Beckworth, William

PM local preacher and man of culture, who became a leading and influential layman in the Connexion. His father was also a local preacher and their home was the first PM meeting place in east Hull. Born on 19 June 1840 and baptized by William Clowes, he was subsequently taken by his father to Clowes' interment. On moving to Leeds in 1855, he went to work for Richard Nickalls at the Joppa Tannery, and at twenty-eight became a partner. Subsequently he formed his own firm, his Viaduct Tannery, Leeds, being designed by the Howdills. Another tannery in Bermondsey led him to support the work of James Flanagan. It is believed that by the time of his death his companies were in severe financial difficulties, in part reflecting the decline of Leeds as a major leather centre.

He played a prominent part in establishing the Leeds PM Sunday School Union, which led to the connexional Sunday School Union, of which he became the first treasurer. In 1871 he was elected to Leeds School Board on a PM ticket and in 1873 laid the foundation stone of the first Leeds School Board school. A Liberal in politics, he was a councillor for the Headingley ward, 1877-1883; subsequently in the 1890 gasworks lockout and riot he was one of the two mediators. He declined offers to stand for Parliament, as he also did for the Conferences chair. He was a founder and trustee of the Yorkshire college (later the University of Leeds).

A champion of ministerial education, he gave considerable support, especially financially, to the Manchester Institute (later Hartley College). He held a number of connexional posts, including African Missions treasurer 1871-1875 and joint treasurer with W.P. Hartley of PM Chapel Aid. He supported John D. Thompson when he was charged with heresy. He wrote a substantial history of Leeds PM, A Book of Remembrance (1910).

Described as 'gentle, sagacious, lovable and saintly', he died on 4 November 1911 and was buried in Lawnswood Cemetery, Leeds; his memorial plaque from Cardigan Road PM Church is now at Engelsea Brook museum, It has been suggested that his two sons became Christian Scientists.

  • Joseph Ritson, The Romance of Primitive Methodism (1909) pp.187-88
  • Aldersgate Primitive Methodist Magazine, 1911, pp.110-111.