Shrewsbury family
1795-1866; e.m. 1815

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William James Shrewsbury(1795-1866), a WM missionary in the Caribbean and South Africa, was born at Deal, of humble origins. His parents were Calvinists, but he converted them to Armininism. Appointed to the West Indies in 1815, he served for nine years in Tortola, Grenada and Barbados. He married Hillaria King, daughter of an architect and builder in Barbados. She died in 1835, aged 33.

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He and his wife suffered severe persecution for their opposition in Barbados to slavery at the time of a slave uprising in 1824 and they had to flee for their lives. Returning to England, in 1826 he was appointed to South Africa and pioneered the work of the Butterworth Station in Kaffirland, returning to the home work in 1836. Joining the temperance movement while stationed at Bradford in 1838, he wrote several pamphlets, notably Alcohol against the Bible, and the Bible against Alcohol (1840). He died at Bacup on 25 February 1866.

By his two marriages, Shrewsbury founded a dynasty of six Wesleyan ministers, plus one educational missionary and two Anglican clergymen.

His eldest son, Jeremiah Schwartz Shrewsbury (1823-1896; e.m. 1858), born in St. Vincent, was educated at Woodhouse Grove School. He returned to the West Indies, where he was engaged in business and became a local preacher. He was ordained in 1858 and after serving in several circuits returned to England in 1873. After serving in eight English circuits, he retired to Nottingham, where he died in 1896. His eldest daughter, Arabella Branch Shrewsbury (1861- 1947) was born in Demerara and became an educational missionary in Trichinopoly, India and then in Ceylon. She died in Doncaster in 1947. His eldest son, John Sutcliffe Wesley Shrewsbury (1865-1931; e.m.1891), born in the West Indies, was educated at Woodhouse Grove and London University and ordained in 1891. He served in the Negapatam District, India 1891-1900. After service in several English circuits, he retired to Bury, Lancs and died there on 1 October 1931.

W.J. Shrewsbury's second son, John Vincent Brainerd Shrewsbury (1826-1898; e.m. 1849), sometimes known as 'Alphabet Shrewsbury', was born in Capetown and educated at Woodhouse Grove. Feeling unworthy of entering the ministry, he began an educational career. He taught at King Edward VI Grammar school, Retford, before candidating for the ministry in 1848. Though twice declining to serve as a District Chairman, he was later elected to the Legal Hundred.. He retired in 1891 and died in Nottingham on 14 January 1898. His oldest son, Henry William Shrewsbury (1858-1921; e.m. 1879), born at Holbeck, Yorks in October 1858, was educated at Wesley College, Sheffield and entered the ministry in 1879. Like his father he had a great love of music and the arts, composed a considerable amount of church music and wrote a biography of his father, as well as studies of Holman Hunt, Millais and G.F. Watts. He died at Dorking on 17 January 1921. Two generations later, his grandson, John Lionel Cheverton Shrewsbury (1918-1999) was born at Grimsby on 26 December 1918. He went to Jesus College, Oxford as a gentleman commoner in 1937, candidated for the ministry in 1939 and studied at Wesley House, Cambridge 1940-1942. He was ordained in 1945 and retired to Carlisle in 1984. He died on 31 December 1999.

By his second marriage (to Mary Ann Durham Beale) W.J. Shrewsbury had a third ministerial son, Abraham Robert Boys Shrewsbury (1844-1885; e.m. 1876), born at Rawtenstall, Lancs, on 20 January 1844 and educated like his older brothers at Woodhouse Grove. Apprenticed to a Bradford businessman, in 1871 he sailed to Bermuda. Accepted for the ministry in 1873, he moved to Prince Edward Island the following year and was ordained into the ministry of the Methodist Church of Canada in 1876, but died on 30 July 1885.

Two members of the family became Anglican clergy: Cheverton Shrewsbury (1872-1958), for many years vicar of Thringstone, Leics; and Michael Buller Shrewsbury (1930-2020), incumbent of several London parishes and a prebendary of St. Paul's Cathedral.

  • J.V.B. Shrewsbury, Memorials of the Rev. William J. Shrewsbury, an Holy Man of God (Manchester, 1867)
  • William Moister, Missionary Worthies, 1782-1885 (1885) pp.113-15
  • Henry W. Shrewsbury, This Chance of Noble Deeds: the life record of John V.B. Shrewsbury (1898?)
  • Joan Shrewsbury, 'The Shrewsbury Line: eight Methodists & Two Anglicans', in Wesley Historical Society, Cumbria Branch Bulletin no. 40, Autumn 1997, pp.2-6
  • David Carter, 'The Ecumenical Principles of William James Shrewsbury', in One in Christ, vol.36 (2000) pp.365-77