Keswick Convention

The Keswick Convention is an annual gathering of conservative evangelical Christians in Keswick, in the English county of Cumbria.[3]

Keswick Convention Trust
FounderRev T D Harford-Battersby, Robert Wilson
TypeRegistered as a British charity and a private company, limited by guarantee with no share capital
FocusTo promote Bible teaching at an annual Convention in Keswick and on other occasions with the aim of encouraging holy and Biblical life styles.
Coordinates54°36′03″N 3°07′44″W / 54.600833°N 3.128889°W / 54.600833; -3.128889 (Convention Centre, Skiddaw St)
54°36′10″N 3°08′27″W / 54.6028727°N 3.1407246°W / 54.6028727; -3.1407246 (Rawnsley Centre)
Area served
Key people
John Risbridger (Chairman)[1]
James Robson (CEO & Ministry Director)
James Devenish (Business Director)
Steve Adam (Hon Treasurer)
Simon Overend (Secretary)
Increase £ 2,461,842 (2016)[2]
600 (during Convention weeks)

The Christian theological tradition of Keswickianism, also known as the Higher Life movement, became popularised through the Keswick Conventions, the first of which was a tent revival in 1875 at St John's Church in Keswick.[4][5]


The Christian theological tradition of Keswickianism, also known as the Higher Life movement, became popularized through the Keswick Conventions, the first of which was a tent revival in 1875 at St John's Church, Keswick in Cumbria (pictured above).[5]

The Keswick Convention began in 1875 as a focal point for the Higher Life movement in the United Kingdom. It was founded by an Anglican, Canon T. D. Harford-Battersby, and a Quaker, Robert Wilson. They held the first Keswick Convention in a tent on the lawn of St John's vicarage, Keswick, beginning with a prayer meeting on the evening of Monday, 28 June. During the conference—which continued till Friday morning—over 400 people attended uniting under the banner of "All One in Christ Jesus"—which is still the convention's watchword.

Robert Pearsall Smith, a Quaker turned Plymouth Brethren[6] probably influenced the Convention's use of the American term "convention", rather than the British "conference". During the same time period, D. L. Moody—the New England evangelist—also employed the same term to denote a special Christian gathering.[7]

Among the Keswick Convention's early notable speakers were the Anglicans J. W. Webb-Peploe, Evan Henry Hopkins, E. W. Moore, William Haslam, W. Hay, M. H. Aitken and Handley Moule, as well as the South-African reformed pastor Andrew Murray and a Baptist, Frederick Brotherton Meyer. The founder of the China Inland Mission, Hudson Taylor, also spoke; and in response Amy Carmichael decided to dedicate her life to missions.

In 1903 at the convention, Barclay Fowell Buxton and Paget Wilkes founded the Japan Evangelistic Band. The convention also influenced John George Govan, who later founded The Faith Mission in Scotland; and the highly influential post-war Scripture Union worker, E. J. H. Nash, valued the Keswick Convention and considered R. A. Torrey his theological mentor.

It was Stephen Olford who introduced Billy Graham to the Keswick message at a Keswick Convention in 1946. Graham wrote in his autobiography, Just As I Am, that this teaching came to him as a second blessing.

At the 1965 convention, the Rev. John Stott, Rector of All Souls, Langham Place, gave the week's Bible readings on Paul's epistle to the Romans, chapters 5 to 8. His exposition of chapter 6, in particular concerning "death to sin", is now regarded[8] as a key watershed in recent Keswick teaching, departing from the approach taken to this passage in earlier years. Price and Randall state that "more than thirty years on the so called traditional Keswick stance on Romans 6 would now hardly ever be heard from the Keswick platform".[8]

In 1969 a second week was added to the programme, this taking the form of a "Holiday Convention" giving more free time for visitors to enjoy the local area. In 1975 the centenary celebrations were held, with the highlight being an address by Billy Graham before some 15,000 people gathered at the town's Crow Park on the shores of Derwentwater.

