Born in London, he served as a Sunday School teacher at Bow Road and Tredegar Road churches and became a local preacher in 1883. In 1889 he went to Rochdale as a lay evangelist under Thomas Champness.
He was sent out to China in 1890 as a '<span class="font-italic">Joyful News</span> evangelist', but was murdered by a mob at Wusueh, in Hupueh Province, on 5 June 1891 at the age of 29 during riots sparked by anti-mission rumours. He thus became 'the first martyr of the Methodist Church in China'. His mother accepted government compensation for his death only on condition that the money was used for Christian work in China. As a result, a memorial chapel was built in Chiao Kow, a suburb of Hankow, four new missionaries (including C.S. Champness, son of Thomas Champness) were sent out to develop the work and several mission stations were established on the frontier with Hunan to the south, in preparation for extension of the work into a province where hostility towards Christianity was notorious.
In 2015 a brass plaque commemorating his life was discovered in the Bow Road safe and was reinstated in his memory.
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