The Rev. Henry Putman (1725—1797) is an astonishingly obscure person, especially for someone who was minister of the Dutch Reformed Church at Austin Friars for 48 years and a Fellow of the Royal Society for thirty. He doesn’t rate a mention in the history of Austin Friars by J. Lindeboom, except in the list of ministers in the Appendix. He is presumably covered by this quote, “The persons and the activity of the ministers during the centuries following the turbulent early years, do not really call for comment. Though certainly faithful shepherds and teachers they are not remarkable for their outstanding learning or ecclesiastical achievements” (Lindeboom, 162).
His obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine was somewhat kinder, declaring that, “His learning and piety were eminently conspicuous” and “He enjoyed the friendship of the most respectable of the established Clergy”. “Few men”, it continues, “have passed through this malevolent world better beloved and less censured than he.”
He appears not to have published any works either in or out of the Royal Society and the only note of him is in signing in support of some new members, most notably that of Andreas Joseph Planta, where he signed next to Joshua Kirby.
After his death, his library was sold off in a large sale by John White. However, it was mixed in with other books, “Rare, Splendid, and Valuable books… including the entire libraries of the Rev. Harvey Spragg…also of the Rev. Henry Putman”.
The catalogue does not identify which books came from which collection, but the sale did include a 3-volume collection of Kirby’s Method of Perspective, Perspective of Architecture, and his Architectonic Sector, listed as from 1768, the year after Putman and Kirby were both elected to the Royal Society, so it is quite possible that Kirby and Putman were friends.
Moens (1888) recorded Putman’s memorial inscription in the church he had the care of for so long:
Hier legt begraven het lyk van den Wel-Eerwaarden HENRIK PUTMAN lid der Koninglyke Maatschappye van Wetenschappen te London en oudste Predikant deezer Gemeente, Gebooren te Amsterdam den 8sten April 1725, Overleeden te London den lsten Maart, 1797, na dat hy aldaar ruim 46 Jaaren het Leeraars ambt had waargenomen.
Presumably this memorial also no longer exists, as the church was bombed during the Blitz.
In the night of the 15th to the 16th October, 1940, during one of the heavy air bombardments of London, a landmine attached to a parachute, sucked into the space enclosed by the higher office buildings surrounding the church, fell on Austin Friars. The explosion completely destroyed the church. A few pages from the Bible which was in the pulpit, some fragments of the walls and of the monuments, were all that remained of the edifice, which was reduced to a mountainous heap of rubble and dust. (Lindeboom, 191)
If I find out more, I will let you know.
Lindeboom, J. (1950). Austin Friars: History of the Dutch Reformed Church in London 1550—1950. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
Moens, W.J.C. (1884). The Marriage, Baptismal, and Burial Registers, 1571 to 1874, and Monumental Inscriptions, of the Dutch Reformed Church, Austin Friars, London: With a Short Account of the Strangers and Their Churches. London: King and Sons.