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Reverend Thomas Scales (1786–1860) was a leading British abolitionist. He was the first minister of Queen Street Chapel in Leeds and he founded the Silcoates School.

Thomas Scales
Thomas Scales at the Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840 by Benjamin Robert Haydon.jpg
Rev. Thomas Scales
EducationLeeds Grammar School
Known forAbolitionism
Spouse(s)Christiana Simpson
Children3 survived


Scales was born in Leeds in Yorkshire, in December 1786. His father was an innkeeper and later a farmer and his mother was a keen follower of Rev. Edward Parsons of the Salem Independent Chapel. Scales was educated at the Moravian Institution at Fulneck, then with Rev. Dr Fawcett of Ewood Hall, and at Leeds Grammar School.[1]

Scales left school at age 15 and was apprenticed to a draper in Halifax for three years. After a year in Wakefield, he returned to his home in Leeds where he decided to become a dissenting preacher. In 1806 he was admitted as a student to the Hoxton Academy[2] where he became a classical tutor, however he decided to take up a ministry in a newly formed Independent church in Wolverhampton where he was ordained in April 1810. In September 1810, he married Christiana Simpson, a daughter of Reverend Robert Simpson, his principal at Hoxton Academy.[2] Christiana was his first wife; they had eight children, three of whom survived to adulthood. He was married one more time.[1]

His congregation at Wolverhampton grew rapidly from around 30 adults to 400–500 nearly ten years later, necessitating construction of a new chapel and its enlargement during his time there. In 1819 he was invited to the White Chapel in Leeds[1] and again his congregation grew until a new chapel was built in Queen Street in 1825. It was the largest Independent Chapel in the north of England at the time and the first of many large chapels in Yorkshire. On the opening day, the collections exceeded 400 pounds.[3]

Isaac Crewdson (Beaconite) writerSamuel Jackman Prescod - Barbadian JournalistWilliam Morgan from BirminghamWilliam Forster - Quaker leaderGeorge Stacey - Quaker leaderWilliam Forster - Anti-Slavery ambassadorJohn Burnet -Abolitionist SpeakerWilliam Knibb -Missionary to JamaicaJoseph Ketley from GuyanaGeorge Thompson - UK & US abolitionistJ. Harfield Tredgold - British South African (secretary)Josiah Forster - Quaker leaderSamuel Gurney - the Banker's BankerSir John Eardley-WilmotDr Stephen Lushington - MP and JudgeSir Thomas Fowell BuxtonJames Gillespie Birney - AmericanJohn BeaumontGeorge Bradburn - Massachusetts politicianGeorge William Alexander - Banker and TreasurerBenjamin Godwin - Baptist activistVice Admiral MoorsonWilliam TaylorWilliam TaylorJohn MorrisonGK PrinceJosiah ConderJoseph SoulJames Dean (abolitionist)John Keep - Ohio fund raiserJoseph EatonJoseph Sturge - Organiser from BirminghamJames WhitehorneJoseph MarriageGeorge BennettRichard AllenStafford AllenWilliam Leatham, bankerWilliam BeaumontSir Edward Baines - JournalistSamuel LucasFrancis August CoxAbraham BeaumontSamuel Fox, Nottingham grocerLouis Celeste LecesneJonathan BackhouseSamuel BowlyWilliam Dawes - Ohio fund raiserRobert Kaye Greville - BotanistJoseph Pease, railway pioneerW.T.BlairM.M. Isambert (sic)Mary Clarkson -Thomas Clarkson's daughter in lawWilliam TatumSaxe Bannister - PamphleteerRichard Davis Webb - IrishNathaniel Colver - Americannot knownJohn Cropper - Most generous LiverpudlianThomas ScalesWilliam JamesWilliam WilsonThomas SwanEdward Steane from CamberwellWilliam BrockEdward BaldwinJonathon MillerCapt. Charles Stuart from JamaicaSir John Jeremie - JudgeCharles Stovel - BaptistRichard Peek, ex-Sheriff of LondonJohn SturgeElon GalushaCyrus Pitt GrosvenorRev. Isaac BassHenry SterryPeter Clare -; sec. of Literary & Phil. Soc. ManchesterJ.H. JohnsonThomas PriceJoseph ReynoldsSamuel WheelerWilliam BoultbeeDaniel O'Connell - "The Liberator"William FairbankJohn WoodmarkWilliam Smeal from GlasgowJames Carlile - Irish Minister and educationalistRev. Dr. Thomas BinneyEdward Barrett - Freed slaveJohn Howard Hinton - Baptist ministerJohn Angell James - clergymanJoseph CooperDr. Richard Robert Madden - IrishThomas BulleyIsaac HodgsonEdward SmithSir John Bowring - diplomat and linguistJohn EllisC. Edwards Lester - American writerTapper Cadbury - Businessmannot knownThomas PinchesDavid Turnbull - Cuban linkEdward AdeyRichard BarrettJohn SteerHenry TuckettJames Mott - American on honeymoonRobert Forster (brother of William and Josiah)Richard RathboneJohn BirtWendell Phillips - AmericanM. L'Instant from HaitiHenry Stanton - AmericanProf William AdamMrs Elizabeth Tredgold - British South AfricanT.M. McDonnellMrs John BeaumontAnne Knight - FeministElizabeth Pease - SuffragistJacob Post - Religious writerAnne Isabella, Lady Byron - mathematician and estranged wifeAmelia Opie - Novelist and poetMrs Rawson - Sheffield campaignerThomas Clarkson's grandson Thomas ClarksonThomas MorganThomas Clarkson - main speakerGeorge Head Head - Banker from CarlisleWilliam AllenJohn ScobleHenry Beckford - emancipated slave and abolitionistUse your cursor to explore (or Click "i" to enlarge) 
1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention.[4] Move your cursor to identify Scales (in the centre) or click the icon to enlarge.

