Thornley, William (1843-1921)

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1899
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1922

Early years

William was born on 2 July 1843 at Leyland, Lancashire. By the time of the 1851 census, his mother, Margaret had married William Sharrock, an agricultural Labourer, and was working as a hand-loom weaver of cotton.  William worked as a cotton weaver before entering the ministry.

William attended the West Street Sunday School, Chorley. He was converted through the ministry of Rev. Ambrose Kirkland in a revival. He gave himself to Christian service and to such studies that would render his service more efficient. This led to him becoming a local preacher.  He was called into ministry by his own circuit, although he was unable to take up the post of third minister due to the impact of the Lancashire cotton famine on circuit finances. He became a hired local preacher in the St Helen’s and Preston Stations.


As a preacher, he could declaim, quote poetry, and give wings to his imagination, but his sermons contained more teaching than declamation, more sober reasoning than poetry, and more appeals to the conscience than to the fancy.

As a superintendent he was very prudent and painstaking. He did his work methodically, carefully and well, and has been blessed with a fair amount of success. He had the knack of pulling disaffected parties together, and bringing discordant elements into harmony.


William married Margaret Moore (1844-1920) in the summer of 1867 at Chester. Census returns identify eight children.

  • William Moore (1868-1930) – private secretary to the Earl of Radnor (1911)
  • Mary Elizabeth (b1871)
  • Joseph Bennett (1873-1937) – a schoolmaster
  • Ethel May (1876-1888)
  • John Herbert (1878-1926) – a PM Minister
  • Eleanor Margaret (1880- – married Charles Ellis Wynn, assistant superintendent Prudential Assurance Co (1911)
  • Edith Annie (1883-1958) – a schoolteacher
  • Frederick Arthur (1887-1961) – a clerk (1911)

William died on 22 April 1921 at Newton, Chester, Cheshire.


  • 1863 Paisley
  • 1864 Chester
  • 1866 Bury
  • 1868 Douglas
  • 1869 Birkenhead
  • 1870 Lymm
  • 1873 Leigh
  • 1875 Bacup
  • 1878 Northwich
  • 1880 Warrington
  • 1881 Leigh
  • 1884 Foxhill Bank
  • 1896 Epworth
  • 1897 Bacup
  • 1900 Maidstone
  • 1904 Chester
  • 1909 London (Sup)


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1899/243; 1922/434

PM Minutes 1921/282

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers


Comments about this page

  • His grave is at Saughall Methodist Church (ex PM Chapel) . I have a picture of the grave commemorating him and his wife Margaret and other family members.

    By Tim Macquiban (24/08/2019)
  • Interested to find this page as Rev William Thornley was my great grandfather. I am the grandson of his second son Joseph Bennett Thornley. My father occasionally recalled visiting his grandparents during their retirement in Chester and described them both as kindly lovable souls. The only one I remember in person is Rev William Thornley’s youngest daughter, my father’s Auntie Annie. Physically slight, she had a warm personality and nice sense of humour. She remained a spinster and stayed at home to look after her parents in old age. The existence of the youngest son, Frederick Arthur, is news to me. I can remember my father referring to Uncle Will (William Moore) and Uncle Jack (John Herbert), but never to an Uncle Fred. If you have any further information about the latter, I should be interested to hear it.

    By John Thornley (14/02/2014)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *