French, William Alexander (1846-1924)

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1905
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1924
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1921

Early years

William was born in February 1846 at Bishop Auckland, Co Durham to parents Alexander and Isabella. Alexander worked as a mason.

William’s schooldays were spent at Barnard Castle, and Pease West in the Crook circuit. He was converted at the age of sixteen when a scholar at Billy Row Sunday School, Crook. He received his first Society class ticket from Rev. William Clemitson. He became a local preacher two years after becoming a member and two years later entered the ministry, after a second invitation, having declined the first. William worked as a hired local preacher in his own circuit for three months before entering Elmfield College in 1867, the last year that the College received ministerial students.

William trained as a blacksmith before entering the ministry.


In his first circuit, Lowick, William’s first week-night appointment was twenty miles from his home. He had to walk the whole distance and return the next day.

His obituary records that his pulpit meditations were models of practical wisdom, full of epigram, literary allusion and presentations of the boundless grace of God.

William filled the offices of District Missionary Secretary and Ministerial Candidates Examiner, each for five years. He also served as Building Committee Secretary in the Sunderland and Newcastle District. He was appointed Secretary of the Scarborough Conference in 1905.

On settling in Gateshead, William successfully undertook for a number of years the oversight of Joicy Road Church.


William married Isabella Wilson (1847-1921) in the summer of 1874 at Crook, Co Durham. Census returns identify six of seven children.

  • James Wilson (b1875) – an analytical chemist
  • Frederick Alexander (b1877) a chemist
  • Lilian Mary (1879-1951) – married Frederick Sidgwick, a clerk (railway wagon works) in 1911
  • Herbert William (1880-1935) – a customs officer
  • Ernest Matthew (b1882) – a schoolteacher
  • Maud Elizabeth (b1886)

William’s four sons were all educated at Elmfield College, York.

William died on 7 April 1924 at Gateshead, Co Durham.


  • 1868 Lowick
  • 1871 Maryport
  • 1872 Hexham
  • 1875 Shildon
  • 1879 Middlesborough
  • 1883 S Shields
  • 1886 Middleton
  • 1891 Staithes
  • 1893 Eston
  • 1897 Shildon
  • 1901 Newcastle III
  • 1908 Jarrow
  • 1912 Gateshead (S)


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1905/591; 1921/802 (wife); 1924/582

PM Minutes 1924/271

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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