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Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion

A body founded by Selina Hastings, countess of Huntingdon (1707-91). After her conversion she was briefly a Moravian before joining the Methodists in 1739. An early supporter of itinerant lay preaching, she became on her husband's death (1746) a prominent figure in the Evangelical Revival. More Calvinist than John Wesley, she retained her Anglican links and appointed Evangelical Anglicans as her chaplains (among them was George Whitefield*). Aiming to reach the upper classes particularly, she opened chapels at Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, Bath, and London, where Evangelicalism was combined with a liturgical form of service. In 1768 she established at her own expense a college in South Wales for the training of Evangelical clergy. Her ecumenical tendencies received a setback when a legal decision in 1779 forced her to register her chapels as dissenting meetinghouses and led to the resignation of her Anglican chaplains.

The countess helped to sponsor Whitefield's orphanage in Georgia, took an interest in the American Indians (about whom she corresponded with George Washington, a distant relative), and encouraged the beginnings of Dartmouth College and Princeton University in the USA. Her college was moved to Hertfordshire in 1792 and to Cambridge in 1904. Her chapels, which organize an annual conference, hold membership in the British Council of Churches. There are some thirty-six chapels at present, but it is doubtful if membership exceeds one thousand.

See Life and Times of the Countess of Huntingdon (2 vols., 1844); and S.C. Carpenter, Eighteenth-Century Church and People (1959).