A new building, Keswick Convention Centre was opened on 12 July 1987, on the site in Skiddaw Street. The rear of the roof becomes a point of support for the tent erected for each year's convention event. The following year during the second convention week, the tent was destroyed in a storm on the Monday night. Two days later a replacement tent had been acquired and erected and the programme was able to be resumed as normal.

In order to extend the range of activities undertaken, Rawnsley Hall, formerly part of the Keswick School, was purchased by the Convention Trust in 1997. This is located about 10 minutes walk from the Convention Centre and now forms the focal point for all the older children's and youth work.

In January 2000, a position statement was issued by the Convention Council to address the question as to how Keswick see its role in the 21st century. The following specific goals were set out:

  • The lordship of Christ in personal and corporate living
  • Life transformation through the fullness of the Holy Spirit
  • Evangelism and mission in the British Isles and world-wide
  • Discipleship and training of people of all ages
  • Demonstration of evangelical unity, in particular sustaining Keswick's breadth of involvement with all evangelical "tribes".

In 2001, in response to a need for additional funds and for additional capacity—notably for families and younger people—a third week was added.

Keswick Ministries was established in 2003 with the aim of taking the Bible teaching ministry at the Convention to a wider audience both nationally and internationally throughout the year using the many and varied forms of media available.

Modern formatEdit


Keswick Convention is run by Keswick Ministries, the operational name for Keswick Convention Trust. The charity exists to promote bible teaching at the annual convention with the aim of encouraging holy and biblical life styles. Trustees are drawn from a number of Christian organisations and denominations but on a personal basis only not as sponsored or in delegated roles. The Trust employs a full-time operations manager and a small number of permanent staff, based at the Convention Centre. During the convention event itself a heavy reliance is placed on recruiting volunteers to join the various support teams.

During 2013 the Council decided to create a new post of Chief Executive Officer who would be responsible for the development of the Convention, the wider work of Keswick Ministries, the use of the two sites and the strategic partnerships. Jonathan Lamb, a previous chairman of the Council, was subsequently appointed as the first CEO and minister-at-large, commencing 5 May 2014.[6]

In the 21st century, the annual convention is still centred in a large purpose-built tent erected over a concrete showground with audio-visual facilities to aid praise and teaching. The venue is entered via the Convention Centre: a narrow two-storey block containing offices, a small shop etc., which fronts the site on Skiddaw Street. Additionally, events (including the main youth activities) take place around Keswick chiefly in the convention's other venue, its own Rawnsley Centre, but also in local churches and meeting halls. The aggregate attendance over the three weeks in 2015 was 12,000.

The convention comprises three consecutive weeks in July and finally ending on the first Friday in August. Each week has its own presenters, speakers and musicians, but to a common theme. The weekly pattern starts with the opening meeting on Saturday evening and concludes with the Communion and celebration service on Friday evening. A major feature of each week is the morning Bible readings running from Monday to Friday. These consist of a series of expositions, usually from one book of the Bible, given by the principal guest speaker for that week. Each week covers a different part of the Bible. Other invited speakers cover related topics in the evening meetings, seminars and book cafe events.

The event does not charge any admission or registration fee but relies on voluntary donations to meet expenditure. An amount of 110 pounds per person is needed. The 15,000 visitors to the convention find their own accommodation in the town, either in hotels, B&Bs, self-catering properties, or on one of a number of caravan or camping sites nearby. The campsite at Crosthwaite is run as a trading subsidiary of the trust to help funding.

Media and publicationsEdit

All meetings in the main tent are recorded on video and audio formats. A compilation CD of the year's praise and worship is released each Autumn. Talks from the Keswick Convention are broadcast weekly on a Christian radio station, Trans World Radio, as part of the Keswick Programme hosted by Trevor Newman.

The convention publishes, in December, a Year Book in paperback format giving a selection of the teaching from that year's events. Other books are also published throughout the year featuring Keswick speakers and topics.

BBC Radio 4 has broadcast from the Convention for its Sunday Worship programme on a number of occasions in recent years.

