Kirby, William (1808-1882)

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1862
Copy provided by Steven Carter

Early Years

William was born on 31 August 1808 at South Wootton, Norfolk to parents Dennis Kirby and Keziah Garner. He was baptised on 4 September 1808 at South Wootton. Dennis was a Wesleyan local preacher. On moving to Kings Lynn, William’s mother joined with the Primitive Methodist society. By the age of 17, William had become a ‘trial’ to his parents. He went out of curiosity to hear a female preacher with his mother and had his conversion experience.

On the day of his his conversion he is recorded as saying; ‘Mother, burn that cricket bat of mine, do burn it, for I have so often broken the Sabbath playing with that; I must have it burned, then it will never tempt me to break the Sabbath again.’


Following his conversion, William soon became a succesful local preacher and in 1834 started as an itinerant preacher. he spent the whole of his ministry in the Norfolk District but is particularly remembered for being the father of Primitive Methodism in Peterborough where he was sent on mission when he first became an itinerant.


He married Mary Ann Bottom (1807-1881) on 15 Apr 1830 at Lynn, Norfolk. Records identify nine children.

  • Mary Ann (b1831) – a dressmaker
  • Margaret (1833-1904) – married William Tuddenham, a carpenter
  • Elizabeth (b1835)
  • William (b1837) – a tallow chandler
  • Sarah Jane (b1838)
  • Susannah Maria (1842-1906) – married Edward Drew, a railway porter
  • Lydia (1844-1915) – married Frederick Stevens. In 1870, married George Cullum, a tailor and PM local preacher.
  • John George (1846-1913) – a journey miller, later superintendent with Prudential Assurance Co.
  • Selina (1849-1929) – married John Joseph Steed, a printer compositor

William died on 1 May 1882 at Soham, Cambridgeshire.


  • 1836 Snettisham
  • 1837 Swaffham
  • 1839 Cambridge
  • 1841 Rockland
  • 1845 Fakenham
  • 1847 Brandon
  • 1849 Peterborough
  • 1851 Soham
  • 1853 Norwich l
  • 1854 Yarmouth
  • 1856 Docking
  • 1858 Aylsham
  • 1860 Bury St Edmunds
  • 1862 Brandon
  • 1864 St Ives, Hunts
  • 1866 Swaffham
  • 1868 Bury St Edmunds (S)
  • 1874 Ely


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1862 (portrait); 1882/691; 1883/433 (wife)

PM Minutes 1882/11

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

Comments about this page

  • Good to have this information about William Kirby.  His daughter Lydia was my great grandmother. 

    By Jill Newsham (25/08/2016)
  • What an amazing find – William Kirby is my 3x great uncle. Thank you for all the information about him and as a bonus a photo!

    By Linda Wright (04/04/2013)

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