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Sherman, Jameslocked

  • Elaine Kaye

Sherman, James (1796–1862), Congregational minister, son of an employee of the East India Company and his Yorkshire wife, was born in Banner Street, Finsbury, London, on 21 February 1796. After education by two local dissenting ministers he was apprenticed to an ivory turner for three and a half years. When convinced of a call to the ministry he applied to the Countess of Huntingdon's College at Cheshunt, and was accepted in November 1815. Three years later he was ordained to the Christian ministry in Sion Chapel, Whitechapel, London, before supplying consecutively three chapels of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, in Plymouth, Bath, and Bristol. In 1821 he began a ministry lasting fifteen years at Castle Street Church, Reading, a secession from St Giles's Anglican church, one of whose vicars had supported the countess of Huntingdon. On 10 January 1822 he married a daughter of Dr Grant of Bristol, with whom he had a daughter and a son. She died on 1 January 1834. While at Reading he became friendly with the Revd Rowland Hill, an earlier associate of the countess of Huntingdon, for whom the independent Surrey Chapel had been built in St George's Fields, Blackfriars Road, London, and occasionally preached there. When Hill died in 1833 the congregation sent an invitation to Sherman, knowing this to be Hill's own wish. At first Sherman refused, but finally accepted in 1836. As the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion was closely linked with the Congregationalists, it was not unexpected for both church and minister now to associate with them.

At the Surrey Chapel Sherman exercised a notable ministry, for many years in partnership with his second wife, Martha [Patty] Sherman [née Tucker] (1806–1848), daughter of Benjamin Tucker and his wife (née Grant) of Enfield, whom he married on 3 March 1835 and with whom he had three daughters. A gifted woman of high-spirited and generous personality, she found an outlet acceptable at the time for her energies and abilities in charitable work at her husband's church—fund-raising through sales, pastoral visiting, and the organization of Maternal Associations. The number of church members doubled to 800, the average congregation rose to almost 3000, the largest in London, and the buildings were extended. Sherman's ardent evangelistic preaching achieved many conversions; it was said that eighty-four people joined his church after one sermon in 1837. He was a moderate Calvinist, of eirenic temper and attractive personality; he disliked controversy, and though his nonconformist convictions grew stronger in later life, he was widely respected outside nonconformist circles. He and his wife were known as convinced total abstainers. Both were interested in, supported, and initiated organizations linked to their church for the improvement of the material welfare of the poorer members. This concern led James Sherman to found the Christian Mutual Provident Society in 1847. In 1842 and 1846 they paid visits to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in search of better health. Martha Sherman died from consumption on 18 May 1848 at the Surrey Chapel parsonage, and was buried on the 25th in Abney Park cemetery, Stoke Newington.

In 1854 James Sherman resigned from the Surrey Chapel and accepted the pastorate of a new Congregational church in Blackheath, London, established by the London Chapel Building Society. His ministry at Blackheath again drew large numbers; 468 new members were admitted, and congregations of 1000 were common. But after much ill health he died on 15 February 1862 at 12 Paragon, Blackheath, and was buried at Abney Park cemetery on 22 February. He had continued to support Cheshunt College throughout his life, and after his death his friends contributed to a Cheshunt bursary in his memory.

Sherman's published works included A Guide to Acquaintance with God (1826) and A Plea for the Lord's Day (1830), both of which reached many editions, and a volume entitled Psalms and Hymns for the Use of Surrey Chapel (1841). He also published several sermons, and memoirs of Rowland Hill and William Allen.


  • H. Allon, Memoir of the Rev James Sherman (1863)
  • J. Dix, Pen and ink sketches of poets, preachers, and politicians (1846), 228–32
  • J. Grant, The metropolitan pulpit, or, Sketches of the most popular preachers in London, 2 (1839), 206–20
  • Congregational Year Book (1863), 263–6
  • Funeral sermons occasioned by the death of James Sherman (1862)
  • N. Hall, Newman Hall: an autobiography (1898), 41, 45, 122
  • J. Sherman, The pastor's wife: a memoir of Mrs Sherman of Surrey Chapel (1848)


  • W. Say, mezzotint, pubd 1829 (after F. Lake), BM, NPG
  • C. Baugniet, lithograph, BM
  • W. H. Mote, portrait, repro. in Allon, Memoir
  • R. Woodman, stipple (after E. B. Morris), NPG
  • portrait, Westminster College, Cambridge, Cheshunt Foundation

Wealth at Death

under £2000: probate, 29 March 1862, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

Calendars of the grants of probate … made in … HM court of probate [England and Wales]