Woodcock, Henry (1829-1922)

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1877

Early years

Henry was born on 30 April 1829 at Bridlington, Yorkshire to parents William Woodcock and Mary Coupland. He was baptised on 1 January 1830 at Zion Independent Chapel, Bridlington.

As a child he had two narrow escapes from death. He escaped drowning when he was caught up by an angry wave and carried about 200 yards out to sea. Fortunately the returning wave brought him back to the beach. He also fell from a hayloft, experiencing serious injuries, in particular his right arm was paralysed and he needed someone to write for him.

As a child he was once driving a flock of sheep to Filey. He lost control of the flock and a passer-by lent a hand to gather the sheep. When Henry enquired as to the name of his helper, it was William Garner, who later became a colleague at Hull and Driffield.

Henry left school at the age of 9 and was apprenticed to a printer, Mr W Dalby. In 1843, Henry became a tailors apprentice. He was converted at the age of 14 at Bridlington chapel and soon became an exhorter. His preaching skills rapidly developed and he was invited to become itinerant in October 1849, before having completed his time on trial on the plan, by the Louth circuit to supply in place of John Symons who had died suddenly.

Circuit Life

Ritson writes: ‘The Rev. Henry Woodcock brought his young bride to a house consisting of two rooms, which had been used as vestries, situated behind the chapel, and approached by a dark passage. The solitary door opened into a dark and dismal yard used for all purposes by four families, in which clothes were hung to dry on four days a week, except when two families washed on the same day. To make matters worse, the yard was a thoroughfare. Stories without end, of a similar kind, might be gathered from all parts of the connexion. If the ministers were saints, their wives must have been angels.’


Henry’s obituary records that he loved to preach. It was the supreme passion of his life, and his work never lost its halo. He felt a holy, exulting pride in his vocation and no familiarity ever robbed him of the wonder of his great commission.


Henry authored the following.

Rev. William Clowes in Hull. A Souvenir

The gipsies; being a brief account of their history, origin, capabilities, manners and customs, with suggestions for the reformation and conversion of the English gipsies. (1865)

Popery unmasked (1871)

Fact stranger than Fiction

Recent Floods

Wonders of grace; or, The influence of the Holy Spirit manifested in upwards of three hundred and fifty remarkable conversions (1879)

The hero of the Humber; or, The history of John Ellerthorpe (1880)

Students Handbook to Christian Doctrine

Queen Victoria and the royal family.( 1887)

Piety among the Peasantry:  Being sketches of Primitive Methodism in the Yorkshire Wolds (1889)

The romance of reality: Being sketches of homespun heroes and heroines and the part they played in the making of Primitive Methodism (1910)

Seventy sermon outlines: founded mainly on texts not often used. Second series. (1898)

A pamphlet for the people: or reasons why a Primitive Methodist offers passive resistance to the Education Act of 1902.

The two orphans and other tales.


Henry married Elizabeth Horner (1835-1879) in 1854 at Louth, Lincolnshire. Records identify seven children.

  • Sarah Sophia (b1856) – a governess in 1891
  • John William (1857-1945) – a printer
  • Mary Elizabeth (b1860) – a housekeeper in Totnes, Devon in 1911
  • Henry Horner (1861-1862)
  • Henry Horner (1863-1935)
  • Hannah Rebecca (1865-1928) – married Robert Plowes, a cashier
  • Bertha Clara (1867-1955) – married Tom Brook, a dairy farmer
  • Mathew Garner (1870-1945) – a printer compositor

Henry married Ann Eliza Kemp (1849-1929) in 1880 at Sculcoates, Yorkshire. Records identify six children.

  • Annie Lucretia (b1881) – married Stephen Parker, an HM Customs and Excise officer
  • Florence Eliza (1884-1962)
  • Allice (1886-1886)
  • Alice (1887-1971) – married George Henry Denny, an insurance clerk in 1911
  • Frank (1891-1878) – an apprentice fitter in 1911
  • John Kemp (1893-1930) – a joiner in 1911

Henry also adopted two children.

  • George Ayre (1870-1944) – a PM Minister and Missionary
  • Agnes Mary Ayre (1874-1959) – married Mark Williamson, a gardener.

Henry died on 3 January 1922 at Bridlington, Yorkshire.


  • 1850 Alford
  • 1852 Doncaster
  • 1854 Brigg
  • 1856 Hull l
  • 1858 Driffield
  • 1860 Hull ll
  • 1863 Grimsby
  • 1864 Gravesend
  • 1868 Portsmouth
  • 1872 Hull lll
  • 1876 Driffield
  • 1879 Hull l
  • 1883 Morley
  • 1887 Huddersfield
  • 1892 Bridlington (S)


Primitive Methodist Magazine PMM 1877/129; 1922/657

PM Minutes 1922/291

H B Kendall, Origin and History of the PM Church, vol 1, p509

Joseph Ritson, The Romance of Primitive Methodism , 1909, p 215

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers


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