Hitchens, William

An early Wesleyan itinerant, he was born into the staunchly Methodist family at Gwennap which built the chapel at Busveal, adjoining Gwennap Pit . He was baptized on 19 August 1727 and with the rest of his family experienced fierce persecution during the early days of Cornish Methodism. Two older brothers, Thomas and Samuel died in 1746 (Samuel, according to Charles Wesley, 'in full triumph') within a month of each other. Their father, James Hitchens, a tinner and blacksmith, wrote accounts of both sons, with the help of John Wesley, who published them in 1746 and 1747. Charles Wesley wrote a hymn on the death of Samuel.

Following their deaths, William became an itinerant. His appointments are not easy to establish, but he is known to have been stationed in Cheshire, Manchester, Bristol, Wiltshire and Cornwall. Early in 1757 he was seized by the press gang and spent a night in the lock-up on the bridge at Bradford-on-Avon, but eventually was released by the magistrates. Later that year he was married in Bristol to the widow of a hatter and by 1760 had left the itinerancy to be involved in the family firm. But he remained active as a local preacher. He died in 1773 while visiting his family at Gwennap and was buried there on 31 October. Charles Wesley wrote an (unfinished) hymn on his death, dated October 29th, 1773. John Pawson described him as 'a sensible, serious man' who 'died well'. His widow survived him until 1807.

  • James Hitchens, A Short Account of the Death of Samuel Hitchens (London, 1746)
  • James Hitchens, A Short Account of the Death of Thomas Hitchens (Bristol, 1747).
  • Charles Wesley, Unpublished Poetry, vol. III (1992) pp. 340-1
  • Stephen Dray, 'William Hitchens, The Forgotten Pioneer', Ferndale Studies in Cornish Christian History No 3 (2008)

Category: Person
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