Shields, Edmund Symonds (1836-1889)

Early years

Edmund was born in Norwich in 1836, the son of Daniel and Sarah (nee Symonds). His father was an Upholsterer, and later a Hoop Maker, employing three men. Edmund started work as an apprentice Hoop Maker with his father.


Edmund was converted as a boy under the ministry of the famous preacher Robert Key, with whom he developed a strong friendship, and joined the Primitive Methodist society at the old Lakenham chapel, Norwich. It is said that ‘in consequence of his intelligence and business capabilities he very soon occupied a prominent position in the circuit.’ He became a local preacher, and when only 20 was appointed as the circuit secretary.

He started his ministry in the East Dereham circuit in 1859. After the death of his wife in 1888 his health deteriorated, and it was hoped that a move back to Kirby Cross would raise his spirits. However, unexpected trials were caused by the activities of the Plymouth Brethren to whom the previous minister had gone, and who targeted Primitive Methodist members and disrupted the churches, several local preachers leaving as well.

About two weeks before his death he was moved to Norwich, so that his family could look after him and his four motherless children, and he could receive better medical care, but tragically it was to no avail.

It was said that he was ‘a painstaking minister, and possessed more than average ability’.


Edmund married Maria Lift on 27 April 1864. She was born in Kings Lynn on 6 March 1843, and died suddenly on 21 April 1888, at Grimsbury, near Banbury. Edmund never got over the shock of losing her.

Maria joined the Primitive Methodists at the age of 13, and became involved with working in the Sunday School. She was the eldest daughter of William Lift of Kings Lynn, a butcher.

Edmund and Maria had 4 children

  • Edmund William (1871-1939)
  • Bertha E (1873)
  • Arthur Michael (1876)
  • Ernest H (1878)

Edmund died on 17 November 1889, at 102 Dereham Road, Norwich, at the age of 53. He was buried in King’s Lynn cemetery with his wife, and the funeral service was conducted by George Bell.

After his death much sympathy was felt for the orphaned children who, being homeless, were split up. Bertha Shields went to live with her maternal grandfather.


  • 1859 E Dereham
  • 1861 Bury St Edmunds
  • 1863 Norwich
  • 1865 Yarmouth
  • 1867 Downham
  • 1870 Wisbech
  • 1872 Ipswich
  • 1876 Norwich
  • 1879 N Washam
  • 1883 Richmond
  • 1884 Birmingham II
  • 1885 Oswestry
  • 1887 Banbury
  • 1888 Kirby Cross


Primitive Methodist Magazine, 1890, pp 59, 309 (wife), 753

The Primitive Methodist, 1889, p 779

Primitive Methodist Minutes, 1890, p 18

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers


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