Champness, Thomas
1832-1905; e.m. 1857

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WM minister and evangelist, eh was born in Stratford, East London on 19 July 1832 and brought up in Manchester. He began his working life as a bricklayer. Converted in Stockport, he was called to preach in 1856. Accepted for the ministry the following year, he was sent without college training to Sierra Leone, where he served as a missionary until ill health forced him home in 1863. His first wife, Mary Archer, had died of fever at Abeokuta on 23 September 1862.

After serving as assistant to George Osborn at the WMMS, he embarked on a circuit ministry in 1865. In 1878 he was appointed Newcastle District Missionary, moving to Bolton in 1882. While there he embarked on evangelistic publication as editor of Joyful News. Moving to Rochdale, he opened his home as a Centre for training evangelists. In 1889 he was released from circuit work and made Castleton Hall the centre for his publishing and evangelistic activity, the 'Joyful News Mission'. He published The Mission Minstrel or Songs of Saving Grace (1895) and many homely works for spiritual revival. He preached widely and campaigned for temperance throughout the Connexion until his retirement in 1903.

A close friend of Joseph Rank, he was a flamboyant character with a lively sense of humour. He caused a furore at the 1888 Conference by his forthright criticism of what he termed the 'mistletoe minister' - 'ornamental, but not useful', who 'will do no good, even if he does no harm'. He died at Lutterworth on 30 October 1905. Champness Hall, one of the last central halls to be built, was opened at Rochdale in his memory in 1925. It was sold in the late 1990s to an independent evangelical group, but still bears his name.

His son C. Seymour Champness' (d.1926; e.m. 1907) served in central China as a Joyful News Evangelist' from 1892 until returning home on health grounds in 1921. Although accepted for the ministry in 1907 'for work in China only' he was stationed in the Marlborough Mission in 1924 and in the Kent Mission in 1926.


'If you have not among your books an encyclopaedia, let me advise you to obtain "Chambers" at once. Read the newspaper for one hour each morning, never passing the name of a place or person without reading the encyclopaedia. If you do this you will gain knowledge in a way you little dream of.'

Champness's advice to the young Charles H. Hulbert, quoted in 'Passion for Souls' by Kenneth Hulbert (1959) p.18

  • Methodist Recorder, 2 & 9 Nov. 1905
  • Josiah Mee, Thomas Champness as I Knew Him (1906)
  • Eliza M. Champness, The Life-story of Thomas Champness (1907);
  • J.I. Brice, The Crowd of Christ (1934)
  • R.G. Burnett, Through the Mill (1945) pp.44-46
  • Thomas D. Meadley, Kindled by a Spark: the story of Thomas Champness (Ilkeston, 1983)