John Disney was born in Lincoln on 29 September 1746, and died at his estate in Essex on 26 December 1816. He was the grandson of John Disney, vicar of St Mary's, Nottingham. The younger John Disney was educated at Wakefield and Lincoln Grammar Schools, and at Peterhouse, Cambridge (admitted pensioner in 1764), where he was much influenced by the Master, Edmund Law, and by reading Francis Blackburne's The Confessional, and was one of a generation of students – including John Jebb, Edward Evanson, Gilbert Wakefield and Robert Tyrwhitt – who found it impossible to accept the tenets of Trinitarian orthodoxy. In 1768 Disney was ordained deacon and became honorary chaplain to Law, the new Bishop of Carlisle. Two years later Disney was instituted vicar of Swinderby and rector of Panton, both in Lincolnshire. In 1774 Disney married Blackburne's daughter Jane. In 1776 he was awarded a DD from Edinburgh. He found it increasingly difficult to stay within the Church of England, and in 1782 threw up all his preferments and became assistant to Theophilus Lindsey at the first Unitarian chapel in Britain, at Essex Street in London. He also became Secretary of the new Unitarian Society for Promoting Knowledge of the Scriptures. When Lindsey retired in 1793 Disney became the sole minister at Essex Street. In 1805 he inherited the Hollis estate, the Hyde, said to be worth £5,000 per annum, from Thomas Brand Hollis, and retired to live there.
From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.