Keswick Youth and ChildrenEdit

Keswick Youth & K4K (Keswick for Kids) are parallel programs within the main event. They offer a range of Bible teaching and activities for those aged 3–18 years. Both purposefully teach the same material as the main event in order to support families learning together and facilitate conversations across generations. Across the 3 weeks the event draws around 3000 young people.

Since 2018 Keswick has partnered with Growing Young Disciples who assist with the training the Keswick Youth & K4K volunteers.

Other eventsEdit

The Keswick Convention hosts two shorter "Bible Weeks" (Spring and Autumn) and other events throughout the year. Related to, but not directly managed by the convention, there are up to 20 "Keswick-style" events which take place over the year in various towns and cities in the United Kingdom. The convention also has close links with Word Alive which takes place in Spring in North Wales.

The Derwent ProjectEdit

In May 2015, it was reported that the site of Keswick’s former pencil factory would become the new base for the Convention. Keswick Ministries announced that it had completed a deal to buy the site from local businessman Keith Graham, of Pelican Ventures Ltd.[9] The site is adjacent to the existing Rawnsley site and Simon Overend, operations manager, said that the idea of a single integrated site is very attractive and will allow the Convention to grow even further and give flexibility over both sites. The move has not been generally welcomed by townsfolk and Allerdale borough council. Tony Lywood commented that he very much welcomed the sale to Keswick Ministries, which is an idea that he had promoted for a long time, as it would solve so many issues for the Keswick Convention and the town. The pencil museum will still remain on the site, which was vacated by the Cumberland Pencil Co in 2008 when it relocated to a new facility in Workington. Planners want to see the pencil factory premises retained for industrial use.

The subsequent launch of “The Derwent Project” was one of the high spots over the three weeks of the 2015 Convention. The project aims to raise £5 million over the next three years. Most of the funds needed relate to the costs of acquiring the new site, demolishing the derelict buildings, improving access on foot and by car, and landscaping the combined sites to make them ready for an enlarged and integrated summer Convention in 2017. Jonathan Lamb, CEO, added that there are currently no immediate plans to dispose of the Skiddaw Street site at which the main meetings are currently held since this site will be needed to sustain the Convention’s operations for the next year or two. However, in the future, he recognised that the site might be developed for alternative purposes compatible with the locality. [10]

Further details released during 2016 are that the project will feature a main building, an all year round 400-seat auditorium plus up to six "break out" en suite rooms and accommodation for 60 people. There will also be a dining area, toilets and an integrated space for the siting of the main convention tent and associated marquees.[11] Updates during the 2016 Convention confirmed that the site had in fact been purchased during 2015 by another Christian trust (The Lind Trust) on behalf of the Convention. The requirement is to repay The Lind Trust £3m by September 2018. The Keswick Ministries reported that the cost was more likely to be higher than that reported by Jonathan Lamb who earlier reported that the overall expenditure was now expected to be nearer £7m.[12]

At the 2017 Convention it was reported that there had been good internal support for the Project. The purchase of The Pencil Factory Site from The Lind Trust had recently been completed one year earlier than planned and for which The Lind Trust had generously agreed to forgo £400,000 of the £3m price. Development of the site including reuse (not demolition) of the Pencil Factory buildings would now be the next focus for fundraising for the Project.

Convention themes and Bible reading speakersEdit

From 1978 the annual ministry book published each December has taken the title of the convention theme for that year (although only since 1991 has the convention itself been given a specific theme in the pre-publicity). In addition to the main speakers listed below, who are all men, each week has up to 16 other speakers covering seminars, evening celebrations and afternoon events. A full list of all speakers for the years 1875 to 1996 is given in Maurice Rowlandson's book.[13]

