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G. V. Wigram (1805-79)

His Background
His Conversion
JND's First Impression
His Early History
His Family
His Service
His Ministry
His Stand
His Last Days
His Burial
Research by MSW


G. V. Wigram 1805-79

The life and labours of GVW are not generally well known by brethren, even though he was one of the leading brothers of his day.

He was not only occupied in setting out the truth but also in doing needed work – in accord with the word:

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do with thy might", Ecclesiastes 9: 10.

I am most thankful for the comments, contribution and corrections of both Max Weremchuk and Timothy Stunt.


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George Vicesimus Wigram was born on March 29th 1805. He was the twentieth child – hence his middle name – of Sir Robert Wigram, a merchant and ship owner.

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The following is GVW's own account of his conversion
while a subaltern officer in the army.

Good instructions as to the contents of the Bible were mine at school, at seventeen, under a John the Baptist ministry;

My eye saw no one; but I knew assuredly that the One whom I knew not, and never had met, had met me for the first time, and made me to know that we were together.

We journeyed on together to Geneva, where there was an active persecution of the faithful going on. He went to Italy,

I could quite now, after fifty years' trial, adopted to myself in these few lines, as descriptive of that night's experience:

Leaving the army, in 1826 GVW entered Queen's College, Oxford, with the purpose of of taking holy orders in the Church of England, but shortly gave this up in view of labouring for the Lord under His direction.

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–  about  1827
"Be ye also holy in all your conversation",
1 Peter 1: 15.
Taken from a xerox of a typed/mimeographed sheet entitled 'Mr. J. N. Darby's first impression of Mr. G. V. Wigram, about 1827' which is noted "copied at Reigate 6/4/66".

It is generally thought that it was around 1830 during a visit of JND to Oxford that he and GVW first met. The following remarks by Timothy Stunt put the matter in a new light:—

Of very great interest to me is your quotation from JND's first impression of GVW, which I have never seen before. In it he describes GVW as "not more than 22".

  • In the introduction to his Englishman's Greek Concordance (pp. vi-vii) GVW says he went to Ireland 'unexpectedly' in September 1830.

  • If JND's guess as to his age was a good one then it seems that GVW went to Ireland a few years earlier. Certainly JND didn't visit Oxford until July 1830.

  • It may well be from 1827 because the reference to GVW visiting JND twice and sitting with him for one and a half hours leads me to think this was during JND's enforced convalescence – late in 1827 after a riding accident. The young JND was very energetic and not one to sit at home and wait for people to call on him.

    Timothy Stunt.

See below for an extensive research note on the above and other matters relative to GVW by Max S. Weremchuk.

Such a saint as Miss F. brought in to two take tea with us this afternoon! A Mr. Wigram, not more than 22, preparing for the ministry.

He read to us during tea Psalms 67 and 23 with such a holy solemnity of voice and manner as if he felt every word was God's word. Our conversation took the following topics:

You never find a spiritual Christian late in bed.

Mr. Wigram came and sat with me one and a half hours yesterday. I can give you no idea of his prayer.


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• Plymouth

While at Queen's College he met a Mr. Jarratt. He also met James L. Harris and Benjamin Wills Newton, both of Exeter College.

• London

Mr. Wigram went from Plymouth to London where, through his labours, a gathering was formed at Rawstorne Street on the same basis as in Plymouth.

My dear friend and brother,
There is a matter exercising the minds of some of us at this present time in which you may be – and in some sense certainly are – concerned.

I am, dear brother, yours in Jesus, G.V.W.

Neatby* says, "This is particularly interesting as containing the first proposal for a federation of the little meetings of the Brethren".

The following hymn by Charles Deayton (1887-1967) – No. 505 in the 1993 Supplement – indicates the spirit in which our Lord's interest should be cared for on such an occasion.

Another hymn, No. 546 in the 1993 Supplement, by Mr. C. A. MArkham, shows the same spirit of reverence.

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Mr. Wigram married Miss Fanny Bligh – daughter of Thomas Cherbury Bligh of Brittas, Co. Meath, known when a girl in Ireland – on March 23rd 1830 but she went to be with the Lord in 1834.

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• The Present Testimony

The Christian Witness – issued quarterly from January 1834 to January 1841 – was the earliest of the many periodicals presenting the ministry of the brethren.

• The Englisman's Concordances

Here is Mr. Wigram's own account of the Englishman´s Greek and English Concordance:

A detailed acccount of the formation, etc., of the Englishmans' Greek Concordance, has been the desire of several. This I shall now endeavour to meet.

