Smith, Dr Gervase
1821-1882; e.m. 1844

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WM minister, born at Langley, Derbyshire on 27 June 1821. He was one of fifteen children, several of whom distinguished themselves in various spheres. He was a pupil at the WM Proprietary Grammar School (later Wesley College) in Sheffield and trained for the ministry at Didsbury College. His close association with W. Morley Punshon dated from their schooldays. He was known especially for his missionary addresses. After a distinguished circuit ministry, which included Wesley's Chapel, London from 1865 to 1868, he served as Secretary of the Conference in 1873 and was chosen as President in 1875. He was elected to the Legal Hundred in 1866. An accomplished author and administrator, from 1870 he worked closely with Sir Francis Lycett as secretary of the Metropolitan Chapel Building Fund. He toured Canada, the South Pacific islands and Australia as a representative of British Methodism and attended the first General Conference of the Canadian WM Church in 1874, receiving an honorary DD from Victoria University, Coburg in 1877. He died at Highbury Park, London on 22 April 1882.

His son Sir Clarence Smith (1849-1941), born at Wakefield and educated at Kingswood School, was a member of the London Stock Exchange and Sheriff of London and Middlesex in 1883. As Liberal MP for Hull East 1892-1895, he supported Gladstone's home rule policy and advocated disestablishment for Wales and Scotland. He was knighted in 1895. He died on 10 June 1941.

Of his other sons, Dr. Edward Smith FRS, a physician at Brompton Hospital, was an international authority on diet; the Rev. George Smith was an Anglican clergyman; the Rev. Alfred Owen Smith edited his father's biography; Joseph Smith was in the Indian Civil Service; and Sidney Smith worked for the East India Company.


'I never knew a popular speaker who cultivated variety and freshness in his speeches so systematically as did Gervase Smith. During his Huddersfield term it was his rule to compose one missionary speech every month; and though I have heard from him so many speeches in various parts of the kingdom, during a quarter of a century at least, the leading features of every one of which I can recall, \i cannot remember hearing the same speech twice - or even any telling passage, anecdote, illustration, recitation, or any little play of useul pleasantry. Whoever fancies that the serviceable popularity of Gervase Smith was won without painstaking is very much mistaken…

'He was a sagacious and a shrewd administrator. His essential good-nature and his firm fidelity to the interests entrusted to his supervision formed the propoer basis of operations for his mental aptitudes… Whilst clinging fondly to the traditions of the past, he had enough of the statesman in him to see that organization must sometimes be adjusted to altered conditions, and to lay to heart the lessons of the present, and of the recent as well as of the remoter past. He had no lack of firmness or faithfulness; he could indeed, as a last resport, be sharp and curt; at once incisive and decisive. But humour played a much more prominent and effective part in his management of men and affairs. I have heard men whose ready wit was much more trenchant in debate; much more brilliant in retort… But I never met with any one whose pleasantries so oioed the wheels of business or the waters of strife as that of Gervase Smith.'

Benjamin Gregory, in Alfred Owen Smith (ed.), The Rev. Gervase Smith (1882) pp.18, 27

  • Alfred Owen Smith (ed.), The Rev. Gervase Smith, DD: A memorial volume (1882), including an 'historical sketch' by the Rev. Samuel Lees and 'personal recollections' by the Rev. Benjamin Gregory.
  • George J. Stephenson, Methodist Worthies (1884-1886), 3 pp.448-63