Adams, Henry (1836-1906)

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1888
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1907
Trowel presented to Mr H Adams on the occasion of his laying a memorial stone of the Bethel (Primitive Methodist) New schools, Cambridge St, Sheffield, August 28th 1893
John Adams

Early years

Henry was born in 1836 in Hollins End, Yorkshire to parents James Adams and Rebecca Pinch.

Henry began life in a miner’s cottage but became a prince of commerce, a great philanthropist and a distinguished religious leader. A key characteristic in Henry was that he did things promptly, punctually and with the greatest possible despatch.

Henry joined the Primitive Methodists when he was 25 year old. He opened his house for preaching services as the village had no chapel. Henry moved to Sheffield in 1863 and joined the Bethel Society. He was soon involved in mission work in the south of the city leading to the formation of the John Street Circuit.

James started his working life as a collier, like his father. In 1863 Henry became an agent for the Refuge Assurance Company, and began what was destined to be one of the most successful careers known to the Assurance world. In this work he discovered and developed his genius for business. For many years he was a Director of the Company, for which he was once only an agent.

Contribution to the Connexion

Henry had a passion for building Primitive Methodist chapels. The Passive Resistance movement also found in Henry a vehement and liberal supporter.

Henry was a member of the Sheffield School Board and a Guardian of the Poor. He was President of the Sheffield Sunday School Union and held the office of President of the Free Church Council, an organisation of which he was treasurer for a considerable time.

Henry was Chairman of Metropolitan Missionary Meeting in 1887 and Vice President of Conference in 1888. Henry served on all the important committees of the Primitive Methodist Church. He was a Trustee of Elmfield College and also took a deep and practical interest in the PM Orphange

There is a Henry Adams Memorial Church at Wombwell, Yorkshire; now disused.


Henry married Rebecca Adams (1837-1904) in March 1857 at Sheffield, Yorkshire. Census returns identify nine children.

  • William (1857-1911) – an insurance manager
  • Elizabeth (b1859) – married Henry Levick, an insurance company superintendent
  • Esther (1861-1865)
  • Herbert (b1862) – manager with Refuge Assurance (1891)
  • Ada (1864-1880)
  • Ernest (1866-1938) – a life assurance district manager (1911)
  • Henry (b1874) – an assurance agent (1911)
  • Gladstone (1876-1917) – an insurance manager (1911)
  • Gertrude (1877-1933) – married Arthur Thomas Capewell, a bank cashier

Henry died on 12 December 1906 at Blackpool, Lancashire.


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1888 (portrait); 1907/730

H B Kendall, Origin and History of the PM Church, vol 2, p470

Joseph Ritson, The Romance of Primitive Methodism , 1909, p303

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers


Transcription of article published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine 1907

Comments about this page

  • An update on the trowel mentioned in my earlier entry in 2017. We have traced one of Henry’s sons – Ernest – to Harringay which is an area in NE London fairly close to our family roots. There is a Willoughby Primitive Methodist chapel just a few streets from where Ernest & his family were residing in the early 1900’s. Intriguinly, we have a few artefacts from a local pub also in the area ( in fact at the end of Falkland Road where Ernest lived) from my Grandfather which are our only tenuous links. My Grandfather was George Henry and his father George. Still hoping to link things together further…..any help much appreciated! Thanks, John

    By JOHN ADAMS (20/12/2021)
  • My connection to Henry Adams is through his daughter Elizabeth she married Henry Levick who is tied to my family tree. I don’t know what happened in their marriage but Elizabeth her sons posted adverts in the local and national newspapers relinquishing the name of Levick and reverting back to Adams.

    By Philip Levick (23/08/2020)
  • Another chapel donated by Henry Adams was the Henry Adams Memorial Hall, part of the Sheffield Upper Heeley Primitive Methodist Mission. See here.

    By Christopher Hill (13/08/2020)
  • Hello from across the pond!

    Thank you for publishing this page and memorial. It was my pleasure to read it. I’m a descendant of Henry’s brother, John Adams (1816-1899). John and Mary Muscroft Adams’ son, James (1843-1918), and his wife Martha Ann Field, are our immigrant ancestors.

    I fully appreciate the on the Assurance company. The story we received on this side of the pond , via James, was that Henry and John were co-founders. This didn’t make very much sense to me, given that before John moved in with his daughter, Jane Adams Marsden, he was listed as a “border” before his death (he would have had enough to live on his own, as he and Mary ‘supposedly’ had a rooming house-doubtful). In another census he was only listed as a clerk of the Refuge Assurance company. Thank you for the clarity.

    Janalou Adams-Sonafrank

    By Janalou Adams-Sonafrank (10/08/2019)
  • The picture of the commemorative trowel recently added to this page has been found in our family and we are seeking provenence to the branch of the Adams family from East London. As far as we know we had no northern relatives but it has intrigued me as to how it has come into our possession. Any information from decendents of Henry would be most welcome!

    By john adams (18/09/2017)
  • This page has been updated with the picture of a trowel presented to Henry Adams in 1893, which has been kindly contributed by John Adams.

    By Jill Barber (17/09/2017)

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