The town of Keswick lies below Skiddaw Mountain in the beautiful Lake District of Northwest England. At times, some of England’s most famous Romantic era poets lived and wrote there: Coleridge, Shelley, Southey and Wordsworth. Students of literature, hikers, and lovers of natural beauty visit the area with its rich historical associations.
With the strongest holiness movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Just as famous poets are linked to Keswick, so are many of the greatest names in faith: Hudson Taylor, Evan Hopkins, Andrew Murray, F. B. Meyer and more. What began as a spur-of-the-moment holiness convention held in a tent, became a world-wide movement for godliness.
Reverend T. D. Hartford-Battersby, a well-educated canon in the Church of England, hungered for something deeper in his heart. He attended holiness conferences at Oxford and Brighton, England and came away with a changed heart. “We were taken out of ourselves; we were led step by step, after deep and close searching of heart, to such a consecration of ourselves to God, as in the ordinary times of a religious life, hardly seemed possible…to the enjoyment of a peace in trusting Christ for present and future sanctification which exceeded out utmost hopes.” Unlike many revivals, this was not the result of intense emotion and excitement.
Battersby and a Quaker friend, Robert Wilson, found themselves so inspired and transformed that they wanted to share their joyful experience with others. They chose a date just three weeks after the Brighton meeting and selected Keswick (where Battersby worked) as the site and issued invitations to “Union Meetings for the Promotion of Practical Holiness.”
The conference almost crashed. Amid rumors of personal wrongdoing, Pearsall Smith, its key speaker canceled out just days before the opening. Other speakers withdrew.
Nevertheless, the conference opened as scheduled on this day, June 29, 1875. Meeting in a tent, about 800 people, from all over the United Kingdom, attended. Said Battersby, “The Lord has been showing us, in a wonderful way, that if He chooses to lay aside one instrument, He can and will find others to testify of His truth, and to carry on His work.”
Following Pearsall’s withdrawal, the movement came in for harsh criticism. But after much prayer, Battersby and Wilson again determined to hold a meeting the following year. Keswick grew, attracting thousands who longed for a deeper walk with God. Branches formed in many other nations. Keswick continues to promote Christian discipleship to this day.
“For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:5 NKJV)
- Barabas, Steven. So Great Salvation; The history and message of the Keswick Convention. London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1957.
- “Keswick Convention.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911.
- “Keswick, The Lake District, England.” http://www.myersofkeswick.com/Keswick_England.html