Archer, William (1839-1900)

Transcription of Obituary In the Primitive Methodist Magazine by Arthur Beavan

Primitive Methodism in Reading has been splendidly served in its official life. A noble succession of gifted, generous, and godly men have pioneered its progress and heroically contributed to its stability and prosperity.

In this noble succession an honoured place must be given to our beloved and lamented friend, the late Mr. William Archer, whose name, not only in Reading, but far beyond, will live in the thoughts and hearts of many as the synonym of all that is most worthy and most winsome in Christian manhood and life.

William Archer was born at Sydmonton, Hampshire, in 1839, and when quite a young man, came to reside in Reading, and here the whole of his subsequent life was spent.

Very soon after his settlement in Reading, he became identified with our Church, which at that time worshipped in Old Minister Street Chapel, and for the long space of forty years continued one of its most faithful adherents and generous supporters.

In the early days of our Church young recruits were speedily set to work, and Mr. Archer found his vocation in the Sunday school, and very pleasant has it been to listen to the testimony of some who to-day are earnestly engaged in religious work, who delight to tell of the good they received through his ministrations as a Sunday-school teacher in those far-off vanished days.

For many years past Reading Circuit has shown a most commendable zeal in support of our missionary work at home and abroad. Few circuits in the Connexion have raised so much for the support of our African work as Reading.

To this beautiful phase of Christian enterprise Mr. Archer gave his earnest advocacy and constant support. For something like thirty-five years he acted as local treasurer for this work, being at the same time the treasurer of London Street Sunday School. He was also a class leader, the duties of which office he discharged with much acceptability.

And these various positions he held, not because he was ambitious for office or hungered for power; but because he had been baptised into the spirit of the Cross and was constrained by the love of Christ.

In natural constitution and temperament Mr. Archer was richly dowered. He had a fine social nature, a heart that overflowed with kindness; there was no trace of austerity, moroseness, or vindictiveness in him, but to do good, to minister to the troubled heart, to assist the needy and restore the erring to the ways of peace was to him a very heaven of delight. He was an ideal host, a charming companion, a friend to be trusted at all times, and therefore beyond all price.

Religiously, he was sincerely devout in spirit and nobly consistent in life, utterly free from all that savoured of cant, parade, or show; he walked humbly with God and enjoyed the testimony that he pleased God. In all the varied relations and affairs of life, the grace of God that was in him found constant and growing expression.

But his religion did not evaporate in mere emotion; he was a Christian on Monday as truly as on Sunday, in the shop not less than in the church. In business he was the soul of honour, and he won and retained the esteem of his fellow citizens by his transparent honesty and whole-souled integrity.

To the ministers of the circuit he was a friend ever staunch and sympathetic. That he in turn was appreciated and loved by the ministry is abundantly shown by the numerous letters forwarded to the family since his decease.

The Rev. Murray Wilson writes: “The mournful intimation of Mr. Archer’s death was to me a great shock. For more than thirty-six years I have valued him among my dearest and confidential friends. I have never known a discordant note in the music of our friendship, and through all the years the sunshine of his genial piety shone with ever-increasing brightness.”

The Rev. R.W. Burnett (himself since departed) wrote: “The sad intelligence of your great and irreparable loss came as a great grief to us. You have lost one of the best of husbands, and your children one of the best of fathers. The loss to our church in Reading will be great, for he had long been one of its most faithful and valued helpers.”

In similar strain writes the Revs. F. Pickett, J.C. Wenn, and J. Harryman Taylor, M.A. each of whom had known him well, and all express their great appreciation of his worth, and deplore the great loss to his family and the Church occasioned by his sudden death.

To our dear friend no evening of twilight or wistful waiting for the coming of his Lord was permitted. To him the “one clear call” came with startling suddenness. Returning home from his place of business on Friday evening, October 26th, 1900, he was seized with sudden illness, and, although medical assistance was immediately obtained, it was of no avail; his work was done. “He was not; for God took him.” “So He giveth His beloved sleep.”


William’s birth was registered in the last quarter of 1839 and he was baptised on 12 January 1840 at Kingsclere, Hampshire. His parents were James, a farmer, and Maria.

Census returns identify the following occupations for William.

  • 1861 shopman
  • 1871 oilman’s assistant
  • 1881 grocer
  • 1891 grocer and oil merchant

His probate record identifies him as an oil and colour merchant’s foreman.

William married Sarah Ann Cotterell (1838-1916) in early 1865 at Reading. Census returns identify six children.

  • Richard William (1867-1932) – an oil merchant
  • Ellen (1870-1932)
  • Annie (b1872)
  • Eliza (abt1875-1946)
  • Mary Elizabeth (1877-1934)
  • Henry (1880-1928) – an accountant in family business (1911); lieutenant in R.F.C. (1916)


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1902/789

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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