Fernley, John

WM layman, born in Stockport on 12 April 1796. A highly successful cotton manufacturer, in early manhood he was drawn to the Established Church and seriously considered entering the priesthood, but soon returned to the Methodism in which he had been nurtured. In 1825 he moved from Stockport to Manchester, married in 1827 and retired soon afterwards to devote himself to public and Methodist philanthropy. He was a trustee and treasurer of Oxford Road, Oldham Street and Ancoats chapels in Manchester. He led a class for 46 years, until deafness forced him to resign the office in 1869.

Jabez Bunting, whom he supported during the periods of agitation, recommended him as treasurer of the Chapel Fund. He was a founder manager of The Watchman and a strong supporter of the theological college at Didsbury. He introduced times of prayer in his factory and was eager to give a good account of the stewardship of his wealth. His philanthropy was catholic, supporting hospitals, mental institutions and dispensaries in Manchester, Stockport and Lancaster. He also financed the building of the Methodist headquarters in Rome when the Holy City was 'opened up' to Protestants. During retirement in Southport, he financed the building of Trinity Hall school and Trinity Chapel, Duke Street (where he himself worshipped), and presented the town with a Meteorological Observatory in Hesketh Park and a lifeboat named in memory of his wife Eliza. He instigated the Fernley Lecture in 1869 and died on 16 January 1873.

His older brother Thomas Fernley (1789-1867) took a particular interest in Sunday School work and was instrumental in the building of Tiviot Dale chapel in Stockport.

  • Methodist Recorder, 24 Jan. 1873
  • Watchman, 22 Jan. 1873
  • WM Magazine, March/April 1874
  • G.J. Stevenson, Methodist Worthies (1884-86), 4 pp.576-79
  • WHS (NL) Bulletin no.20