Annie Arch Leuty
A Character Sketch
Transcription of Sketch in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by J.D.T. (John Day Thompson)
THE daughter of the man who gave our English peasants their political freedom by breathing a new soul into them, was bound to have, and had, a noticeable personality. From her father she inherited her strength, from her mother her softness and womanliness. Her individuality came out early. When but a girl she began to read the lessons in public service at Leamington for local preachers who could exhort mightily, but had no gift of letters; and before she was eighteen had begun that career in pulpit and on platform which won her so much fame, and what was better than fame, a warm corner in hundreds of human hearts. I have seen a rhymed vote of thanks which was given to her over thirty years ago for a stirring lecture on “Bible Women,” a favourite theme with her to the end of life. No subject could be more fitting for her, for she illustrates in herself the honourable status which Christianity has won for women. Even in the Old Testament, as Mrs. Leuty could readily show, there is a high table-land of social freedom and influence for women, and out of that table-land spring straight before our gaze several striking single peaks which she used to delight to point out and dwell on – Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Huldah, and the rest. Beside these, with Priscilla, Phebe, Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis, of the New Testament, Annie Arch Leuty has taken honourable place. Says an early critic of her preaching – “I am not going to enter into an argument as to how far women should engage in public ministrations, or as to whether, as some say, the only woman’s right to be acknowledged is her right to the marriage rite. This I felt, that if three-fourths of the men who are engaged in the ministry could speak as eloquently and as forcibly as this lady the pulpit would be a far greater power than it is.” In preaching the Gospel, in advocating Temperance, in pleading for Missions (as witness, her fine speech at the Metropolitan meetings last year), in promoting Christian Endeavour, Mrs. Leuty has splendidly vindicated the freedom of speech and service which the New Testament extends to women. Once in referring to the propriety of permitting women to occupy a pulpit she herself said pointedly and humorously that as to propriety she could conceive of no higher propriety or respectability than that of saving souls, and suggested that the angels themselves would not lose caste by such an enterprise. I suppose she had in her mind the curious artistic tradition which make all the angels of Christian times women.
Her clear keen-sightedness and common sense were early developed. A story is told to the effect that a Swedenborgian who used to come to help her father in the garden at Barford in the old days said to her as he sat smoking – “Annie, I hev just been a-tellin’ yer father what we shall all do in the next world.” “Oh,” returned the girl, who did not like this visitor, “I don’t see what else you’ll be able to do in that next world, except dig switch and beg tobacco.” When he had gone, her father told her she had been too rough on the old man. “But he deserved it all,” she retorted, “for he does little or nothing but smoke your tobacco, and give you a text or two in return.” In those stirring times, distant now more than a generation, she saw much of the poverty and misery of the poor serfs of the soil. “Mother,” said an urchin once in one of these families as they sat at Sunday tea with the preacher, “Mother – where were you standing when you threw the raisins into this cake?” They were, I suppose, few and far between. “Ah, my lad,” the mother replied, “I was standing behind nine shillings a week!” Such a wage was common around where Annie Arch was brought up. In a book recently published, describing “The Hungry Forties,” a veteran of eighty-three gives his experiences of these tragical times. “You ask ’ow the people did get on. Well, they got into debt, and then, again, they lived on taters and kept pigs, but butcher’s meat we never ’eard of, never saw it except in the shops. Salt was 21s. a bushel, and when we killed a pig we ’ad to sell ’alf of it to buy the salt, to salt down what was left.” Things were not quite so bad as that in the sixties for the Corn Laws had gone in the interval, but in all the Midland and Southern agricultural counties they were bad enough. And the observant girl’s ready sensibilities found no little to exercise them as she followed her father’s campaigns for combination and unity among labourers. It was an education in Christian sympathy, which meant much for her in the enlarged opportunities of her later public life. Naturally she always had an intense interest in our Orphanage. Before we had such an institution she was a regular contributor to such causes as the Port of Hull Sailors’ Orphan Home, Mrs. Spurgeon’s Home, and the Whiteehapel Mission. It has already been told that when she resided in Bristol, her medical adviser warned her that she must no longer use her treadle sewing machine. It was a valuable and costly one, and she packed it up and sent it, carriage paid, to the Orphanage at Alresford. That she was thinking of the Orphanage and planning for it in her last illness, is shown in the fact that among her final written words of instruction were these: “Let everything be plain and simple, no waste to close a life that has been spent in strict economy, in order that some of my Father’s children might share my many blessings. No flowers please. . . . . If any friends would like to show a token of love they may do so by sending the few shillings they would so spend to my true and faithful friend, John Hewitson, on behalf of the new Orphan Home at Harrogate, in which we are so deeply interested.”
When the South Wales coal strike was at its worst, and much suffering prevailed through the disorganisation of the Kingswood boot and shoe manufacture, she begged and helped to distribute many pounds on behalf of the starving operatives and their families. And often when money was needed for spiritual and humanitarian objects she has gone without new clothes for a whole year, turning her dresses and re-trimming her hats to save for the purposes of the higher service of God’s poor. No wonder, as I can testify from letters I have seen and received, that round her bier and grave there stood in imaginative sympathy, if not in person, scores of people whom she had been assiduous to help, as in the well-known classic instance the widows stood by Peter long ago, weeping, and pointing to the very garments they had on, supplied by Tabitha’s loving hands. Mrs. Leuty was no mere pulpiteer – she was compact of pity and deeply practical.
I have my own specially sweet little memory of her healing sympathy. The occasion was the May of 1892, just before we sailed for the Antipodes, leaving the dead body of our youngest boy behind us. He went from us on the very day we were due to leave the Thames, and we had to delay a fortnight for the next steamer. About a week of that interval we spent in Leamington. What the soothing of Mrs. Leuty’s tender heart was to us, and especially to my wife at that time of our sore trial, I can never adequately express. It lay like balm on our spirits for long, long after both on and over the seas, and I bless her memory for it still. “Beloved as a ministering angel” is one of the phrases in a letter I have seen, and the phrase is no exaggeration. Here, there, and everywhere, regardless of creed, she ministered to the needs of the sick and poor, always kindly, always speaking a cheery word, and ever looking on the bright side. She had the gift of the sunshine. And her long, and by many little suspected, suffering made this sweet graciousness all the more notable. No stranger could tell from any cursory intercourse with her that that sympathetic and tender-hearted woman was herself in the grip of almost continuous pain. And a good many up and down the land who knew her only as the gifted and popular preacher and speaker would be astonished if they could learn the number and variety of her quiet and instant benevolences.
She was a wide reader, and had large theological sympathies – always evangelical, but never narrowly so. I happen to know that when a generation ago the thinking Christian world was eagerly canvassing the subject of the Future Life, she had mastered Minton and Edward White and Cox on this “burning” question, and had formed her own conclusions. At a meeting of ministers where she was present once the talk turned on this topic. One after another expressed his view, while she remained silent. At last some one turned to her with the remark, “Mrs. Leuty, you have heard all and said nothing. Won’t you give us the benefit of your opinion?” “Well,” she replied, “if you must have it, I think there is a good deal to be said for all the three views. I think I find warrant in the Bible for every one of them.” She was referring, of course, to the orthodox, the Annihilation, and the Restoration views respectively, the “burn on,” “burn out,” and “burn clear” theories. And who shall say that she was not pretty near the mark?
Once in a country chapel she heard a simple and earnest local preacher who had perhaps heard some faint tradition of Milton in the “ Paradise Lost,” describe how Christ, when He led captivity captive, “dragged the devil at His chariot wheels up to the gates of heaven and then dashed him down headlong to hell.” The old man made the most of the lurid image, but at the close of the service Mrs. Leuty went to him and said, “John, where did you get that about Christ and the devil? I hope you will never use such a vulgar simile again. You must have a bad opinion of your Saviour. Do you really think that Jesus Christ could ever be so mean even to the devil?” I judge that particular illustration was itself for ever after consigned to limbo. She had a keen sense of humour, always bubbling up whether in private or in public. Some capital examples of it will be found in her Metropolitan Missionary speech already alluded to. Here is one. “Women, they say, are not financiers. I reckon we are the cleverest financiers in the universe. We make the money go furthest; in fact, some say we make it go so far that they never see it again.” Speaking of sordid grumblers about the cost of religious work she gave this story. A little while ago a fortnight’s mission was held at a certain chapel, and two souls were saved, and when it was over the old chapel-keeper said, “Only two souls saved at the end of the mission, and we burned two pun’ o’ candles over it!”
She died as she had lived, calmly, fearlessly, simply. One must not withdraw too wide the curtain which conceals such sacred experiences, but it may be permitted to say that both doctors and nurses declared that they had never witnessed so composed and serene an exodus. The triumph lay, not with death, but with the dying. The sane strong spirit took its dismissal if not with a frolic welcome yet with no tremor, with perfect trust and temper. Death’s sting had no point and no poison. Some little time before the sufferer had written these lines. They are her real farewell to life, and I quote them to close with not to claim for them any remarkable poetic merit, but just to illustrate the characteristic way in which she took her leave of earthly life.
“It is not death to die,
To pass the narrow home,
And enter thro’ the gate on high,
My blood-bought right to claim.
It is not death to die
When those we love are gone,
And earth has so much poorer been
Since we are left alone.
It is not death to die
When all life’s work is o’er,
Its battles fought, and victory won,
Then peace for evermore.
It is not death to die
When Jesus Christ says ‘Come,
Enter into thy rest at last,
My weary child – well done.’
And so I turn my face
Towards the glowing west,
’Tis His to choose the time and place,
His will, not mine, is best.”
Annie was born in March 1851 at Barford, Warwickshire, to parents Joseph Arch and Mary Ann Mills. Joseph Arch was an agricultural labourer and PM local preacher. He became a national agent of the Agricultural Labourer’s Union and later a Member of Parliament.
The 1871 census identifies that Annie worked as a dressmaker before her marriage.
Annie married John Edwin Leuty (1855-1945) on 12 August 1880. Census returns identify one adopted child – the daughter of Annie’s brother, Thomas.
- Daisy Isabel Arch (abt 1892-1971) – married John F. Taylor in 1922
Annie died on 3 November 1904 at Chester, Cheshire.
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1905/102
https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/whs/56-2.pdf - an article by E. Dorothy Graham about Ann Tinsley and Mary Bulmer (the second wife of Rev. John E. Leuty)
Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers
Note: Annie’s birth and marriage was registered as Ann Arch. Most census records, and her death is registered, in the name Annie. Although the Leuty’s were stationed in Chester at the time of her death the death appears to have been registered in Liverpool.