Rev Maximilian Wilson
Born 21 November 1777 in Grainthorpe near Louth, Lincolnshire, Maximilian Wilson came from a Methodist family.
He was ‘brought savingly to know God’ aged 17. Wilson began as a Local Preacher aged 21 before entering the ministry in 1801. Wilson’s sermons are described in his obituary as ‘pointed and forcible, full of evangelical truth, and delivered with earnestness, pathos and power’. He was able to connect with his audience, eg The Cambridge Independent Press describes in 1852 how children were ‘pathetically and appropriately addressed’ by him.
Maximilian Wilson was Superintendent of many Circuits and elected chairman of his District. His Circuits included:
1812 Lynn and Swaffham
1822 Northampton and Towcester
1844 Leighton Buzzard
Superannuating in 1850, Wilson and his wife, Eliza retired firstly to Northampton then Bedford where they were living in Wellington Street at the time of the 1851 Census.
In 1830 Wilson became the subject of some controversy during an election. It was still a time when there was no secret ballot and it touched the political life of a candidate who later became Prime Minister. Wilson was eligible to vote ‘because of a little property derived from his wife’. From newspaper reports, it appears that there was some debate as to whether Wilson failed to observe the Sabbath ‘that he might reach the Bedford polling-booth in time.’ An article in The Luton Times and Advertiser in 1894 states that ‘As soon as 12 struck his reverence got into a post-chaise driven by four horses’ and reached Bedford to give the final vote. However, a letter to the Bedford Times in 1857 just after his death defended him saying that Wilson travelled from a preaching engagement in the Leeds area and ‘did not leave that town until the middle of the Monday’. The unnamed correspondent continues that ‘The other charge (if such it may called) that “the vote of Rev Maximilian Wilson thrust Lord John Russell from the representation of Bedford” is equally fallacious.’ He notes that the poll book records that 2 other people voted after Wilson and ‘it cannot be said that the results of the election were any more influenced by Mr W than by any other party who voted on that eventful occasion.’ Wilson defended himself in a letter written to the Huntingdon, Bedford & Peterborough Gazette 4 September 1830 in response to a critical letter about him they had published the week before.
Maximilian Wilson died Tuesday 13 January 1857 aged 79. The Bedfordshire Times described his ministry as ‘uniformly successful and popular, and his memory will ever be associated with feelings of the highest regard by all who knew him.’
A sermon was preached in Bedford on 1 February 1857 by Henry Fish entitled ‘The servant of Christ and his reward: a sermon on occasion of the death of Rev Maximilian Wilson’.
Index of Methodist Ministers
Huntingdon, Bedford & Peterborough Gazette 28 August & 4 September 1830
Cambridge Independent Press 11 September 1852
Bedford Times 17 and 24 January 1857
Luton Times and Advertiser 22 June 1894
Minutes of WM Conference 1857
Photograph of memorial in St Paul’s Methodist Church demolished 1969 may be viewed at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~engbdf/churches/BedfordStPaulsMethodist.html