Year Theme Week 1 Week 2 Week 3
1978 The Gospel, The Spirit, The Church John Stott Dick Lucas
1979 The Lord is King Alec Motyer Eric Alexander
1980 The People and the King Donald English Bp John B.Taylor
1981 Purity and Power Dick Lucas Alan Flavelle
1982 Walking with the King Alec Motyer Philip Hacking
1983 Living the Light Richard France David Jackman
1984 God's Very Own People Donald English Stuart Briscoe
1985 Giving God the Glory Eric Alexander Michael Baughen
1986 Rebuilding The Foundations Dick Lucas Keith Weston
1987 New Beginnings, Old Paths Raymond Brown David Jackman
1988 Real People - Real Faith Donald English Stuart Briscoe
1989 Servants of the King Philip Hacking Chuck Smith
1990 Looking To Jesus Michael Baughen Charles Price
1991 The Kingdom, Power and the Glory R. T. Kendall Roy Clements
1992 The Cross and the Crown Derick Bingham Raymond Brown
1993 Dangerous Faith Donald English Alistair Begg
1994 The Whole Family of God Philip Hacking Jim Graham
1995 The Light of His Coming Alec Motyer Roy Clements
1996 Clean Hands Michael Wilcock Stuart Briscoe
1997 A Voice in the Wilderness Michael Baughen Charles Price
1998 Truth on Fire Chris Wright Alistair Begg
1999 Deep Impact Don Carson Nigel Lee
2000 One Lord, One Church, One Task John Stott Jonathan Lamb
2001 A Different Drumbeat Michael Baughen Steve Gaukroger Stuart Briscoe
2002 Learning Together as God's Royal Family Bruce Milne Liam Goligher Steve Brady
2003 From Base Camp To Summit Joseph Stowell Charles Price Vaughan Roberts
2004 Out of Control? Alistair Begg Jonathan Lamb Derek Tidball
2005 The Glory of the Gospel Sinclair Ferguson Steve Gaukroger Dominic Smart
2006 The Church in the Power of the Spirit Chris Wright Ajith Fernando Vaughan Roberts
2007 Unshackled ? Living in Outrageous Grace Alec Motyer Steve Brady Ian Coffey
2008 Creation, Chaos & Christ David Cook Liam Goligher Charles Price
2009 Faith that Works Dale Ralph Davies Jonathan Lamb Vaughan Roberts
2010 Christ-centred Renewal Don Carson Paul Mallard Alistair Begg
2011 Word to the World Ajith Fernando Chris Wright Peter Maiden
2012 Going the Distance Simon Manchester Steve Brady Jeremy McQuoid
2013 The Transforming Trinity Charles Price John Lennox Steve Gaukroger
2014 Really? Searching for reality in a confusing world Vaughan Roberts Jonathan Lamb Chris Sinkinson
2015 The Whole of Life for Christ John Risbridger Paul Mallard Liam Goligher
2016 Power to change Simon Manchester Steve Brady David Jackman
2017 Captivated hearing God's Word Don Carson Alistair Begg Ivor Poobalan
2018 Sent: Serving God's Mission Christopher Ash Chris Wright David Cook
2019 Longing ... John Risbridger Vaughan Roberts Ray Ortlund
2020 Grateful* ... Paul Mallard Tim Chester Mike Cain

(* as planned)

List of chairmenEdit

Convention(s) Chairman
1875–1882 Canon T. Dundas Harford-Battersby
1883–1889 Henry Francis Bowker
1890–1900 Robert Wilson
1901 Albert Head / General Hatt-Noble / The Rev Francis Paynter (shared)
1902 Albert Head / Capt F.L. Tottenham (shared)
1903–1916 Trustees
1917 (no convention)
1918–1920 Canon John Battersby-Harford
1921–1924 W.H. Wilson
1925–1929 The Rev John Stuart Holden
1930–1932 R.B. Stewart
1933–1935 J.M. White
1936–1939 The Rev William H. Aldis
1940–1941 (no convention)
1942–1943 The Rev E.L. Langston (held in London churches)
1944 (no convention)
1945 The Rev E.L. Langston (held in Westminster Chapel)
1946–1947 The Rev William H. Aldis
1948–1951 Fred Mitchell
1952–1969 The Rev Alfred Thomas (Tim) Houghton
1970–1974 The Rev John A. Caiger
1975 Canon A.T. Houghton (acting chairman)
1976–1984 Canon Alan S. Neech
1985–1993 The Rev Philip H. Hacking
1994–1996 The Rev Keith A.A. Weston
1997–2000 Jonathan Lamb
2001–2009 Peter Maiden
2010–2011 Jonathan Lamb
2012–2017 John Risbridger


