- A. B. Grosart
- , revised by M. J. Mercer
Aldridge, William (1737–1797), Independent minister, was born at Warminster, in Wiltshire. He spent his youth in the pursuit of pleasure, but in his twenties he was affected by a passionate desire to be a preacher of the gospel. He joined the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion and was admitted in 1768 to her college at Trefeca in south Wales. There he remained as a student and supply preacher until 1771.
Aldridge unsuccessfully sought episcopal ordination in 1771, and in September of that year was sent by Lady Huntingdon, with Joseph Cook, a fellow student, to Margate in the Isle of Thanet. They were total strangers in the place and began to address, in the open air, any who would listen to them. The numbers increased from month to month. Despite opposition from some locals and Anglican clergy, Aldridge and Cook preached at various places in Kent, including Folkestone, Deal, Canterbury, and Maidstone. A number of connexion chapels were opened and Aldridge took over with remarkable success a moribund presbyterian meeting-house in Dover. Later the two preachers supplied Margate and Dover alternately. Cook subsequently travelled as a missionary to South Carolina and Georgia in America.
Lady Huntingdon, who seldom permitted her preachers to stay long in any one place, sent Aldridge about 1775 to supply the Mulberry Garden Chapel in Wapping. There his ministry proved so remarkably successful that the large congregation petitioned Lady Huntingdon to allow him to continue as minister. Her refusal led him to leave the connexion in 1776.
Aldridge then accepted an invitation to become the minister at the Independent congregation in Jewry Street, London, where he remained until his death. His reputation as a preacher was great, and while at Jewry Street he was, according to Walter Wilson, 'greatly beloved by an affectionate congregation' (Wilson, 1.130). He died on 28 February 1797 in Jewry Street, London, and, like so many nonconformist ministers, was buried in Bunhill Fields. The Revd George Gold delivered the address at his interment on 7 March, and on the following Sunday the funeral sermons were preached for him by Revds Anthony Cole and Thomas Bryson.
Aldridge was not a prolific writer and has left only three published works, his Doctrine of the Trinity, Stated, Proved and Defended, a funeral sermon on the death of the countess of Huntingdon, and a collection of hymns, published in 1776, which reached a fifth edition in 1789.
- W. Wilson, The history and antiquities of the dissenting churches and meeting houses in London, Westminster and Southwark, 4 vols. (1808–14), vol. 1, pp. 129–32
- C. Surman, index of dissenting ministers, DWL
- D. M. Lewis, ed., The Blackwell dictionary of evangelical biography, 1730–1860, 2 vols. (1995)
- [A. C. H. Seymour], The life and times of Selina, countess of Huntingdon, 2 (1840), 130–36
- T. Bryson, Sermon on the death of the Rev. W. Aldridge , 14, 16
- J. A. Jones, ed., Bunhill memorials (1849), 5
- J. Julian, ed., A dictionary of hymnology, rev. edn (1907), 38
- ‘Memoir of the late Rev. William Aldridge’, Evangelical Magazine, 19 (1811), 409–12
- E. Welch, Spiritual pilgrim: a reassessment of the life of the countess of Huntingdon (1995)
- Pollard, line engraving, NPG
- engraving, repro. in Wilson, History and antiquities, facing p. 129