Thomas Scales was a leader in the community, a founder of Silcoates School[5] for the education of sons of Independent ministers and missionaries,[2] and also a passionate supporter of the anti-slavery movement and liberal politics.[4]

Scales was chosen to be with Lord Brougham, Joseph Sturge and Captain Hansard RN when they presented petitions to Queen Victoria in 1838.[6] These were based on resolutions passed at meetings at Exeter Hall of "friends of the negro" on behalf of the enslaved people in her empire.[6] He returned to Exeter Hall in 1840 where he appears [in spectacles] in Benjamin Robert Haydon's painting of The Anti-Slavery Society Convention 1840, beside Captain Charles Stuart.

Scales was also involved in the foundation of the Independent Ministerial Provident Society of the West Riding of Yorkshire, administration of Balme's charity which was established by Mary Bacon and the management of Airedale and Rotherham Colleges.

He edited and published numerous pamphlets and sermons, and his book Principles of Dissent ran to three editions. He was editor of Protestant Dissenters' Juvenile Magazine from 1833–36 and left a manuscript on the life of Rev. James Scott (1710–1783), founder of Heckmondwike Academy, and materials for the History of Nonconformity in the West Riding of Yorkshire,[7] which was used as a basis for James Miall's Congregationalism in Yorkshire (London, 1868). His detailed knowledge of nonconformist history made him a valuable witness in the Lady Hewley Case.[8]

With failing eyesight, he resigned around January 1850 after 30 years, and became chaplain and secretary at Silcoates Congregational School,[2] later moving to Gomersal and Cleckheaton. He died suddenly in June 1860 at Low Moor, while travelling to preach a funeral sermon for a fellow minister and friend Reverend John Paul.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Taylor, R. V., ed. (1865). "1786-1860: The Rev. Thomas Scales". The biographia Leodiensis; or, Biographical sketches of the worthies of Leeds and neighbourhood. pp. 488–89.
  2. ^ a b c d Miall, James C. (1868). "Leeds White Chapel later Queen Street". Appendix to Congregationalism in Yorkshire. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  3. ^ The Congregational magazine [formerly The London Christian instructor]. 1825. p. 502.
  4. ^ a b The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840, Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1841, National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG599, Given by British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1880
  5. ^ "Annals of Leeds, York, and the Surrounding District". The Annals and History of Leeds, and Other Places in the County of York: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time. Joseph Johnson. 1860. p. 376.
  6. ^ a b "Calcutta Christian Observer Extra". The Calcutta Christian Observer (73). June 1838. pp. 363–66. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  7. ^ The Congregational magazine [formerly The London Christian instructor] List of New Publications, with Short Notices. 1825. p. 434.
  8. ^ Lady Hewley's Charities. A full Report of the hearing in the House of Lords ... on the Appeal of the Trustees. (From the short-hand notes of Messrs. Gurney and Son.) To which are prefixed, The Judgment of the Vice-Chancellor ... Dec. 23rd, 1833. The Judgment of Lord Lyndhurst ... 5th Feb., 1836. The Case of the Appellants. The Case of the Respondents. 1839. p. 102.