Thomas Haweis was born in Redruth, Cornwall, England on January 1, 1734. He studied at Truro’s Grammar School where he was introduced to the doctrines of evangelical revival by the school’s master, George Conon. In 1748 Haweis entered Christ’s College and was ordained for ministry in the Church of England in 1757.
During the time of his first appointment as curate at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Oxford, Haweis attracted increasing congregations with his fearless and uncompromising preaching. Serious opposition to evangelical doctrines eventually cost Haweis his curacy and he applied for an open position at the parish of All-Saints, Aldwincle in 1764. He took this position and held it the remainder of his life. There he met Selina Hastings, the Countess of Huntingdon, who held Haweis in high regard and ultimately purchased the sponsorship of Aldwincle in 1768. Lady Huntingdon appointed Haweis one of her private chaplains in 1774. When she died in 1791, Haweis was appointed executor of her estate and Principal Trustee of the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion.
In addition to his religious vocation and his writings, Thomas Haweis was one of the founders of the London Missionary Society. Through the efforts of the society, a ship was sent to Tahiti on a missions voyage. In the course of his life, Haweis was married three times. His first marriage in 1771 to Judith Wordsworth ended with her death in 1786. He then married Jenetta Payne Orton in 1788, a marriage that lasted until her death in 1799. He married his third wife Elizabeth “Bessy” McDowall in 1802, with whom he had two children. Thomas Haweis died on February 11, 1820 and is buried in Bath Abbey.
Thomas Haweis’s son, John Oliver Willyams Haweis, arranged and bound the 198 pieces of correspondence and related documents in Bridwell Library’s collection. Topics of special interest include the early years of the Missionary Society (later known as The London Missionary Society) and Thomas Haweis’s position with Lady Huntingdon.
A finding aid to the Thomas Haweis Documents and Images at Bridwell Library is available at Texas Archival Resources Online. For more information about the collection, please contact Bridwell Library Special Collections.