Button, Henry George (1840-1905)

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1893
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1906

Early years

Henry was born on 20 January 1840 at Littlebury, nr Saffron Walden, Essex.

When Henry was about 9, his grandmother was converted through Robert Eaglen. She opened her house for preaching and her children and grandchildren came under Primitive Methodist influence.

While a youth, Henry moved to Cambridge, where he attended St Peter’s Street Sunday School until the age of 12 when he gave himself fully to the Saviour. He became a Sunday School Teacher and in September 1854, at the age of 14, he was given a note to accompany Mr John Read on the plan.

The following Christmas day, while visiting his native village, he preached in his grandmother’s house. He was timid and fearful, but succeeded in preaching for nearly an hour, with acceptance and profit to his hearers. Soon afterwards, Henry returned to Littlebury and went on full plan in the Saffron Walden circuit.

When 17, Henry was urged to enter the ministry, but refused on account of his youth and inexperience. Four years later he went to Plymouth to supply in place of a sick minister.


Henry met and overcame opposition to his open-air preaching activities from the authorities in Plymouth and Torquay.

Steady progress marked his labours on each of his stations.

Whilst at Portsmouth, Henry was District Deputy for the Good Templars, a temperance organisation, covering some 50 ‘lodges’ in the District.

His obituary records that with becoming modesty and gentleness of bearing, there was intertwined firm adherence to principle, dogged persistence in the right course and the strongest morality. The soul of the man was gentle, but it had glorious might.

As a preacher, Henry had natural abilities beyond the average, and aided these with careful preparation. To the end of his ministry here was power and freshness in his sermons.


Henry married Emily Elizabeth Moore (1842-1875) in the summer of 1865 at Basingstoke, Hampshire. Emily was the daughter of Rev John Moore. Census returns identify four children.

  • Mary Ann (1866-1882)
  • Beulah (1868-1950) – married Charles Howlett, an insurance agent (1901); later a bricklayer (1911)
  • Abigail (1870-1947) – married William Erwin Blade, a stone quarryman (1901); later an electric car driver (1911)
  • John Tinsley (1874-1955) –  a railway clerk (1911)

Henry married Martha Shoesmith (1852-1925) in the summer of 1876 at Hastings, Sussex. Census returns identify eleven children.

  • Henry George (1877-1932) – manager of railway station bookstall (1911)
  • Frederick William (b1878) – a railway clerk (1901)
  • Benjamin Dan (1879-1882)
  • Annie Victoria (1880-1883)
  • Ellen Ann (1882-1964) – married William Ewart Gladstone Gardner, a commercial traveller
  • Frank Samuel (1884-1951) – a PM Minister
  • Martha Agnes (1885-1957) – a schoolteacher
  • Thomas Ernest (b1888) – a clerk (1911)
  • Ada Annie (1890-1963) – works manageress (1911)
  • Blanche Florence (1891-1977) – married Herbert Robinson
  • Joseph Charles (1895-1925)

Henry died on 26 April 1905 at Watford, Hertfordshire.


  • 1861 Sherborne
  • 1863 Ryde
  • 1865 Ryde & Ventnor
  • 1866 Torquay & Teignmouth
  • 1869 Yeovil & Sherborne
  • 1872 Portsmouth
  • 1874 Hastings
  • 1876 Derby II
  • 1879 Derby I
  • 1883 Burnley
  • 1887 Watford
  • 1891 Grimsby
  • 1895 Old Hill
  • 1897 Reading
  • 1901 Watford


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1893/705; 1906/903

PM Minutes 1905/10

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers



Comments about this page

  • This page was modified on 12 June 2015 to add a transcription of Henry’s obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine 1906.

    By Geoff Dickinson (12/06/2018)

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