Punshon, William Morley, LL.D
1824-1881; e.m. 1845

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WM minister, born in Doncaster on 29 May 1824, to a Methodist family with trading connections in Hull and Sunderland, where he became a local preacher in 1840. His uncle Benjamin Clough encouraged him to enter the ministry and he trained at Richmond College. He was appointed to Hinde Street, London in 1858 on the strength of his growing reputation as a preacher and public lecturer, and was elected to the Legal Hundred in 1859. His lectures on Bunyan, Wilberforce and the Huguenots were highly popular and raised much money for the Watering Places Fund and the Metropolitan Chapel Building Fund. The first Punshon Memorial Church (1886) at Bournemouth was built in his memory.

The death of his first wife, Maria Vickers of Gateshead, and overwork ruined his health, which he tried to restore by a grand tour of Europe. He went to Canada as British representative to its Conference and served as its President 1868-73. It was this period which made it possible for him to marry his sister-in-law, Fanny Vickers, who died in 1870. He was instrumental in the building of the prestigious Metropolitan Church, Toronto (1872), colloquially known as 'Mr. Punshon's Church'. He received an LLD from Victoria University, Coburg, Canada in 1872. Returning to Britain he married for the third time, was elected President in 1874 and was one of the Secretaries of the WMMS from 1875 until his early death. Proceeds from his published lectures went to the Thanksgiving Fund and his Sabbath Chimes (1867) was a well loved devotional on the Christian year. Two of his hymns from it were included in the 1904 Wesleyan Hymn Book and survived into the 1933 book (MHB 662 and 666). He was a founder and director of the Methodist Recorder and its first editor. He died at Brixton Hill, London on 14 April 1881.


[In 1865 Mark Guy Pearse as a young man recorded his impression of Punshon as a preacher.]

'He preached a grand sermon, bt to me 'twas like a man going along a road fill'd with costliest apples of gold … and he stoops to pick up one, when another drops; he runs to it, and then comes another; he leaves the former for that one, and is drawn off by another, till he hasn't got one of the prizes and only remembers their beauty. I couldn't send you now a single idea of his sermon perfectly, yet I listened most attentively, and can usually carry away the greater part of a sermon that interests me.'

Quoted in Derek R. Williams, Cornubia's Son: a Life of Mark Guy Pearse (2008), p.51

[Punshon's first circuit appointment, in 1845, was to Whitehaven, where the daughter of his Superintendent, William Huddlestone, observed his popularity, especially among members of the fair sex.]

'He came a great deal to our home, and used to recite for our entertainment fine examples of prose and poetry from the great writers. As long as John [her brother] was able to bear it, he frequently read aloud, and I considered him an extraordinarily clever man. And, if one looked only at his fine eyes and forehead, he was also a very handsome man. I am sure all the religious young women in Whitehaven thought so, and he was much praised and courted, the chapel being crowded whenever he preached.'

Amelia Barr, All the Days of my Life (New York, 1913) p.62

'William Morley Punshon was a great orator, a mighty preacher, a fascinating personality. Nearly all his imitators lacked most of his charm, his poetry, his power to thrill, his indescribable pulpit ability... Punshon died in 1881, at only fifty-six. He had been, for a few years, one of the world's most popular preachers and one of its foremost platform lecturers. Deservedly, his eloquence andf dramatic power secured him front rank as an orator in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States of America.'

C.H. Kelly, Memories(1910) pp.72-3

'I remember going to hear Dr. Punshon lecture on the Mayflowerto a crowded audience at the Pavilion [Brighton]. I had never seen or heard him before, and I was disappointed. I felt I lost the drift of his lecture and his special points in the torrent of his eloquence.'

Katherine Price Hughes, The Story of my Life(1945) p.53

'"Punshonic" was a well-known and much used epithet. It signified a peculiar type of pulpit and platform eloquence - the climacteric style. Often it was uttered with warm appreciation, and quite as often (especially by those to whom the grapes were sour) as a term of ridicule… Morley Punshon was, as to pure oratory, one of the finest speakers to whom I ever listened. As an elocutionist he excelled all the preachers or speakers I have heard. His face was, at first sight, disappointing; but it lightened in a remarkable manner as he proceeded with his discourse… [His] voice was husky and harsh as he began, but as he advanced it rang out like a splendid clarion…'

Dinsdale T. Young, Stars of Retrospect (1920) pp.41-2

  • Obituary in Wesleyan Minutes of Conference, 1881
  • T. McCullagh, The Rev. W.M. Punshon (1881)
  • G.J. Stevenson, Methodist Worthies (1884-1886), 3, pp.464-79
  • F.W. Macdonald, The Life of William Morley Punshon (1887)
  • Wesley and his Successors (1895) pp.225-28
  • Methodist Recorder, Winter Number,1905 pp.67-8; 1907 pp.47-8
  • Joseph Dawson, William Morley Punshon, the orator of Methodism [1906]
  • A History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain, vol.4 (1988), pp557-8