Earlham Hall - Buxton (1801)

Fowell had previously met a boy of his own age called John Gurney, who lived with his father and ten siblings at Earlham Hall, just outside Norwich. In the autumn of 1801, he was invited to stay at Earlham. This seems to have been a turning point in the future reformer’s life. The Gurney’s were a Quaker family, although at this time all but one (Elizabeth) seem to have been only token Christians. Their mother was probably a more committed Quaker, but she died when her youngest child was only 15 months old in 1792, so for nearly ten years the eldest sibling, Catherine, had been the mother of the household. For fifty years this amazing woman, who never married, dedicated her life to her siblings. With input from her father, she helped create one of the most extraordinary families ever seen in England. Apart from Daniel, the youngest, the other ten all became passionate born again Christians who did incredible things to extend the Kingdom of God. One of them was Elizabeth, who as Elizabeth Fry was a great reformer of the prisons and a Quaker minister; another, Joseph was also a reformer and Quaker minister; a third, Samuel, was a brilliant businessman who gave away approximately £20,000 pa to good causes, which would be about £13 million pa based on average earnings in 1856; a fourth was a saintly Quaker minister; and a fifth married Buxton.

An unusual aspect of the family was that they were all enthusiastically involved in self-education. All the children were full of energy in whatever they were involved in, be it learning or playing. They all had to keep daily journals, and you can see in them their constant desire to improve themselves. This could be looked at negatively, but all of them succeeded in improving themselves and did great things for God. The one thing that all visitors to Earlham Hall noticed was the love they received there. The journals of all these young people and the letters they write to one another; abound in love. It is wonderful to read how they poured love out on one another,

By the time of Fowell’s arrival, Elizabeth (Betsy) had already married and left home. Rachel and Hannah had been to stay with their sister to help with the birth of her first child, and on returning to Earlham Hall with their sister and the new addition to the family, they were greeted on the steps of the Hall by their siblings and a young man (Fowell) who they had not met before. On seeing Hannah spring out of the carriage with the new baby in her arms, Fowell decided that she would be his wife.

The Gurney family included Fowell as one of their own. Their way of life seemed to draw out of Fowell all his latent giftings. He received a stimulus, not only through studying with them, but he formed disciplines in study that he never had before. The unconditional love that he was shown could not but have helped form his character; not to mention the young love he had for Hannah. He later recognised what he owed to this remarkable family.