As the book is a dry concordance I would crave the liberty to be as free as I can in my narrative.

It was in the year 1827 ot 1828, that I began to prepare some Essays explanatory and illustrative of the 'Terms conventional to the Scriptures'; e.g. Righteousness, Sanctification, Justification, etc.

1st. After making a list of the places – books, chapters, verses – in which the words occurred, I carefully examined all the passages in the Greek testament in which the word dike or any kindred term occurred, endeavouring to seize on the abstract thought common to all the places in which it was found.

2ndly. I considered how many English words it would be necessary to use in order to express the varieties of shades of meaning.

And, 3rdly. I wroted down after each citation, either the word which would do for the translation in that place, or – where it had occurred before – some sign for it. This when arranged, formed the skeleton of the explanation, and the object of illustration.

Full of these Essays, I spoke of them to many.

The design was so novel to me, and so admirable, that it delighted me much; and I urged his devoting all his time to the accomplishment of such a work.

Though Mr. B. had commenced, he says, Articles of the Greek previous to this, it was the Hebrew which, as the more difficult task, held the place of pre-eminence in his mind, and the one which he first mentioned to me.

Finding difficulty in proceeding with the making of the MS. further, he handed it over to me, to be continued or not, as I liked.

The only originality, then, in this work, is the primary design of Mr. Burgh, by a Greek and English Concordance, to enable the tyro in Greek to consult a Greek Concordance with ease;

George V. Wigram
London, March, 1844.

• The Little Flock Hymn Book

The brethren had used several hymn books including

Mr. Wigram "was asked in 1856 to carefully examine some hymn books which were in common use".

• His Travels

In his later years he paid visits to Demerara – later British Guiana, now Guyana – Barbados and Jamaica in the West Indies, Australia and New Zealand, etc., where his ministry seems to have been much appreciated.

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The printed ministry of Mr. Wigram consists of five books:

  1. Memorials of the Ministry of G. V. Wigram:
    Volume 1 – Notes on Scrpture; Lectures, etc.

  2. Memorials of the Ministry of G. V. Wigram:
    Volume 2, Ecclesiastical and Critical
    On Heresy
    Volume 3, Letters.

  3. Gleanings from the Teachimg of GVW

  4. A Study of the Psalms,
    Other Papers [by JND, JBS, and other authors].

  5. The Blood, the Cross, and the Death of Jesus Christ;
    their uses and applications by the Spirit in Scripture.
    Remarks and Notes on John's Writings.

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Mr. Wigram took an active part in support of the truth in the Plymouth and Bethesda conflicts in 1845-48.

Later, in 1866, when Mr. Darby was under attack because of his teaching on the sufferings of Christ, Mr. Wigram stood by him.

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This section will be added when research is completed.

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The Lord took His servant to Himself on January 1, 1879, at the relatively early age of 73.

The oak coffin was inscribed
George Vicesimus Wigram,
Died, 1st January, 1879,
Aged 73.

After the coffin had been carried in, the meeting proceeded as follows:

Prayer: Dr. Edward Cronin.

Hymn 139: "This world is a wilderness wide"

[by JND who was in France at the time].
  • The hymn was read by a brother who suggested that GVW had been marked by the spirit of that hymn.

Prayer: Mr. Christopher McAdam.

Hymn 201: "Nothing but mercy'll do for me".*

      [* The hymn, by Mr. Wigram, was in the 1856 hymn book but is not in the 1881 or subsequent revsions.]

Prayer: Mr. J. B. Stoney.

The coffin was then carried to the grave and lowered. There were between seven and eight hundred present.

Prayer: Mr. W. Kelly, Mr. T. B. Baines and Colonel R. F. Kingscote.

Word: Mr. J. Beaumont.

[* Author of No. 310 in the 1973 hymn book]
  • He read a few verses from the New Testament concluding with the closing verses of Revelation.

Prayer: Mr. – Coleman.

Hymn: "For ever with the Lord"*

      [*Verse 1 of No. 12 in the 1973 hymn book, by JND]

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The following has been submitted by our friend Max S. Weremchuk, the JND biographer, "for discussion". Some of the details have been incorporated in the body of the biography.

June 24, 2003

Hi Gordon,
I am presently going through the Fry MS – the large volume collection – and writing out various sections in arranged thematic groups. This makes comparing accounts so much easier.

While doing so I came across Newton's letter to Wigram dated July 31, 1830 – pp. 264-266 –

What has caused others problems in the past is that it was always understood that Newton 'sent' Darby there.

  • That Darby was ‘sent’ is confirmed in CW 6: 284: “Once the Gaelic servant spoke briefly in ‘a tongue’, not, if the ‘Irish Clergyman’ remembers right, the same evening. The sense he had of the want of the power of the Holy Ghost in the Church made him willing to hear and see. Yet he went rather as deputed for others than for himself”.

So what's with Wigram? In the same letter Newton asks Wigram if he knows Darby's address.

  • My guess is that this letter to Wigram was written after Darby left for Scotland – he stayed there 3 weeks. Newton is asking Wigram for Darby's Scotland address.

  • Newton is at this point undecided because Darby has not yet returned and reported about the events there. After he did so Newton was very much against what had taken place there.

What caused me problems at first was Newton's mention of “Mrs. Wigram” in this letter. She accompanied Wigram to Scotland.

  • From my other sources I had the information that Wigram married Catherine Parnell in 1835! This didn't seem to fit. But a friend of mine, very knowledgeable in genealogy, was able to help – once again.

  • George V. Wigram married Catherine Parnell on 18 August 1835 – that is true, but he had been married before, to Fanny Bligh on 23 March 1830 – daughter of Thomas Cherburgh Bligh of Brittas, Co. Meath.

  • Bells started ringing in my head. ‘Bligh? Bligh? I've heard this before! Is his the Howard connection?’ My friend was able to help again.

  • Sure enough, Frances Bligh's aunts were married – Catherine to Hon. Hugh Howard, Lady Powerscourt's father, and Frances Theodosia to the 2nd Earl of Roden. So we come full circle again!

  • The family interconnections of those involved in the early days of the Brethren are amazing!! – I'm going to put all this in a diagram form one day.

Now this brings me to the ‘JND's first impression’ of Wigram article on your site and Timothy Stunt's remarks on it.

  • His explanation that this was a description of Wigram meeting Darby in 1827 while he was still recuperating from his accident seemed to make sense.

  • Wigram writes of “unexpectedly” having to go to Ireland in September 1830 in the introduction to his Englishman's Greek Concordance and Timothy thought this might be a mistake for the year 1827.

  • I was inclined to agree though I felt a mistake in dating of 3 years was a big one. Being off by a year is one thing, but 3 years?

  • My looking into Wigram's marriage(s) seems to prove Wigram's date in the Concordance as right. The reason for Wigram going to Ireland in 1830 was because his father-in-law died on September 17 of that year!

  • Marriage records are not available to me, but if Wigram's wife was from Meath wouldn't the marriage have been there?

    • Is Cronin's mention of meeting Wigram perhaps connected with the time of Wigram's marriage?

    • Darby was in Meath in 1832 so why not in 1830? Maybe Darby and Wigram met there?

Timothy is quite right in saying that Darby's remark, “It was subsequently after July 1830 I went to Oxford – where Wigram was at Queen's – and joined him and Jarrett”, does not necessarily imply he first met him there.

  • From Newton's letter to Wigram it would appear to be clear that it was July that Darby came to Oxford. Joining him could mean he already knew him.

  • But in an other account of Darby's we find: ”It did not begin at Plymouth till 1832, where I went at Mr. Newton's request, then a fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. There were never more than seven hundred there. It began in London about the same time, through one I had met in Oxford”, Letters 1: 515.

  • He doesn't name Wigram here, but it obviously is he. The impression made is that he met Wigram then. He does not say, ‘One whom I knew from a meeting in Ireland’.

These are just thoughts I am throwing up for discussion.

There is much that would speak for an earlier meeting of Darby and Wigram than Oxford when we consider the Bligh/Howard connections, but we have no clear picture – yet – of the exact circumstances.

  • To be perfectly honest with you, and I am not saying this to anger any one or for the sake of taking a different standpoint, I don't feel comfortable with the comments attributed to Darby about Wigram.

  • There is something ‘wrong’ with them. When I read and re-read them they somehow don't fit.

  • Risking the danger of being viewed as crazy I'd say there is something feminine about them. I would not be surprised if they turned out to be remarks written by a woman – maybe a sick, bedridden woman.

  • But it is not only that. The expressions are unfamiliar.

  • I've run a computer check of Darby's complete published writings on some of the more characteristic expressions used in the account and what I have found seems to prove my point: this is not ‘Darby language’.

  • It reminds me very much of the diaries of Christian women I have been studying lately from that time period – first half of the 19th century.

  • Of course I can be way off target and this is just an example of Darby's earlier writing style.

What do you say? Max.

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