Rev William Richard Rogers 1846 to 1849
His life in Wolverhampton
William Richard Rogers was a Wesleyan Minister in the West Indies until shortly after the death of his first wife, Mary Ann, in April 1845. Mary Ann had died shortly after the birth of my great-grandmother Alice Du Cloux Rogers on 5th March 1845.
On his return to this country William Richard joined the Wolverhampton Circuit in 1846. The Superintendent Minister for the Wolverhampton Circuit was George H. Rowe with Benjamin John as his first Junior Minister and William Richard Rogers was the second Junior Minister. During the following two years he was listed as the first Junior Minister in the circuit. He was stationed at Bilston and his address was simply ‘Wesleyan House, Bilston’ according to his daughter’s birth certificate.
On 14th October 1847 he married Mary Ann Thorneycroft in the Darlington Street Wesleyan Church. The marriage was performed by G.H.Rowe, Wesleyan Minister in the presence of John Fellows Registrar.
When I approached the Wolverhampton Circuit in an attempt to discover more about William Richard’s time in Wolverhampton. I was put in touch with Reverend Donald H. Ryan M.Th. who is the present Circuit Archivist and also Registrar of Wesley Historical Society. He gave me small bits of information about Thorneycroft Family which allowed me to accept what I had seen hinted at in reminiscences recorded by one of William Richard’s grand-daughters. He also made me aware of the City of Wolverhampton Archives web site and the fact that Bilston Chapel is also known as Swan Bank Wesleyan Church. I was now confident to explore George Benjamin’s family without fearing that I was making incorrect connections and misleading anyone who looked at my family trees. I had discounted the family story simply and solely because I had been unable to make a plausible connection between the two Thorneycroft families in Wolverhampton.
I had already discovered that Mary Ann Thorneycroft was the daughter of Edward Thorneycroft and Martha Bagnall and that the family was involved with the Darlington Street Wesleyan Chapel. On the Wolverhampton City Archive site’s section concerning famous local people stated that George Benjamin Thorneycroft,who became Wolverhampton’s first mayor, had a twin brother Edward Charles. That statement was, for me, very important.
One of Mary Ann’s cousins Ellen married Henry Hartley Fowler who subsequently became Viscount Wolverhampton. Another of her cousins was Thomas and one of his great-grandsons was Peter (Lord)Thorneycroft.
On “Wolverhampton History”, a site owned by the City of Wolverhampton Archives, I discovered an interesting article in the “Methodist Recorder of 1901” and have extracted the following lines.
I quote;- Bilston ” in the 18th century, ‘was as rough and ignorant; as fond of bullbaiting, cockfighting and other contemporary sports, as easily swayed by ignoble passions; and as indifferent to spiritual matters, as any towns and villages around it’.”
“John Wesley visited Bilston for the first time on 2nd October 1745 when he preached at the house of Francis Ward – ‘It was exceedingly dark when we rode into Bilston…. I got out of a quagmire, and leaving them to disengage my horse, walked to Francis Ward’s where I preached.’
“On Wesley’s next visit on 21st March 1770 he faced some opposition. While preaching at the house of Samuel Fereday of Wood Street, a mob gathered with the intention of breaking up the meeting. Missiles were thrown, hitting several of Wesley’s followers. One of the mob was about to hit Wesley himself when Wesley cried out: ‘If I have done thee harm, strike, man!’ The attacker retreated, leaving Wesley unharmed.
“the first Methodist Chapel built in Bilston was on land in Temple Street. The land was given by Miss Loxdale, a lady of wealth and position within the town, and the building came to be known as Loxdale Chapel.
“John Etheridge was one of the founders of the first Sunday School established in Bilston during 1798. The school was connected to the Wesleyan Chapel in Temple Street. According to a memoriam card Etheridge was engaged in ‘humane and benelovent’ objects during the 1832 and 1849 cholera epidemics. He was also instrumental in setting up an adult school, penny savings banks and clothing clubs.
William Richard and Mary Ann’s first daughter was born in Bilston on 4th July 1848 and baptised on 15th October 1848.