Bellham, William Green (1797-1854)

Primitive Methodist Magazine
Englesea Brook Museum ENBM 1990.21.33a

William was born on 24 March 1797 at Lynn Regis. He served a seven year apprenticeship as a shipwright before becoming a minister.


Ritter writes; ‘At Daventry, W G Bellham was greeted with cries of: “No bacon preachers!” “Church and King forever!” He was seized by the mob, and still clinging to the chair on which he had stood up to preach, he was carried up the street and back again. The a group of men “Jonathan Barneyed” him, as a couple of costermongers roll oranges backward and forward in a bag. All his efforts to get out of the circle were in vain, and at last he was so battered and hustled that he fell, and fully expected to be trodden to death by his tormenters. But he was singularly preserved, and escaped with the loss of his hat and one lap of his coat.’

Petty relates that William assisted with the first camp-meeting held in Oxfordshire in May 1825. William also had a difficult time preaching in Oxford outside the walls of the city prison. Students took great delight in throwing eggs and stones.

The conference of 1825 appointed William to the Lynn circuit. William visited Litcham for the first time on 27 July 1825. In the course of conducting worship he had a run in with the local clergyman, which resulted in William being imprisoned and brought before the magistrates. Petty relates the extensive exchange in full, sufficient to say that William argues his way out of further punishment and makes the magistrate and clergyman look rather stupid.


William married Elizabeth Bottom (1805-1872) on 8 March 1827 at St Nicholas, Lynn, Norfolk. Census returns identify seven children.

  • Elizabeth (1831-1921) – married Thomas Smith, a police constable and later an auctioneers porter.
  • Margaret (1834-1881) – married George Hubbard Kidd, a baker
  • Mary Ann (1836-1921) – married George Platt, a naval mariner
  • John (b1838)
  • Isaac (1841-1842)
  • Rebecca (1841-1916) – married Thomas Smith, a tailor
  • Susannah (1843-1927) – married Joseph Keirman, a gas stoker

William died on 24 Mar 1854 at Ramsgate, Kent.


  • 1821 Scotter
  • 1822 Loughborough
  • 1824 Welton
  • 1825 Lynn
  • 1827 Fakenham
  • 1829 Upwell
  • 1830 Yarmouth
  • 1832 Brandon
  • 1834 N Walsham
  • 1836 Mattishall
  • 1837 Wangford
  • 1839 Rockland
  • 1841 Upwell
  • 1843 Brandon
  • 1845 Norwich
  • 1847 Wisbech
  • 1849 Ipswich
  • 1850 Sheerness
  • 1851 Ramsgate


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1827/136;  1838/401; 1854/385; 1914/190

PM Minutes 1854/6

H B Kendall, Origin and History of the PM Church, vol 1, p343

J Petty, The History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion, 1880, p201, p230

Joseph Ritson, The Romance of Primitive Methodism , 1909, p 167

Oliver Jackson, The spiritual hero, or the life of Mr. Wm. Green Bellham, one of the pioneers or early ministers of the Primitive Methodist Connexion. , pub 1858

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers


Comments about this page

  • W.G.Belham was originally a Wesleyan local preacher but he had heard a Primitive preach on October 23rd 1820. At the close of the meeting a friend had proposed to join the Primitives and offer as a candidate for the ministry, if he would do the same. He determined to do so in April 1821, and became a travelling preacher in May 1821, in the Scotter circuit. Of the preacher he had heard he wrote:

    “I thought I never saw so much of God in a man before; he was all love; and every word he uttered was like honey dripping from the honeycomb.”

    So he came to preach at he opening of the Epworth chapel in 1821, taking Isaiah 2.3 as his text.

    Whilst in the Scotter circuit he came into contact with the Woodhouse family of Owston Ferry. Elizabeth Woodhouse was a correspondent of John Wesley’s and she and her husband gave the land for the first Wesleyan chapel there.

    He reported that when at Litcham he was challenged by a magistrate as to whether he was a licensed preacher. He said he was as he had been given a license from Squire Woodhouse justice of the peace at Owston in Lincolnshire. When asked if he knew him he replied;

    “Yes Sir, I have taken breakfast with him and his lady several times, and prayed with them and he with me; and we have had some precious seasons together; and I have heard him in the kitchen exhort sinners to repentance.  He is wise and pious, and a blessing to his neighbours.”

    By David Leese (31/01/2017)
  • This page was modified on 20 November 2015 to add the marriage of daughter Margaret and link to a page about her husband.

    By Geoff Dickinson (20/11/2015)
  • Dear Mr Dickinson thank you so much for posting this interesting research and Williams image. Williams is my grt grt grt grandfather .His daughter Rebecca married Thomas Smith and their son Thomas Bellham Smith was my grt grandfather. Some private papers and letters written by William are still kept by the family but we have never seen his image. Thank you so much.

    By Carolyn Sherry (15/12/2013)

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