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JOSEPH CORNISH

16-12-1750 (Taunton, Somerset) - 09.10.1823 (Colyton, Devon)

Named after his father, a woollen-dresser (d.1776), Joseph was the youngest of seven children. His mother, Honour (d.1769) was his father's second wife. The family were Presbyterian. Joseph had two uncles who were ministers: JOHN CORNISH at Leather Lane Presbyterian Church, London, and JAMES CORNISH at Dulverton Presbyterian Church, Somerset.

Joseph attended Coward's Academy, Hoxton from 1767-72. He was commended to Colyton Presbyterian Chapel by THOMAS AMORY the minister at Taunton, and began his ministry there in July 1772. He was ordained at Taunton on 11-05-1773.

His annual stipend was 40 and his board cost him 20 p.a. With the balance he was able to support many charitable causes. He never married. In 1782 he opened a classical school in the gallery of the chapel, until 1796 when he purchased a house for this purpose and took in boarders. The school flourished and continued until the end of 1819. During his ministry Joseph wrote several books on non-conformity and several biographies.

At the commencement of Joseph's ministry congregations grew healthily. After a while they began to decline. Joseph received a most unwelcome letter from four neighbouring ministers on 28-04-1814 suggesting he should retire. Joseph believed in religious liberty rather than allegiance to any sectarian organisation or theological system and this broad-minded approach probably was the cause of the writing of the letter. He refused to give up and continued until he fell ill in August 1823. In consequence a new meeting house was built nearby for Calvinistic dissenters and this no doubt caused a further decline in Joseph's congregation.

Joseph was buried in Colyton and a marble tablet placed in his meeting house in his memory. Among his bequests was a sum of 400 to the London Presbyterian Fund.

Joseph senior's business was ruined by the American War and he had died owing quite a large sum of money. Joseph very soon paid off the creditors in full and thus restored the good name of the family.