Coulson, William (1817-1869)

Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by J.

The subject of this biography was born near South Cave, Yorkshire, about 1818, and died at Tadcaster, January 25th, 1869. His mother was pious, and her prayers, example, and good counsel had a happy influence upon the mind of her son—to this he often made grateful reference. Maternal piety exerts a powerful influence on the souls of a household. How many of the most devoted Christians can joyfully attest this truth! 

In early life our friend often accompanied a pious old shepherd in his rounds, who used to pray in the fields; and he would sometimes lay his hand upon the head of his young companion, and pray that God would bless the lad. There were a simplicity and a beauty about the shepherd’s piety that were never forgotten.

But for years the carnal mind continued to usurp the place of Christ; nor could the most tender, the most fascinating means allure from the paths of sin into the ways of righteousness without the immediate agency of the Holy Spirit.

Mr. Coulson states that it was in 1837 that he became converted to God. It was while pleading with God in the field, deeply conscious of his guilt as a sinner, that he was enabled to believe in Christ to the saving of his soul, and such was his assurance of the blessing, that he has been heard to say that he could go to the very spot where he experienced it. Why should any who are called Christians doubt the possibility of this assurance? Thousands can point to the place where the mighty joy of salvation rolled into their souls, like a wave from heaven, and such experience is in delightful harmony with the Word of God. “If we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Mr. Coulson united with the Wesleyan society, and was for several years a useful local preacher among them. About the year 1849 he joined our society at North Cave, and by his attention to reading, and the improvement of his mind, he became prepared for more extensive usefulness in the work of God. The following reference to this and to a subsequent period of his life is from the Rev. G. Lamb  (******LINK) :—“It is now more than twenty years since J first knew Mr. Coulson; he was then a very acceptable local preacher in the Hull first circuit; his genial disposition, constant life, and attention to the duties of his office, endeared him to many friends. He commenced his (itinerant) labours in the Brigg Branch of Hull circuit in 1851, at the time I was stationed there. Our colleagues were Messrs. F. Duglass and G. Wood, whom he has followed into the eternal world. I found brother Coulson an excellent colleague, earnest to do good, and acceptable to the people, and not without success in the conversion of sinners to God.”

The Rev. E. Tyas writes:—‘’It is more than thirteen years since we first became acquainted with Mr. Coulson, and during that time we have spent five years together, in two circuits, and also have had frequent interviews, and I always found him a pleasant companion, and an agreeable colleague. The social element was largely developed in him; he was fond of society, and would always contribute his full share to the pleasure of a party: his wit and good humour always made him a welcome guest. The friends who entertained him as a minister of the Gospel, were always glad to see him. His emotional nature was rather strong; when preaching the Word of life to perishing sinners his eyes would sometimes redden, and his voice quiver, and a flood of tears would accompany his persuasive utterances. His sermons were generally profitable, and his speeches from the platform very entertaining. Though he preached and spoke an average length of time, I do not remember ever hearing of him wearying a congregation with preaching or speaking too long. He was supplied with a decent stock of useful matter and pleasing incidents, and he had a clever knack of turning common occurrences to good account. He was bookishly inclined, and read rather extensively, and with all, his appointments were punctually attended by him.”

The Rev. J. North writes,— “I beg to add my testimony to my old friend and colleague W. Coulson: we travelled together two years in the Alford station, and we were very comfortable. I found him to be a man of peace, and labouring hard for the salvation of souls. I much regret his early departure from us; I believe that if his life had been spared he would have become more and more useful: he was universally beloved in this the Alford circuit, and has left some fruit of his labours behind him. His talents were respectable, and his preaching well received; his piety was genuine and beyond the common order; he was one of the best colleagues with whom I have ever travelled; always at his post, and faithful to his trust. I could always place the greatest confidence in him.”

In 1857 Mr. Coulson entered the married state with her who is now his sorrowing widow. 

He laboured in the following stations:—Brigg, Tadcaster, Bridlington, Winterton, Alford, Driffield, Pocklington, Swinefleet, and Epworth, and was stationed by the last conference as the superintendent of the Mexborough circuit; but he was only permitted to labour two Sabbaths there before he was laid aside from public work, by the disease that proved fatal. His short acquaintance with the circuit led him to ardently desire recovered health, believing that he would labour with pleasure and success among them; but the all-wise God ordered it otherwise.

