Reverend Joseph Rate

Reverend Joseph Rate was a Presbyterian minister, who was living at the bottom of Percy Terrace (we think Laburnum Cottage) at the time of the 1841 census.

He had been elected minister of Bondgate Presbyterian chapel in 1801, when he was in his twenties. There was some controversy about the decision, but that seems to have been common at the time. The congregation had originally met in Bondgate Hall, but by the time Joseph was elected it was meeting in Bondgate Chapel, which was in poor condition. I think this was next to the building that is now the office of the Northumberland Gazette. It was later replaced by a garage, and is now the McCarthy & Stone flats. Later, in 1816, the congregation moved into a new Sion Chapel in St Michael’s lane.

Joseph Rate was originally from Deptford in London, but he arrived in Alnwick from Scotland, where he had been involved in controversial missionary work. As an itinerant preacher he travelled as far north as the Orkneys, as well as around the villages near Edinburgh. At the time itinerant lay preachers were something of a novelty. They managed to attract large crowds to halls and barns using hand-bells and drums. Unsurprisingly, this project by Englishmen to evangelise “the dark places of the land” was not entirely welcomed by the Scottish churches.

Even after he became established in Alnwick, Joseph Rate remained controversial. There were several different Presbyterian Chapels in the town. Joseph  and his son Eneas were censured by their church for trying to entice members of the Pottergate Presbyterian Chapel to switch congregations.

George Tate, in his History of the borough castle and barony of Alnwick (1866) describes Joseph Rate as being: “Of slender abilities, meagre learning, and a poor preacher. He was, however, very diligent in visiting his flock”.

Towards the end of his life there were disagreements within the Presbyterian church over relations with the church of Scotland. For once in his life, Joseph aligned himself with the establishment. His congregation did not – they elected a new minister in 1843.

Reverend Rate resigned in 1844, and died in 1846 aged 70.

“Dec. 5,at Alnwick, Northumberland, Mr. Joseph Rate, aged 70, fell asleep in Jesus. For forty-four years he was pastor of the church of Christ assembling in Zion chapel, Alnwick He died in the full assurance of faith, resting with unwavering confidence on that precious Saviour he so long preached to others”.