Piercy, George
1829-1913; e.m. 1851

First WM missionary in China, born at Lockton, near Pickering on 27 February 1829 and baptized at Levisham. When about 12 or 13 he was apprenticed to a Whitby sea captain and spent some time at sea before returning to Pickering where he started preaching and decided to go to China as a missionary. He travelled to Hong Kong at his own expense in 1851 because the WMMS felt unable to undertake work in China. After some months in Canton (Guangzhou), he again offered his service and the Society responded by ordaining William Beach and Josiah Cox for China, sending a letter of ordination for Piercy and naming him as Superintendent of the Mission. His fiancée Jane Wannop sailed with them. She arrived in Hong Kong in 1853 and they were married at St. John's Cathedral.

A boys' school was opened in Canton in 1853 and some months later Mrs Piercy, who had trained as a teacher, opened what became the first boarding school for girls in China, with accommodation in their own home, and a further school for boys. Piercy chaired the first WM Synod in China in December 1853 but in 1856 the Second Chinese War necessitated their leaving for Macau until 1858. During his 31 years' ministry the WM mission was firmly established under his leadership.

Mrs Piercy died of tuberculosis in 1878 and was buried in Canton, although the grave is now lost. She left four children. He was invalided home in 1882, married Annie Taylor and spent his closing years working among the Chinese in the Port of London, especially in Limehouse. He died at Leytonstone on 16 July 1913. His coffin was brought back by train to Pickering and he was buried in the graveyard of Hungate Wesleyan chapel (now the Kirk Theatre). His headstone is now in St. Peter & St. Paul churchyard, Pickering.

  • Methodist Recorder, Winter Number 1900, pp.69-81
  • Methodist Recorder, 24 July 1913
  • Newly produced leaflet to mark the centenary of his death, Beck Isle Museum, Pickering
  • Jane Ashby, A Life Remembered: George Piercy, 1829-1913 - the Yorkshire Farm Boy who fouded a Mission in Canton, China (Haxby, 2016)

Entry written by: DCD and GRS
Category: Person
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