Smith, William, of Newcastle upon Tyne

Influential layman, born at Corbridge on Tyne in 1736. As John Wesley's step-son-in-law, he enjoyed a unique influence in north-eastern Methodism. As a young man he settled in Newcastle, establishing business interests which led to his becoming a wealthy corn merchant. He joined the society meeting at the Orphan House and was appointed a class leader by John Wesley at the age of about 20. He married Jane Vazeille (1736-1820) in 1769. Their daughters were regarded by Wesley as his grandchildren. Mary married John Stamp (d. 1831; e.m. 1787, the father of William W. Stamp by his second wife); Jane married Christian Sundius.) He became an invaluable aide to John Wesley through his faithful service to Methodism and as Wesley's travelling companion in the north. In 1774 he prevented a serious accident when Wesley's carriage horses bolted. Anxious to preserve peace within Methodism after 1791 and despite his liberal inclinations and friendship with Alexander Kilham, he remained loyal to WM, accepting the Plan of Pacification of 1795. In 1820 he was a founder member of Brunswick Chapel, which replaced the Newcastle Orphan House, where his portrait still hangs. The family tomb is in St. Andrew's churchyard. He died on 30 May 1824.

  • W.W.Stamp, The Orphan House of Wesley, with notices of early Methodism in Newcastle upon Tyne (1863) pp.121-2
  • WHS Proceedings, 16 pp.125-27
  • Geoffre E. Milburn, 'Piety, Profit and Paternalism' in WHS Proceedings, 44 (1983-84)
  • Terry Hurst, 'Biographies in Church Monuments: William Smith and Jane Vazeille of Newcastle upon Tyne', in David J. Hart and David J. Jeremy (eds.), Brands Plucked from the Burning: Essays on Methodist Memorialisation and Remembering (2013) pp.197-218