Lax, William Henry
1868-1937; e.m. 1895

Commonly known as 'Lax of Poplar', he was born at Chorlton on Medlock, Manchester on 5 January 1868, the son of an iron moulder who later became an insurance agent. The family moved to Wigan, where they attended Frederick Street Wesleyan chapel. In his mid-teens he was cured of a serious stutter at a Salvation Army meeting. After lay appointments in Beccles and Castletown, IOM, he was accepted for the ministry in 1892 and trained for the WM ministry at Didsbury College. After five years at the West London Mission, where he was encouraged and influenced by Hugh Price Hughes, he moved to the Poplar Mission in 1902, becoming Superintendent in 1907. This was the beginning of a 35-year ministry which linked his name for ever with Poplar. His years in the Mission and the desperate poverty and living conditions of that part of East London are described in his five books, particularly his autobiographical Lax of Poplar (1927) and Lax: His Book (1937). A colourful and popular figure, he was made an alderman in 1906 and became Mayor in 1918. He was featured in the Religious Film Society's first talking picture, Mastership (1934). In 1925 he suffered a breakdown in health through overwork. He died in Greenwich on 6 February 1937. The Labour leader George Lansbury broadcast a tribute to him.


'Lax epitomised the Forward Movement's combination of evangelism and social action… Although Lax was physically tiny - only five feet three inches tall - he was a dynamic character with boundless energy, a cheerful disposition, an ability to get on with all sorts of people and a flair for publicity.'

Martin Wellings, in Methodist Recorder, 28 September 2012

  • Methodist Recorder, 11 Feb 1937, 28 September 2012
  • Oxford DNB