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We are grateful for the following letter and family history sent by Paul Rawlings in Australia who is researching his family.

Moor End Works, Melbourn, Cambridge

February 9th 1858


Dear Brother John

It is now a long time since I received a letter from you and it is sometime since I wrote to you.

As I was informed my letters were not very interesting to you, as they savoured too much of religion. You thought I had turned Parson and you will believe me I would preach a long time to you if I could be the instrument in the hands of God of leading you to that Saviour whom I have found so precious to my soul. I sent you many of Mr Spurgeon’s sermons but I fear they are not read by you very often but remember your thinking lightly of religion does not alter it. You are a sinner and you must die sooner or later and after death is the judgement, and as death overtakes you, so judgement will find you. If you die with your sins unpardoned and you’re unwashed by the precious blood of Christ, I tell you, your doom will be awful for you must then make your bed in Hell and to endure the torments of that pit for ever and ever. And when millions of years have rolled away, your time will be only first began. This is not fiction, it is a dead reality and if you will not listen to God’s invitation now, you must listen to his sentries depart the cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. But be wise, pause awhile and ask yourself this question – If I should die this night where would my poor soul appear? Would angels carry it to Abraham’s bosom or will Devil’s drag it into hellfire? You may scoff at it now but you won’t when you come to die, when you get as near to eternity as your poor sick brother is. If he could write to you, he would beg of you to seek the Saviour and call upon while he is nigh. For whosoever cometh unto me, I will in no way cast out again. I have no pleasure in the death of sinner but rather he would turn unto me and him I. Come all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Shall we ever meet again in this world? Or shall we meet at the right hand of God? Life is very uncertain, death is certain, prepare to meet with your God. I continue to savour this subject and I dare say you will be glad of it. I will call upon any heart when I am at the throne of Grace, as I done many times before. And may God the Holy Spirit there few remarks to your heart and there I shall have fresh cause to bless him that I have been the humble instrument in the hand of God of leading you to the Saviour.

I must now begin a fresh subject, that is Eliza Gosnold is at my house – she wrote a letter to me last Saturday stating she wished to see me as she was going to Australia. I called yesterday. And she and her mother came over today to dine with us and spend the day. She now tells us that she has made up her mind to go to you as you have promised her marriage. Now I don’t know anything about the matter. Now don’t play any tricks and behave ill to her. But if you have so arranged matter, meet her at Melbourne and fulfill your promise the same day you meet. But above all don’t tamper with her feelings but behave in respects like a man or you will bring a curse upon your own head. She talks of setting sail in about 6 weeks but she is waiting to hear from you again.

Respecting all at home, we are all well except brother William and he never will live, his time is short in this world but is going to a better world, are you? He will live happy after death shall you? I am happy to say James and Jane my daughter have both been baptised and found the church.. Joseph and Hato his sister will be baptized this daybreak. I dare say Eliza Gosnold will come and see them.

We are short of time just now but you will see we are about opening a shop at Royston. We shall open in about a fortnight.

I must now conclude, trusting this may find you quite well and profiting in Body and Soul and believe me your affectionate brother unto death.

James Rawlings

  1. James Rawlings was the oldest son of James and Hannah Rawlings of Stapleford, christened in 1813 at Stapleford, making him around 19 years older than John. James was married to Catherine and had at least four children; Joseph James christened 29/10/1839, James Scott christened 24/3/1839 (the same day as John was christened at Stapleford), Jane Matilda christened 23/5/1841 and Albert Luke christened 22/6/1845. James is believed to have moved his family to Melbourn at sometime between 1839 and 1841. James was the son and heir of the Rawlings family and rated a mention in his grandfather Robert Willis’ will. No doubt the family had a hand in establishing James, a millwright and engineer by profession in the Moor End Works at Melbourn, Cambridge. There were 3 windmills operating at Melbourn at the time, hence there was plenty of work to keep James busy. James was the patriarch of the family when this letter was written as his father had passed away in 1853. It appears that James’ evangelistic fervor must have begun in the 1850s when he must have chosen to become serious about his Christian faith. It also appears that he had changed his affiliation with the Church of England to another denomination that practiced believers baptism as opposed to infant baptism possibly the Baptists.
  2. John Rawlings appears to have spent his teen years and early 20s in the employment of his older brother James at Melbourn learning his profession as a millwright and engineer. Census records indicate that John was not living at Stapleford in 1851. Another clue that John must have spent considerable time at Melbourn and hence with his brother James is that he managed to strike up a relationship with Eliza Gosnold who lived in the adjoining village of Meldreth. It appears that John was already living in Australia with his cousin Jabez Rawlings at the time of this letter and intended that Eliza come later after he had established himself.
  3. Mr Spurgeon was no doubt C.H. Spurgeon, a noted English Baptist preacher in the 19th century. Volumes of Spurgeon’s sermons are still available today in Christian bookshops. Spurgeon was often referred to as the “Prince of Preachers”.
  4. Eliza Gosnold must have been concerned at John’s lack of correspondence and hence took up the matter with John’s brother James given he was the most senior member of the Rawlings family. Eliza must have delayed her trip to Australia approximately one year, as she didn’t arrive in Victoria until June, 1859. Eliza’s family owned a shop in Meldreth, it is not known whether her father James was still alive at the time of this letter.
  5. William Rawlings was the 2nd son of James and Hannah Rawlings. He was christened on the 2nd of February, 1817 at Stapleford. He was millwright by profession and appears to have worked primarily at the family mill in Stapleford. He married Lydia Moore on the 30th of February, 1843 at Great Shelford and they had 2 children: Clara Maria born 10th of September, 1843 and Edward Reuben christened on the 27th of December, 1846. William Rawlings was buried at Stapleford on the 22nd of March, 1860.