Rule, Dr William Harris
1802-1890; e.m. 1825

WM minister, born at Penryn, Cornwall on 15 November 1802. Brought up as an Anglican, he came into Methodism through the Treffry and Osborn families. Intellectually gifted, he mastered ten languages, including Spanish. After trying to make a living as a portrait painter and schoolmaster, he was ordained in 1826 and served as a missionary in Malta and St Vincent, West Indies, where he was outspoken against slavery. During nine years in Gibraltar (1832-1841) he worked unsparingly among the garrison, providing the first chapel and the first charity school. He won from the War Office the right for Methodist and nonconformist soldiers to attend their own religious services. He later wrote An Account of the Establishment of Wesleyan Methodism in the British Army (1883).

The appointment of a colleague enabled him to devote time and energy to the circulation of the Scriptures in Spain, where he travelled extensively and attempted to establish a mission based on Cadiz, compiling a Spanish hymn book and confronting RC opposition with courage and determination. His experiences were described in his Memoir of a Mission to Gibraltar and Spain (1844). After returning to the English work, he became joint editor at the Book Room (1851-1857). In 1854 he received a DD from Dickinson College, Carlisle, Penn. His History of the Inquisition was published in 1874. He also published a History of the Karaite Jews (1870), a work on biblical monuments (1877) and an autobiography, Recollections of my Life and Work at Home and Abroad (1886). He died at Addiscombe, Croydon, on 25 September 1890.

  • W.H. Rule, Recollections of My Life and Work at Home and Abroad (1886)
  • Methodist Recorder, 2 Oct. 1890
  • O.S. Watkins, Soldiers and Preachers Too (1906), pp.68-105
  • G.G. Findlay and W.W. Holdsworth, The History of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (1921-1924), vol. 2 p.182, vol. 4 pp.419-20
  • Ken Hendrickson, 'Victorian Military Politics of Establishment and Religious Liberty: William H. Rule and the introduction of Wesleyan Methodism into the British army, 1856-1882', in War and Society, 17:2 (October 1999) pp.1-23
  • Susan I Jackson, In the Shadow of a Mighty Rock: A history of the Gibraltar Methodist Church (2009) pp. 77-147
  • Oxford DNB