Hemshall, Charles Walter Bowdler (1899-1977)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference

CHARLES WALTER BOWDLER HEMSHALL: born in Coppenhall, Cheshire, on 1st May 1899. He was brought up in the Coppenhall Methodist Church and it was there that he began his local preaching at the age of sixteen. Soon afterwards he became a sea cadet in the Navy, in which he spent the remainder of the First World War. After the war he did youth work in North Wales and was then accepted for the Primitive Methodist ministry and entered Hartley College in 1921. After leaving college he served in the Market Rasen Circuit and it was during this time that he responded to a call from the Church for missionary volunteers. He was appointed to the Central Africa District and worked in the area that is now Zambia. 

Returning from Africa he served in a variety of circuits in different parts of the country. In them all a simplicity of faith, a whimsical spirit and a deep devotion to the work of the ministry marked all that he did. He loved his Lord and it was his joy to commend him in his preaching with engaging sincerity. His genuine humility, his musical abilities and his faithful discharge of administrative and pastoral responsibilities brought comfort, encouragement and guidance to many. As a Superintendent he is remembered by his colleagues for his unaffected friendship and generous concern. 

He became a supernumerary in 1964 and the following year settled in Taunton where he continued to serve the Church and build new friendships. He was married twice, to Doris Parry of Tintern in 1953, who died in 1971, and then to Dorothy Spurway in 1974. After many months of increasing weakness, in which he was lovingly cared for by his wife, he died peacefully in Halse Manor Hospital, Taunton, on 19th March 1977 in the seventy-eighth year of his age and in the fifty-fourth year of his ministry.


Charles was born on 1 May 1899 at Coppenhall, Cheshire, to parents Edward Bowdler and Amelia Heginbothom. I have not been able to identify when or why he added the surname Hemshall.

He married Doris Irene Parry (1907-1971) in early 1953 in the Chepstow Registration District, Monmouthshire.

He married Dorothy Lilian Spurway (1909-2004) in the summer of 1974 at Taunton, Somerset.

Charles died on 19 March 1977 at Taunton, Somerset.


  • Hartley
  • 1924 Central Africa
  • 1926 Scotter
  • 1927 Pillowell
  • 1928 Hurstbourne Tarrant
  • 1929 Barton on Humber
  • 1932 Brotton
  • 1933 Malmsbury
  • 1935 Frome
  • 1938 Stroud &c
  • 1941 Malton
  • 1942 Sutton &c
  • 1943 Pudsey &c
  • 1944 Grantham
  • 1946 Chesterfield Mt Zion
  • 1948 Pontypool Eastern Valley
  • 1949 Blyth &c
  • 1950 Supernum
  • 1953 Pontytpool Park Terrace (Ac)
  • 1956 Towcester
  • 1958 Pembroke
  • 1961 Tipton Bell St
  • 1964 Williton (S)


Methodist Minutes 1977/69

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

Comments about this page

  • Charles Walter Bowdler Hemshall (b. 1st May 1899) was my Great Uncle. My Nan (Alice May Bowdler b. 6th Jan 1892) was one of his older sisters. They were a family of 10 children and in 1908, when the youngest was just 2 years old, their Father died. The family story goes that the eldest son went out to work to bring in the money and the second son, i.e. Charles, was adopted by a Methodist Minister. We now believe this to be a kind of sponsorship rather than an adoption, as legal adoptions didn’t exist then. He appears to have spent his formative years with John and Julia Hemshall, training to be a Minister and being a son to them as well as his own Mother. Whether money changed hands we will never know. Once his own Mother had died in July 1934, he started proceedings to add Hemshall to his name officially. They were perhaps in the habit of “adopting” strays as on the 1911 census they have an adopted daughter listed, one Elsie Smith. Charles stayed in touch with his birth family as my Nan used to write to him, but they sadly lost touch in their later years. I would assume that Julia Hemshall ended up in Wales to be near her “son” in her latter years and Charles’s address on his marriage certificate in January 1953 is the same as that on Julia’s probate registry entry in July 1953 – Crown Cottage, Tintern.
    I hope this helps to clear up a bit more of the mystery for you?

    By Julia Sheehan (27/06/2020)
  • You wrote that “Charles was born on 1 May 1899 at Coppenhall, Cheshire, to parents Edward Bowdler and Amelia Heginbothom. I have not been able to identify when or why he added the surname Hemshall.”

    I had a look at this a few years ago, and it seems that Charles Walter Bowdler added ‘Hemshall’ in 1935. The reference is ‘The London Gazette’ of 9 Jul 1935 (Issue No. 34178) – see http://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/34178/page/4499.

    My reason for looking at Charles Walter Bowdler is that Julia Eliza Hemshall (nee Smith) was my great-grandfather’s sister. Julia was the wife of John Henry Hemshall (another Primitive Methodist minister), and outlived him by 30 years. Julia died in Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales in 1953, and her probate record reads “HEMSHALL Julia Elizabeth Sutherland otherwise Julia Eliza of Crown Cottage Tintern Chepstow Monmouthshire widow died 13 June 1953 at The Royal Gwent Hospital Newport Monmouthshire Probate Llandaff 7 August to the reverend Charles Walter Bowdler Hemshall methodist minister. Effects £90 8s. 11d.” So Charles Walter Bowdler Hemshall was the executor of Julia’s modest estate.

    I had initially assumed that Charles Walter Bowdler Hemshall must be related to John Henry Hemshall, but of course there was no connection at all, because Charles wasn’t really a Hemshall. I haven’t followed this matter any further, but it would be interesting to find out how Julia ended up in Wales given that she was from Essex and her husband was from Lincolnshire, and it would also be interesting to find out her connection with Charles Walter Bowdler Hemshall. Maybe Julia had some involvement with Charles’ change of name??

    By Simon Smith (24/03/2020)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.