  1. ^ "News John Risbridger takes over as Keswick Convention Chairman". Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  2. ^ Financial Statements for the year ended 31 December 2016, The Keswick Convention Trust, 19 June 2017
  3. ^ Goodhew, David (January 2003). "The rise of the Cambridge inter-collegiate Christian union, 1910-1971". The Journal of Ecclesiastical History. 54 (1): 62–88. Keswick Convention (a festival of conservative Evangelicalism in the Lake District)
  4. ^ Olson, Roger E. (2005). The SCM Press A-Z of Evangelical Theology. Hymns Ancient and Modern Ltd. pp. 83–94. ISBN 978-0-334-04011-8.
  5. ^ a b Combs, Bill (10 February 2020). "Romans 12:1–2 and the Doctrine of Sanctification, Part 2". Sharper Iron. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  6. ^ Whitall Smith, Hannah (2013). The God Of All Comfort. Barbour Publishing. p. 1. ISBN 9781620297636. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
  7. ^ Pollock, J. C. (1964). The Keswick Story—The Authorised History of the Keswick Convention. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
  8. ^ a b Price, Charles & Randall, Ian, Transforming Keswick, page 244, OM Publishing, Carlisle, Cumbria, 2000. ISBN 978-1-85078-350-3
  9. ^ "Convention takes over derelict pencil mill site". Cumberland & Westmorland Herald. Penrith, Cumbria. 22 May 2015.
  10. ^ "£5m plans for former Keswick Pencil Factory site unveiled". No. News & Star. Cumbrian Newspapers Ltd, Carlisle, Cumbria. 20 July 2015. Archived from the original on 9 August 2015.
  11. ^ "The Keswick Reminder". No. 5933. Keswick, Cumbria, UK: McKanes Printers. 22 July 2016.
  12. ^ "Share the Future !". Keswick Convention (Main Tent meeting). 25 July 2016.
  13. ^ Rowlandson, M. L. Life at the Keswick Convention, OM Publishing, Carlisle, Cumbria, 1997. ISBN 978-1-85078-248-3


  • Barabas, Steven So Great Salvation, London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1952—a friendly overview of half a century of Keswick teaching.
  • Drumond, Lewis, "The Canvas Cathedral", Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 2005.
  • Harford-Battersby, T. D. Memoirs of the Keswick Convention, 1890.
  • Hopkins, E. H. The Story of Keswick, London, 1892.
  • Harford, Charles F. (ed.) The Keswick Convention; its Message, its Method and its Men, London, 1907. (available as an ebook,
  • Lamb, Jonathan & Randall, Ian, Knowing God Better : The Vision of the Keswick Movement, Keswick Ministries, 2015. ISBN 978-1-78359-369-9
  • Pierson, A. T. The Keswick Movement , New York.
  • Price, Charles & Randall, Ian, Transforming Keswick, OM Publishing, Carlisle, Cumbria, 2000. ISBN 978-1-85078-350-3
  • Richmond, Joan M, Nine Letters from an Artist The Families of William Gillard, Porphyrogenitus, 2015. ISBN 978-1-871328-19-6
  • Rowlandson, M. L. Life at the Keswick Convention, OM Publishing, Carlisle, Cumbria, 1997. ISBN 978-1-85078-248-3
  • Sloan, Walter B. These Sixty Years : The story of the Keswick Convention, Pickering & Inglis, London & Edinburgh, 1935
  • Stevenson, Herbert F. Keswick's Authentic Voice: Sixty-five Dynamic Addresses Delivered at the Keswick Convention 1875-1957. London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1959.
  • Pollock, J.C. The Keswick Story, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1964 (The Authorised History of the Keswick Convention)
  • Williams, Derek The Spirit of Keswick, Keswick Convention Trust, Harrow, Middlesex, 1988 (36pp booklet)

External linksEdit