Barrett, Willie Seaman (1868-1925)

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1920
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1920

Early years

Willie was born in 1869 at Norwich, Norfolk to parents William and Kezia. William was a corn merchant’s foreman (1881).

Willie was a member of the Catechumen Class at the Dereham Road Church, Norwich, when he was thirteen. The next year he was a Sunday school teacher. He received a note to preach from Rev George Bell when he was sixteen and achieved ‘Full Plan’ at eighteen.

Willie was a teacher in the higher grade school, and had matriculated at London University when, in 1889, he went to Bolton II circuit as a hired local preacher. A year at Manchester College followed.


As a preacher, Willie was clear, forceful and evangelical in the wider sense. He was a good reader. Bible subjects came first, then history and biography.

Whilst on the Rockland circuit, Willie built the chapel at Attleborough.

Willie served as District Temperance and Equalisation Secretary.

His obituary records that friendliness was one of Willie’s outstanding characteristics. He loved people, all sorts of people. His sympathy and service were easily evoked and freely given.


Willie married Lydia Welsh (1872-1952) in the summer of 1895 at Gateshead, Co Durham. Census returns identify two children.

  • Laura Mary (1899-1976) – married John Hadfield in 1924
  • Walter Herbert (1901-1973) – a schoolteacher (1952)

Willie died on 5 September 1925 at Great Harwood, Lancashire.


  • Hartley
  • 1891 Gateshead II
  • 1893 Sheffield II
  • 1897 York I
  • 1900 Burnley
  • 1904 Blackburn III
  • 1907 Diss
  • 1909 East Dereham
  • 1912 Rockland
  • 1918 Sheffield III
  • 1922 Blackburn III


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1920/486; 1921/464; 1926/141

PM Minutes 1926/251

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

Comments about this page

  • Thank you for the explanation and links. I had no idea that Primitive Methodism was so highly organised and regulated, and run on much more than a whim and a prayer.

    Local preachers must have been very dedicated to the cause, to find time for the initial training and ongoing study and commitments, whilst carrying on with a secular job to earn a living.

    My great grandfather was a local preacher at the turn of the last century, and also had to earn sufficient money as a boot and shoe maker to provide for his large family. On Sundays, his one day off work, he would walk or cycle to chapels to conduct services.

    A great insight into the life of my PM ancestor. 


    By Jane Richardson (16/07/2014)
  • Jane,

    Thank your for your kind remarks.

    To answer the question you posed, the terms ‘On Note’ and ‘Full Plan’ are related to the status of local preachers.

    When someone first decided to become a local preacher, or, as was often the case in Victorian times, was told they should become a preacher, they embarked on a process of study and practical training leading to being fully qualified.

    Firstly the preacher-to-be received a letter, ‘a note’, from the circuit superintendent minister authorizing them to accompany a fully qualified (accredited) local preacher to help take their services. This provided a period of ‘on the job’ training and developed confidence in the new preacher in all the elements associated with leading worship. There would also be a course of study to follow.

    Provided the preacher proved acceptable, the Quarterly Meeting, later the local preachers meeting, transfers the new preachers status to ‘On Trial’. This means that the preacher is now allowed to take services themselves, but they are regularly reported on and continue their studies. Throughout the nineteenth century a more formal course of studies evolved.

    When the preacher had completed the course of studies and been examined, they would undertake a trial service. If this were acceptable they would then be fully accredited by the circuit as a local preacher and go on ‘Full Plan’. There would usually be a service of recognition associated with a preacher, or group of preachers attaining the ‘Full Plan’ status.

    For more information you may wish to look at my page ‘How my Ancester became a Primitive Methodist Preacher in the 1820s’  and follow a link to ‘The General Rules of the Primitive Methodist Church…1912’ where on pages 104-9 there is information about local preachers studies in 1912.

    By Geoff Dickinson (11/07/2014)
  • Geoff

    I enjoy reading your vignettes about Primitive Methodist Ministers. In the above you write that Willie was given a note to preach and went on to achieve ‘Full Plan’.

    Please could you explain the meaning of these, and in what circumstances they would be awarded.

    By Jane Richardson (09/07/2014)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *