Watkinson, Dr William Lonsdale
1838-1925; e.m. 1858

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WM minister, born on 30 August 1838 in Hull. He began his circuit ministry atStratford-on-Avon after only six weeks in college and quickly rose to eminence. He was Connexional Editor 1893-1904 and was elected President of the Conference in 1897 with the largest vote since the death of John Wesley. As a leading figure among the WM conservatives, he was one of the foremost opponents of Hugh Price Hughes. A prolific writer, his books included several volumes of sermons and the Fernley Lecture of 1886 on The Influence of Scepticism on Character. His tall, lanky figure was sometimes likened to that of Abraham Lincoln and earned him the nickname of 'the giraffe of Methodism'. He was widely known for his lively wit; but he once said, 'Humour sometimes gets the better of me in the pulpit, but I never allow it to appear in my printed sermons.' He died on 14 February 1925. His considerable collection of Methodist documents was bequeathed to the New Room, Bristol.


'He is one of the greatest preachers of his age. And what a fresh, breezy personality he is at over eighty years of age! A voracious reader. An acute observer. A master of satire. A wonderful wielder of epigrams. A humorist of hughest quality. A noble example of a broad evangelical. A real appreciator of brethren whose qualities and outlooks are remote from his own,,,'

Dinsdale T. Young, Stars of Retrospect (1920) pp.80-1

'I heard Dr. Watkinson [in Plymouth] several times. The preacher himself was as remarkable as his sermons. Very tall and very thin, the attenuated body was crowned with a magnificent head. I always had the impression, however, that he knew his sermon too perfectly, and had preached it many times before. This could not always be so, of course, and I suspect that the severe demands he made upon himself in the pulpit would not allow him to trust himself with a sermon which had not been fully prepared and highly polished.'

Richard Pyke, Men and Memories(1948) p.68

'Nobody ever felt that he preached too long, though he might go, and very often did, well over the hour. Dr. Watkinson, with his exquisite illustrations, his whimsical quips, his famous sniffs, and his own rollicking enjoyment of his preaching, kept the worst listener in the congregation thoroughly alive. He enjoyed himself so much sometimes that he did not end when he had finished the sermon, but drew out of the treasury of his memory favourite bits from other sermons that were deftly worked in to "keep the ball rolling". I heard him preach on one occasion for an hour and twenty minutes, and nobody who was not called away on urgent business wished he would leave off.'

Harry Jeffs, Press, Preachers and Politicians. Reminiscences: 1874-1932 (1933), p.78

  • Methodist Recorder, 19 Feb 1925; Winter Number, 1897, pp.17-20
  • John Bishop, 'W.L. Watkinson: the touch of reality' in Preaching, 5:2, March-April 1990, pp.41-44