American connections

While Britain and America have long had a special relationship, the City of Gloucester can claim several close links in its history.

George Whitefield

Born in 1714 in the Bell Inn in Southgate street, he was educated at the King’s School and then Crypt Grammar School before going to Pembroke College in Oxford in 1732. Here he met the Wesley brothers (John and Charles) and became involved in Methodism. Ordained as a Deacon in 1736, his first sermon was delivered in St Mary de Crypt and the pulpit he used (see picture below) can still be seen in the nave. Denied access to Anglican pulpits, Whitefield preached outdoors to large crowds.

He sailed to America in 1738, the first of seven trips, where he preached to large audiences from Pennsylvania to Georgia. He founded the Bethesda Orphanage in Savannah where he was Minister. The charity school he founded in Pennsylvania was a forerunner of the present university. 51 American schools and colleges (including Princeton) owe their inception to him. He helped to reequip the library of Harvard after it was destroyed by fire. He died in 1777 at Newburyport, Massachusetts having preached 18,000 sermons to about 10 million people in his lifetime.

John Stafford Smith

Born in Gloucester and baptised in the Cathedral in 1750, he was educated at the Cathedral School. An accomplished musician, he composed the music to which the words of the “Star-Spangled Banner” were added to create the American national anthem. A memorial to John Stafford Smith is in the north aisle of the Cathedral.

Button Gwinnett

Born in 1735, Button Gwinnett was christened in St Catherine’s Church in Gloucester and educated at the King’s School. He emigrated to Savannah, Georgia where he failed in business but became involved in politics. As a representative of Georgia to Congress, he was the second signatory on the Declaration of Independence. He was briefly the provisional President of Georgia. Gwinnett was killed in a dual by Lachlan McIntosh, a general in the Georgian Army, following a dispute after a failed invasion of Florida.

Rudhall Bells

The oldest peal of bells in the USA are in Old North Church, Boston. Made in 1744 by the Rudhall foundry in Gloucester, they were installed in 1745. The bells were transported free from Gloucester because they were very good ballast. Paul Revere was a bell ringer at the church and made the historic ride to warn American troops that “The British are coming”.

Rudhall’s foundry was on the site of the Post Office in King’s Square.

Two Rudhall bells from 1710 are on display in St Michael’s Tower at the Cross.

Gloucester to America

A video presentation by Jim Dillon of the Gloucester Civic Trust on links between the city and the USA, especially those relating to George Whitefield, Button Gwinnett, and John Stafford Smith.