Adamson, William (1801-1872)

Obituary in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by J Foggon

WILLIAM ADAMSON, local preacher and leader, of Thornley station, was born at Spittal Shields, Hexhamshire, Northumberland, February 1st, 1801. The subject of our memoir could trace his lineage from an old and respectable Northumberland family, but to trace this connection would be uninteresting to the general reader. His parents, William and Elizabeth Adamson, diligently read the Holy Scriptures themselves and constantly endeavoured to enforce their teaching on the attention of their household. His early education was carefully attended to; he had the privilege of being sent to a good school during his boyhood; his youth, nevertheless, and up to the twenty-ninth year of his life passed before he realised the saving grace of God. It was in the summer, 1830, that he was converted, at a service conducted by Mr. Tillottson, one of our early preachers. The hearing of the words of the hymn as announced by the preacher, as well as the whole service had a powerful and permanent spiritual effect upon the mind of our friend, according to his own account. It was at this place and on this occasion he became a new man.

In connection with Primitive Methodism in those days little time was spent in the novitiate. It was so in this case, for in about three months after his conversion he began to speak in public, and his efforts being of a lively and earnest character his labours were very soon much in requisition. His addresses were attended by large congregations; in fact he was at this time popular, yet his chief aim was to save souls. This was not only manifest in his public efforts but in his concern for the salvation of his family and neighbours. For this object he both prayed and lived. He came to Thornley, in this station, in the year 1844. Here his labours as a local preacher were discontinued for some time; but on their renewal good fruit again resulted. He possessed real charity for the souls of those he addressed. Some of his happiest essays are still spoken of where he preached with very kindly remembrance. In addition to serving the Church willingly and faithfully in the capacity of local preacher, he had the charge of the largest class at Thornley, for whose spiritual prosperity he was most anxious. He was also very attentive to its finances. If all our leaders were equally careful in this matter a great deal of anxiety would be spared to quarterly boards. By his class he was greatly respected and loved.

The health of our deceased friend evidently began to give way in the autumn of 1871; more than once we have heard him answer the question when put in regard to the state of his health that he felt “the tabernacle fast giving way.” About three months previous to his death he and Mrs. Adamson, after seeking Divine guidance, concluded to discontinue housekeeping, and out of a choice of homes, any one of which would have rendered them very comfortable, they ultimately decided to spend the remnant of their days with their son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Liddell and family at Thornley. Here he spent the last few weeks of his sojourn on earth. Possessing every earthly comfort and attention, surrounded by the members of his class, and many other Christian friends who respected and sympathised with him during his affliction, his way to the “better country” was invariably clear, his mental and spiritual struggles were not numerous; he frequently expressed his confidence in Christ by repeating a verse of the hymn commencing –
“Fixed on this ground will I remain;”
and –
“I’ll praise my Maker while I’ve breath.”

He had often expressed his anxiety lest his resignation and patience should not be equal to what he imagined he might have to endure in his last moments, but he was graciously sustained. On January 1st, 1872, at a quarter to five, he expired, quietly falling asleep in Christ Jesus. In the dawning of the new year our dear friend passed into the eternally new. Mrs. Adamson, an aged widow, with two sons and three daughters, remain to lament their loss. The funeral was attended by many of the officials and members from different parts of the circuit, who came to pay their last expression of respect to one who had possessed their esteem and respect while living. Mr. Wm. Beaney, our circuit steward, improved the circumstance of our friend’s death to a large congregation on January 28th, from Job xxx. 23.

Since writing the above I have received the following estimate of Mr. Adamson’s character from an aged, judicious, and able minister, himself now numbered with the dead, the Rev. J. Lightfoot, of Sunderland. Mr. Lightfoot writes, – ‘‘In answer to yours regarding our dear deceased brother, Mr. William Adamson, I beg permission to say that at this moment I do not recollect any particular incident regarding him more than this, his whole religious career during the years I had the happiness of being acquainted with him (especially in Hexham circuit) was altogether noteworthy. He with his brother Thomas were certainly conspicuous among the most earnest, sincere, and zealous labourers in God’s work I have ever met with. They were mighty in prayer and strong in faith. In the Hexham circuit, to which I particularly refer, we had some good revivals, in which the brothers both took an active and efficient part. Moreover, Mr. Adamson was a wise and affectionate counsellor at our committee and quarterly meetings. He was popular as a preacher, successful as a class-leader and I believe a good man. Since I left Hexham circuit in the year 1841, I have only occasionally met with him in the Thornley, Hetton, and Sunderland circuits, but have always been edified under him.”


William was baptised on 8 March 1801 at Whitley by Hexham, Northumberland.

Census returns identify the following occupations for William.

  • 1841 butcher
  • 1851 colliery labourer
  • 1861 coal weigher & Primitive Local Preacher
  • 1871 miner

He married Mary Errington (abt 1796-1878) in late 1827. The marriage licence was issued on 23 November 1827 with the intended marriage to take place at Hexham Parish Church. Census returns identify five children.

  • Elizabeth (b1828)
  • Dorothy (b1831) – a housemaid (1861)
  • Thomas (b1833) – a carter (1861)
  • Mary (b1835)
  • Joseph (1837-1909) – a blacksmith; emigrated to USA in 1880


  • 1833 Hexham
  • 1835 disappears


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1873/549

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers


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