel Committee. His last circuit was Bridgwater, where he was Chairman of the Exeter District and where his wife died in 1889. His name and memory are fragrant.
As supernumerary, Mr Dilks first settled at Clapham, where he remained nearly three years in charge of Broomwood Chapel, and where he had the first serious illness of his life. After this he found a congenial sphere at North Curry, in the Taunton Circuit, where he endeared himself to all, preaching regularly and rendering valuable service to neighbouring Circuits.
In his prime Mr Dilks excelled as a platform speaker. In his preaching he aimed to be a teacher and careful exegete. There was no “playing to the gallery.” His style was restrained and thoughtful, his language chaste, and his illustrations from nature and art were most apt. He was an ardent temperance reformer, regarding drunkenness as the chief social evil. As pastor his sympathy and urbanity won him a welcome everywhere. One of the most notable of his mental characteristics was his cheery optimism. He was broad-mended and tolerant in his religious sympathies, but hated sacerdotalism, though he was a Ritualist in the truest and best sense in his love of order, beauty, and reverence in connection with Divine worship.
His interests extended to every phase of human life. He was keenly alive to the questions of the day, and though not a hot political partisan nothing of importance escaped his notice. The last considerable journey he took was to Plymouth in order that he might see and shake hands with Nansen, the Arctic explorer, whose book he had just read.
Those who knew Mr Dilks most intimately were those who loved him best. An old colleague writes of him as “one whom he loved next to his own father.” Another says: “With no colleague have I so much enjoyed country drives. The zest with which he gathered ferns and flowers gave me an increased delight in Nature. When last May he asked me to accompany him down the Dart, I went with pleasure, and enjoyed the converse and communion much. Life has been enriched for me for ever by my fellowship with him.”
He was an art-lover, a child-lover, a man of high ideals and chivalrous Christlike character, and by his death our Church has lost one of its most loyal and devoted servants. – “Methodist Recorder.”
The Methodist Conference Obituaries 1898
Thomas Townsley Dilks: born of Methodist parents at Derby, in 1824. He dedicated himself to God in his boyhood, and entered the Ministry in 1847. From the first a diligent student and expounder of God’s word, his preaching was practical, fervent, faithful, exegetical, and evangelistic. In his earlier years he preached frequently in the open air to fishermen. While in the Isle of Man a remarkable revival was witnessed, which had a wonderful effect upon the whole town of Peel.
His business abilities were remarkable. As Superintendent of important Circuits, as Financial Secretary, and as Chairman of a District, his practical views, ready tact, sound judgment, and administrative gifts were highly valued. A man of broad mind, wide sympathy, and progressive spirit, he was deeply interested in all that pertained to the moral and social welfare of men.
A close student of national interests, he was careful not to introduce party politics into the Church. He took an earnest interest in the temperance cause, and, as a ready and effective platform speaker, often rendered great assistance to this and other movements of our times.
In private life he was greatly beloved. His interest in nature and art, his ready wit, genial disposition, and godly spirit, made his company delightful. He was highly esteemed for his personal character. Of courteous manners and sunny temperament, he had a deep, ever-present sense of the reality and importance of spiritual things. He was in a more than ordinary degree a faithful and true man, a tender-hearted, sympathetic pastor, and greatly interested in children.
In 1891, after forty-four years in the Ministry, he retired to Clapham, moving after three years to North Curry, in the Taunton Circuit. On Sunday, March 27, 1898, when about to preach from Philippians iv. 3, “Whose names are in the book of life,” he was seized with illness, and soon after his removal from the pulpit passed away in great peace, in the seventy-fourth year of his age, and the fifty-first of his ministry.