Rev William Lawrence Binks


By June Watson

Photo:Rev William Lawrence Binks

Rev William Lawrence Binks

The father of William Lawrence Binks was William Binks of Lartington who was butler to both Henry and his son Monsignor Thomas Witham at Lartington Hall. A faithful servant to the Witham family for 50 years, William senior passed away at Richmond, Yorks on 17 August 1858, aged 74 years and is buried with his wife in the churchyard of St Romalds, Romaldkirk. (see photo). He was married to Jane who died at Lartington aged 25 years on 29 April 1823. William, Jane and their only son William Lawrence were Roman Catholics, as were most of the residents of Lartington before 1910. At some point while growing up at Lartington Hall young William turned his back on his faith and became a follower of John Wesley, the father of Methodism who had a large following in the lead mining community.

William Lawrence Binks does not feature in the 1841 Census for Lartington and left the area probably circa 1840 aged 21 years and became a Wesleyan Missionary in British Guiana, and the West Indies. He was ordained in February 1849 in Grenada, West Indies and received by …unanimous vote into “full connexion” (Bickford)

He married Sarah Greene Howse in 1848 at St Vincent, West Indies. Sarah was born in Poulton, Gloucestershire in 1826. Of three children born to them in the West Indies, two died of yellow fever. Sarah and William were lucky to survive the disease themselves so with son William Howse Binks b. 1853, they left the West Indies in April 1853 on the sugar-carrying barque “Cleopatra” arrives in London in May 1853.

In 1855 they left England and emigrated to Melbourne, Australia arriving 26 November 1855 on board the ship “Aberfoyle” with their small son. William immediately took charge of the principle Wesleyan Methodist Circuit in Melbourne, residing in Collins St. Melbourne.

William's Parents' Grave

Photo:William's parents' grave in St Romald's Romaldkirk

William's parents' grave in St Romald's Romaldkirk

Memorial Inscription

Sacred to the loving memory of Jane, wife of William Binks of Lartington who departed this life April 29th 1823 aged 35 years. Also the above named William Binks who died at Richmond August 12th 1858 age 71 years

He was for upwards of 50 years a faithful servant in the Witham family RIP

This stone was erected by their only son, the Rev William Binks now in Australia 1859                                          

Teesdale Mercury Archives obituary for William Binks in August 1858 makes no mention of his son and heir in Australia only that William senior spent his retirement visiting friends and acquaintances in Richmond and was a much respected man serving three generations of the Withams. He left £300 in his will to a friend. Was he estranged from his son over religion and did he know that at this point he had three living grandchildren? We will never know but his son did not forget him and erected his headstone in loving memory.

Life in Australia

In 1853 the Rev William Lawrence Binks, his wife Sarah and young son moved from his ministry in the West Indies to Launceston, Cornwall. After a year in Launceston he was called to take a foremost ministerial rank in charge of the principle Wesleyan Methodist ministry in Melbourne, Australia arriving 26 November 1855.

Rev William Binks was a minister ar Geelong 1863/64 and Ballarat 1865-1867 and in 1868 he was transferred to the Archer Street church in North Adelaide.

In 1869 he became President of the Australasian Methodist Conference held in Sydney and President of the South Australian Wesleyan Methodist Conference in 1874. He was also first President of the new Prince Alfred College, Adelaide from 1869 to 1871.

Prince Alfred College

The idea of the college was formed in the mid 1860s when a group of individuals with the vision of a Methodist Church School for boys met to progress their dream and with fund-raising breakfasts held in the Methodist Meeting Hall, Adelaide (still there today), funds were raised to purchase land at Kent Town, Adelaide. The foundation stone of the main building was laid by HRH Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, second son of Queen Victoria, during his 1867 visit to South Australia. The Prince agreed to the request to name the College in his honour, a departure from the proposed name of Wesley College, and for a short time it was known as Prince Alfred Wesleyan College. The very first President of the College was Rev William Lawrence Binks, and his son Frederick Lawrence Binks (b. 1856) became the college's founding student, joined by twenty-eight other boys on 18 January 1869.

The following is an extract from 'A History of Prince Alfred College', second edition, by RM Gibbs;

"As President of the Australasian Wesleyan Conference in 1869 and first President of the College, Rev William L Binks spoke of the importance of learning. He drew attention to the objects of the College which were "to impart such an education as the age demands, whether to prepare pupils for active business life, for the learned professions, or the more advanced studies in connection with the Universities." He observed that some Wesleyans might think that the new school was not for them, perhaps they saw it as a school for the rich. To these people he would say that the College Committee had tried to fix the fees as low as possible, so that a liberal education would be within reach of a large number of Wesleyans and others."

Retirement and death

William retired back to the Melbourne circuit in 1876 and was Wesleyan Minister in Ballarat in 1883/4. He died at his home, named 'Lartington', at Grosvenor St, Brighton, Melbourne, Victoria on 30 May 1890, age 71 years, bringing to an end 47 years of his ministry.

The Australasian Methodist Ministerial General Index of 1896 obituary describes him as " An Australian Methodist prince" and "his fame is one of the historic treasures of our church". "His youthful rejection of his father's Roman Catholic faith and hopes that William would join the priesthood was a daring act of religious heroism." "His special fitness for our ministry from his first training at the Richmond College in England in 1840  proved him worthy to fill any position our church could give him."

The inscription on the memorial to him in Wesley Uniting Church, Melbourne describes him as " An able minister, a faithful pastor, a wise administrator, a judicious counsellor, he won the confidence of all who were associated with him in Christian work"

Photo:Memorial Tablet at Wesley Uniting Church

Memorial Tablet at Wesley Uniting Church

Of the ten children born to Rev William and Sarah Binks, only 3 sons, Frederick, Albert, Arthur, and one daughter, Mrs Catherine Bryant, outlived them. Only Albert Binks and his wife Annie gave them grand-children. Their descendants live in Australia.


Photo:Grave of William and Sarah Binks in Brighton General Cemetery, Melbourne, Australia

Grave of William and Sarah Binks in Brighton General Cemetery, Melbourne, Australia

The above text was first published in Lartington Parish Magazine. 


This page was added by Pamela Atkins on 06/05/2015.

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