In July, 1868, Mr. and Mrs. Coulson came to Tadcaster, and took up their residence with her sister, hoping that by skilful medical treatment and good nursing, he would soon enjoy his usual health again. His affliction was a diseased elbow, and so insidious was its influence, that hopes of his recovery continued to be cherished until within a few hours of his death, so that in his affliction he looked for life rather than death, for returning to his work rather than entering into rest. How uncertain is human life; the strong-built frame, the most robust health, are uncertain objects of trust; nothing here is certain, “the kingdom which cannot be moved,” alone, is certain. “Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find watching.” Our friend was ready for whatever might be the will of God, labour or rest, the duties of earth, or the joys of heaven. I visited him regularly during his illness, and generally found him cheerful. Though the pain from his elbow caused him to sleep but little for weeks together, I never heard him complain. The sentiment of the poet was his solace,—

“Jesus, my all in all thou art;
My rest in toil, my ease in pain.”

Christ crucified was the object of his trust. Amid his sufferings he felt an intense interest in the prosperity of the work of God in his circuit; and it gave him great joy to learn that sinners were getting converted. He continued to sit up all the day to the last evening of his life. On that evening a Wesleyan friend called to see him; after a profitable conversation, Mr. Coulson desired Miss Allanby to read the forty-sixth Psalm— “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” &c.; his friend then engaged in prayer, and Mr. Coulson responded with much feeling. About ten o’clock he retired to bed, walking up stairs with a short rest on the first landing; he slept a while, and on waking thought himself much better. But he was in the vale of death, the calm of his physical nature was in accord with the holy tranquillity of his soul. “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace.” He prayed for God to bless his wife, and expressed his gratitude for the kindness which she and her sister had shown him, and soon became unconscious: he put off mortality for life about six o’clock in the morning.

The following sketch of his character is from the pen of his friend and late colleague, the Rev. R. Cheesman:—‘’1. He was modest; he appeared to set no high estimate upon his own powers or qualifications—he never alluded to them, or suffered any one else to do so unrebuked. He was gentlemanly in his deportment to his inferiors, kind to his equals, courteous to those of elevated station, independent, yet duly respectful towards rulers of the connexion, conscientiously regardful, “rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s ;” though modest, he was not bashful, without. anything assuming in look, word, or action; he was a fine illustration of the truth, ‘‘the righteous is bold as a lion.” :

2. He was humble, and yet he possessed the faith that works by love, and purifies the heart—hope, the anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast— love that burns with an even intense flame, consuming all that “opposeth or exalteth itself against the knowledge of God.” He worked out his salvation with fear and trembling. He was meek and lowly in heart, and inserted the petition, “forgive us our trespasses,” in all his prayers, and felt that his best actions needed the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus.

3. He was affable, cheerful, and frank. He was far from everything like reserve, hypocrisy, or concealment. His thoughts and feelings were at ease; his natural language under no restraint, and his lips ready to utter the uppermost thoughts of his heart.

4. He was benevolent and beneficent; he had learnt to “weep with them that weep, and to rejoice with them that rejoice.” I have known him, on many occasions, act the part of the good Samaritan.” As a preacher he was generally acceptable; he always felt what he said; so deep was his emotion that tears would often flow from his eyes. In describing the tender mercies of “our Father,” or dying love of His Son, in depicting the deep wailings or deplorable silences of hell, in portraying the raptures of the redeemed, the heights of glory, and the face of angels, he moved, and was moved. I always found him a kind and valuable colleague, and shall not soon forget the support he rendered me in a time of severe trial and deep sorrow.”

Our friend is gone; he is but a little in advance of us; he has reached the goal, won the prize, gained the victory, received his crown,—

“Far from a world of grief and sin.”

God grant that the reader and the writer may meet him in the heavenly home. 


William was born in 1817 at South Cave, Yorkshire, to parents John, a farmer, and Esther. He was baptised on 16 February 1817 at North Cave, Yorkshire.

The 1851 census return describes William as a general servant and PM local preacher.

I have not been able to unambiguously identify William’s wife. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

William died on 25 January 1869 at Tadcaster, Yorkshire.


  • 1853 Tadcaster
  • 1855 Bridlington
  • 1857 Winterton
  • 1858 Alford
  • 1860 Driffield
  • 1863 Swinefleet
  • 1865 Pocklington
  • 1867 Epworth
  • 1868 Mexborough


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1869/427

PM Minutes 1869/6

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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