Treffry, Richard
1771-1842; e.m. 1792

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WM minister, born at Newton farmhouse, Cuby, near Tregony, Cornwall on 25 November 1771. He was President of the Conference in 1833. Despite a limited education, by dedicated application became an able scholar and took up the role of disputant in an era when the Methodist case often needed arguing. Many of his pamphlets, biographies and theological works continued in print after his death. His published sermons, while orthodox and logical in presentation, were dry and formal - 'entirely lacking in the note of joy' according to a writer in the WM Magazinein 1923. He was an able administrator, becoming the youngest Circuit Superintendent in Cornwall at the age of 29. Subsequently he rarely held a Superintendency without also being District Chairman.

In 1831 he served briefly as Joint House Governor at Woodhouse Grove School, although not with great success. His later appointment as House Governor at Hoxton Theological Institution, 1838, was more suited to his talents, though his health forced him to retire in 1841. Although his (largely unpublished) journal is narrowly Methodist, it is none the less a mirror of the life and affairs of a WM preacher during the period 1802-1809: his preaching, administration of Methodist discipline, his journeying to and from Conference and many aspects of daily life.

His disputational skills were honed in Cornwall. After a humbling experience in Helston in 1801 of having to obtain a Dissenter's preaching licence under Anglican pressure, he laid aside his residual sympathy for the Church to engage in vigorous debate when necessary. At the time of the great revival in West Cornwall in 1813-1814, when he was stationed in Penzance, the Rev. C. Val le Grice, Perpetual Curate at St. Mary's chapel, published a sermon attacking the mode of expression common in contemporary WM revivals, and arguing, in particular, that direct inspiration had ceased with the Apostles. In his pamphlet reply Treffry cited Tertullian, Justin Martyr and Cyprian. In 1817, when the Rector of Falmouth published a pamphlet refusing burial to the Methodist-baptized, Treffry's counter-arguments called on legal precedents to show him to be mistaken. Later disputing was directed against the reform movements in Methodism: he was a convinced Wesleyan, but always with a strong pastoral sensitivity. As early as 1803, in the face of Dr. William Boase's reforming schism,. he had acted, though without success, to seek moderation. But his Journal reveals his strong commitment to the WM concept of the Pastoral Office. He embodied it in his Church Member's Catechism, and stood by it especially in Leeds in 1829, where the Protestant Methodists had their stronghold. (His move to Leeds East Circuit was probably deliberate.) At the time of the WMA reforms in 1834, the baton was being taken up by his son, Richard junior.

Later in life, his ministerial salary of £40 was raised to £74 p.a. by private income from property. He was married three times. His two sons, Thomas (b.1802) and Richard (see below) were by this marriage. He retired to Maidenhead, his third wife's home, in 1841, died at Cookham on 19 September 1842 and was buried in the forecourt of Wesley's Chapel, London.

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His son Richard Treffry junr (1804-1838; e.m. 1824) was born at Camelford on 30 November 1804. He was never a healthy child and ill health forced his retirement from the itinerancy in 1831. Yet during his short ministry he showed great promise as a historian, biographer - including a Memoir of his mother - and theologian. During his enforced retirement at Penzance he became a 'defender of the faith', preparing for instance on the instruction of Conference a defence of the doctrine of the Eternal Sonship of Christ. When the WMA reform agitation arose in 1834, he managed to get to the District Synod and there formulated the agreed District Statement which was a model of balance and WM orthodoxy. At his father's request he wrote a reasoned defence of Ministerial Power in the Excision of Unworthy Members of the Church (1835) which, like his father's journal, reflects and supports the predominant WM view of the pastoral office. He died at Penzance on 20 January 1838.


'Stern in appearance, but kind in disposition. - Good judgment, - great perspicuity, - some originality… Sober, - blunt, - honest.'

Wesleyan Takings (1840), p.359

'[Richard Treffry senior] was scrupulously neat in his attire, and always well-dressed, in the blackest and best-brushed broadcloth, and woe worth the urchin who appeared in his presence with unloosed shoe-string or necktie turned awry. [He] was a memorable Methodist preacher, well worthy of his place in the lengthening roll of Presidents of the Conference of the People called Methodists, and of his honoured resting-place among his fellow-labourers in City Road. If he had chosen a motto for his tombstone, it might well have been one of his favourite texts: "I hate the work of them that turn aside." '

Benjamin Gregory, Autobiographical Recollections (1903) p.102

  • Richard Treffry Senior, Memoirs of the Rev. Richard Treffry, Jun. (1839)
  • Wesley and his Successors (1895) pp.133-34
  • [On Richard Treffry jun.] James H. Rigg, Wesleyan Methodist Reminiscences Sixty Years Ago (1904), p.44
  • Thomas Shaw, 'Richard Treffry, Senior and Junior', in WHS Proceedings, 32 pp.66-73
  • Thomas Shaw (1969), Richard Treffry Senior (Cornish Methodist Historical Association, 1969)
  • Richard R. Blewett in Old Cornwall(Federation of Old Cornwall Societies, Vol. VII, 1969-1970), pp.154-59, 215-19, 264-69