Agar family, of York

Joseph Agar sen. ( ? -1847) was born of Anglican parents on 25 March 1761 at Kilburn, North Riding. At 14 he was apprenticed to John Lister, a York Currier. The influence of a fellow apprentice led him at the age of 19 to attend the Methodists and four years later, having moved to London, he was converted and joined the City Road society, being in John Atlay's class. Deteriorating health led him to return to York where he entered into a successful business partnership with his fellow apprentice Wadman. In 1787 he married Elizabeth Hawkeswell (1763-1841), whose father William Hawkeswell was a prominent York Methodist. The business of Joseph & Benjamin Agar, York curriers, flourished. Joseph sen., a Tory, was elected Sheriff in 1812, a rare distinction at that period for a Methodist. When he was circuit steward, the trustees of New Street chapel (opened 1805) were charged the poor rate, and this led to the case of Rex v. Agar which determined the conditions under which chapels were rated, a judgement that stood until legislative changes in 1830. Closely linked to some of the leading W.M. ministers, such as Jabez Bunting, he was a lay member of the Committee of Privileges as well as a trustee and generous supporter of many of the York Circuit chapels. He died on 13 January 1847.

Of his three surviving children, one son Joseph Agar jun. (1789-1830, e.m.1810) itinerated mainly in the north-west and appears to have had an independent income. Another, Benjamin Agar (born 11 October 1793; died 20 February 1858) was circuit steward and treasurer of the York Benevolent Society. Another member of the family was Joseph Agar Beet DD (d. 1924, e.m. 1864), whose mother was Ann Agar.

Several generations if the family had close links with the private York Cemetery opened in 1837, where Ald. Joseph Agar, Lord Mayor in 1881, 1888 and 1889, is interred.

  • 'Memoir of Benjamin Agar', in Wesleyan Methodist Magazine, 1860 pp.491-4
  • Hugh Murray, This Garden of Death: the history of York Cemetery (York, n.d.)
  • Luke Holt Wiseman, Memoirs of Mrs. Benjamin Agar [Anne Agar] (1872)
  • John Lyth, Glimpses of Early Methodism in York (1885)