Son of John Avery (1807-1865) of Headless Cross, Redditch. The family business, thought to date from 1785 at Studley, made needles and fishhooks, but became well known in the later 19th century for its ornate brass needle cases, now much sought after.
In 1856 William married Maria Proctor Dingley of the well-known Sherborne family. He and his wife became known for their philanthropy. They established a fund for the support of the poor, raising money for it by organising music concerts. He was a staunch supporter of public elementary education, helped to found the Redditch Literary and Scientific Institute and the local School of Art, and was a JP for Worcestershire. His history of Redditch from 1800 to 1850 was published in 1887. For fifty years he was organist at Headless Cross Wesleyan chapel, where for forty years he was also a Sunday School teacher.
'Known and beloved by friends and neighbours for his sincerity, integrity, humour and wit,' he died suddenly in September 1899.
Harold Avery, the youngest of his three sons, was a prolific children's author.
'[In 1844] …the Averys of Headless Cross, the parents of our present generous and devoted friend of that fruitful hill of Zion. His house was the paradise of preachers. We were always welcomed with enthusiasm, and could unbend without reserve; and their son, though hardly yet in his teens, gave proof already of a musical faculty akin to genius; and when ruffled or depressed the itinerant prophet had only to say, "Bring me the minstrel," and he would discourse sweet music to us by the hour. Both parents had the urbanity, the cheerfulness, and trustiness which now so become their son.'
Benjamin Gregory, Autobiographical Recollections (1903) pp.334-5