Harris, William Lea (1844-1898)

Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by E. Ball

WILLIAM LEA HARRIS was born at Swansea, May 7th, 1844. Being the child of pious parents, he was surrounded from his infancy with godly influences and Christly example, and was early taught to fear the Lord as well as to respect and reverence His people.

His education was conducted with great care, whilst every precaution was taken by his parents in the selection. both of school and teachers. Finally, he was sent to Dr. Aldom’s Academy, Selway House, near London, a place that his father and mother thought would be conducive to his well-being. There he distinguished himself by becoming a member of the Royal College of Preceptors, which title he sometimes used, but in the later years of his life discontinued.

His conversion took place when he was young, and he became a member of our Church.

Some years after his conversion he was put on the plan as a local preacher, and finally called into the ministry. He travelled in the following circuits:— St. Ives, Torquay, Pontypridd Branch, Redruth, Hereford, Barrow-in-Furness, Birkenhead, Bottesford, Pickering, Hay, and Portland.

In most of these circuits he laboured as hard as his strength would permit, and was successful in leaving them better than he found them.

As a preacher he was evangelical, earnest, and intelligent. His sermons were well prepared and well delivered.

In 1869 he entered the marriage state with Miss Sarah Emily Candy, of Charlton, Somerset, who became a great help to him in his work, and who now mourns his loss. Two sons and three daughters were born of this marriage, all of whom are living.

For some years Mr. Harris’s health was feeble, and his sufferings great. In 1889 he was given a year’s rest, and it was hoped by his family that he would be completely restored, but it was not so, and hence, at the Conference of 1890, he was finally placed on the superannuated list, and came to reside in Hereford.

During the first part of his retirement from active work he preached occasionally, and rendered good service to the Church in various ways. But his health continuing to fail, he was compelled to keep to his room, and had even to be fed. In this state he continued for nearly two years, during which time he suffered severely, and was a great anxiety to his family, who rendered him all the help that love and money could provide. His sufferings were patiently borne, and he felt that he was gradually losing his hold upon life and all things therein.

I frequently visited him, and always found him calm and peaceful in mind. There was no rapture but solid peace and confidence in a Living Christ.

On Sunday, October 2, he was suddenly taken worse, and for a while it was thought that, the end had come, but he rallied somewhat, and his family hoped that the danger was passed, but on the following day he ceased to live, and went to be with Jesus, which is far better.

On Friday, October 7, his remains were laid to rest in Hereford Cemetery. The funeral was largely attended by members, officials, and ministers. The Revs. E. Ball, W.H. Nicholas, and J.W. Normandale were the officiating ministers.

On Sunday evening, Oct. 16, the writer improved his death to a large and respectable audience in St. Owen’s Street Chapel, from Romans viii. 18; while the choir rendered Pope’s Ode at the close.

Many letters of sympathy have been received by his wife since his death, and we give a few selections.

The Rev. T. M. Lakin writes: “We were much surprised and grieved on opening your letter this morning to learn that dear Mr. Harris was dead. I do assure you that we all feel for you most sincerely. Though we have, in a sense, been expecting this event to come almost at any moment, yet I am sure the blow is a very heavy one for you and all yours. May God graciously sustain and comfort you all in this great trial.”

Rev. B. Walton says: “It is more than twenty-four years since we had the pleasure of labouring together in the Master’s service. I still remember with gratitude his great kindness to me. But for the Rev. C. T. Harris and your dear husband I might never have been in the ministry.”

The Rev. J.H. Best says: “I have been closely associated with him in the years gone by, and feel that another link with the past is broken.”

Rev. J.W. Coad writes: “Many years ago I made the acquaintance of your husband, and to know him was to love him, he was so frank and good-natured.”

The Rev. A. Johnson writes: “I first knew your now sainted husband when you were stationed at Pickering. His kindness and courtesy to me very favourably impressed me, and convinced me that there was a noble future before him, and that he would worthily tread in the steps of his father. But man sees not as God sees. It was appointed unto him to suffer for his Lord and Master, and to serve Him in the furnace of affliction.”

Rev. D.S. Lees says: “I trust that the great Father, who has helped you to bear the other troubles, will comfort you now. Your poor husband suffered much, and the: burden he was called to bear was a heavy one, yet he showed Christian fortitude beyond the strength many of us possess, and after weary waiting has been called home.”

The venerable William Harvey writes: “Words cannot express the deep sympathy we feel for you in your irreparable loss. We fervently pray for you, and wish for you strong consolation in Christ Jesus.”


William was born on 7 May 1844 at Swansea, to parents Charles Thomas Harris, a PM minister, and Elizabeth Lea.

He married Sarah Emily Candy (1849-1924) in the spring of 1869 in the Clutton Registration District, Somerset. Census returns identify 5 of 6 children.

  • Charles Thomas  (1871-1900) – a book distributor (1891)
  • Margaret Elizabeth (1873-1916)
  • William Arthur (b1875) – a travelling auditor (1911)
  • Mary Emily (b1878) – married William Daniel Richards, a professor of music (1911), in 1907
  • Annie Lea Harris (1883-1956)

William died on 4 October 1898 at Hereford, Herefordshire..


  • 1865 Yeovil & Sherborne
  • 1866 Hastings
  • 1867 Kingswood
  • 1869 St Ives
  • 1871 Pontypridd
  • 1874 Redruth
  • 1875 Hereford
  • 1877 Barrow in Furness
  • 1878 Birkenhead
  • 1880 Pickering
  • 1882 Bottesford
  • 1884 Hay
  • 1886 Weymouth
  • 1887 Portland
  • 1889 Hereford (S)


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1899/385

PM Minutes 1899/10

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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