High Calvinists in Action: Calvinism and the City, Manchester and London, c. 1810-1860

By Ian J. Shaw | Go to book overview

2 The Responses of British Evangelicals to the Religious and Secular Problems of the Inner City c.1810-60

Based upon his observations of the same urban context that William Gadsby, William Nunn, and William McKerrow laboured in, Friedrich Engels concluded in 1845 that the workers 'are not religious and do not attend church'. 1 This issue of the apparent alienation from formal religious activity of many in the urban environment was faced by high Calvinists, along with other urban ministers. However, attempts to quantify such perceptions have been of limited value, and the simplified picture presented by statistics must be treated with caution. The 1851 Religious Census was a government attempt to provide a comprehensive survey of churchgoing. A figure of 10,896,000 church attendances was recorded from a population of 17,927,609, but to account for multiple attendances a lower estimate of 7,261,032 individuals attending worship on the census Sunday was made. Of those able to attend, 5,288,294 had 'neglected altogether to do so'. 2 The method by which the statistics were produced has been much criticized, and scholars have sought to offer correction factors to make them more meaningful. 3 The figures also indicate wide regional variations, and distinctive local experiences. 4

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