Thomas Wills (minister)

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Thomas Wills (1740–1802) was an English evangelical preacher, a priest of the Church of England who became a Dissenter.

Church of England Anglican state church of England

The Church of England is the established church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior cleric, although the monarch is the supreme governor. The Church of England is also the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church recorded as existing in the Roman province of Britain by the third century, and to the 6th-century Gregorian mission to Kent led by Augustine of Canterbury.

English Dissenters

English Dissenters or English Separatists were Protestant Christians who separated from the Church of England in the 17th and 18th centuries.


Thomas Wills Thomas Wills Cook.jpg
Thomas Wills

Early life

Born at Truro, Cornwall, on 26 July 1740, he was the son of Thomas Wills of St. Issey and his wife Mary Spry; his mother and twin-sister died at his birth. The father died a year or two later. The two surviving sons were adopted by the eldest aunt, Lucy Spry of Truro, who died in 1755, leaving most of her fortune to Thomas. The elder boy, John Wills (d. 11 Oct. 1764), became a lieutenant in the navy under his relative Richard Spry. The younger son Thomas, after his aunt's death, was put under the care of her brother-in-law, Thomas Michell of Croft West, near Truro, and placed at Truro grammar school, where he attended the ministry of Samuel Walker. [1]

Truro city and civil parish in Cornwall, England

Truro is a city and civil parish in Cornwall, England. It is Cornwall's county town and only city and centre for administration, leisure and retail. Truro's population was recorded as 18,766 in the 2011 census. People from Truro are known as Truronians. As the southernmost city in mainland Britain, Truro grew as a centre of trade from its port and then as a stannary town for the tin mining industry. Its cathedral was completed in 1910. Places of interest include the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro Cathedral the Hall for Cornwall and Cornwall's Courts of Justice.

Cornwall County of England

Cornwall is a ceremonial county in South West England, bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by Devon, the River Tamar forming the border between them. Cornwall is the westernmost part of the South West Peninsula of the island of Great Britain. The southwesternmost point is Land's End and the southernmost Lizard Point. Cornwall has a population of 563,600 and an area of 3,563 km2 (1,376 sq mi). The county has been administered since 2009 by the unitary authority, Cornwall Council. The ceremonial county of Cornwall also includes the Isles of Scilly, which are administered separately. The administrative centre of Cornwall is Truro, its only city.

Admiral Sir Richard Spry was a Royal Navy officer who served as Commander-in-Chief, North American Station.

Wills matriculated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, on 28 March 1757, and graduated B.A. 11 December 1760. While at the university he was on good terms with Thomas Haweis, and one of his religious associates. He was ordained deacon by the bishop of Oxford in 1762, and priest by the bishop of Exeter on Trinity Sunday 1764. In 1764 he was appointed to the curacy of Perranzabuloe and St Agnes, parishes on the north coast of Cornwall, of which James Walker, a brother of Samuel Walker, was vicar. His connection with Perranzabuloe ceased in 1765, but he remained at St. Agnes until January 1778. [1]

Thomas Haweis Church minister

Thomas Haweis (c.1734–1820), was born in Redruth, Cornwall, on 1 January 1734, where he was baptised on 20 February 1734. As a Church of England cleric he was one of the leading figures of the 18th century evangelical revival and a key figure in the histories of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, the Free Church of England and the London Missionary Society.

The Bishop of Oxford is the diocesan bishop of the Church of England Diocese of Oxford in the Province of Canterbury; his seat is at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. The current bishop is Steven Croft, following the confirmation of his election to the See on 6 July 2016.

Bishop of Exeter Diocesan bishop in the Church of England

The Bishop of Exeter is the Ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Exeter in the Province of Canterbury. The current incumbent, since 30 April 2014, is Robert Atwell. The incumbent signs his name as his Christian name or forename followed by Exon., abbreviated from the Latin Episcopus Exoniensis.

Calvinistic Methodist

In the autumn of 1772 Wills met Selina, Countess of Huntingdon at Bath and frequently preached in her chapel. Lady Huntingdon, his wife's aunt, visited them at St Agnes in the autumn of 1775, and established her chapels in Cornwall. Wills was appointed her chaplain in January 1778, and resigned his curacy. He went to Trevecca College, and then to Brighton. For his irregular conduct in preaching at the Spa Fields chapel in 1781 he was served with a citation by the Rev. William Sellon of St. James's, Clerkenwell. Next year he took the oath of allegiance as a dissenting minister, and was appointed minister of Spa Fields chapel. He officiated there and in chapels of Lady Huntingdon's Connexion throughout England for several years, and on 9 March 1783 he and another minister held the "primary ordination" of the Connexion in Spa Fields chapel. He took temporary leave of the congregation on 12 August 1787. Differences ensued between him and Lady Huntingdon, and he did not minister there again until 30 March 1788. He preached his last sermon in the chapel on 6 July 1788, and a few days later was dismissed by her. [1]

Bath, Somerset City in Somerset, England

Bath is the largest city in the county of Somerset, England, known for its Roman-built baths. In 2011, the population was 88,859. Bath is in the valley of the River Avon, 97 miles (156 km) west of London and 11 miles (18 km) south-east of Bristol. The city became a World Heritage site in 1987.

Brighton Seaside resort on the south coast of England

Brighton is a seaside resort in the county of East Sussex. It is a constituent part of the city of Brighton and Hove, created in 2001 from the formerly separate towns of Brighton and Hove. Brighton is located on the south coast of England, positioned 47 miles (76 km) south of London.

Later years

After preaching occasionally at Surrey Chapel and elsewhere Wills was engaged by the proprietors of Dr. Peckwell's chapel, in the Great Almonry at Westminster, and also by those of Orange Street chapel, Leicester Square, to officiate. The chapel at Silver Street, near Aldersgate Street, was let to him from Michaelmas 1789 for a lecture on Thursday evenings, and the following Christmas he took the building on lease. Its interior was then altered, and the liturgy of the English church, an organ, and the hymns of the Countess of Huntingdon were introduced. He ceased in 1789 to preach in Orange Street chapel, and in 1791 he gave up Westminster chapel; but in 1793 he began preaching in Islington chapel. There and at Silver Street chapel he remained preaching the doctrines of Calvinism for several years. Wills preached in the open air, also, especially on Tower Hill, attracting crowds. [1]

Calvinism Protestant branch of Christianity

Calvinism is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice set down by John Calvin and other Reformation-era theologians.

Tower Hill hill and neighbourhood in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Tower Hill is a complex city or garden square northwest of the Tower of London, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets just outside the City of London boundary yet inside what remains of the London Wall — a large fragment of which survives toward its east.

About 1797 Wills's congregation dwindled, with the popularity of a rival preacher in Grub Street, John Bradford; [2] and his own health began to decline. His mental faculties gave way, and in 1799 a stroke of paralysis incapacitated him from preaching. He took leave of his congregation at Silver Street on 23 February 1800, and retired to Boskenna in the parish of St Buryan, Cornwall, the seat of James Paynter. He died there on 12 May 1802, and was buried on the north side of the churchyard in a vaulted grave which he had constructed for himself and his wife. A monument to his memory was placed in the church by his widow, who died at Boskenna on 3 April 1814. [1]

John Bradford (1750–1805) was an English dissenting minister.

Boskenna village in United Kingdom

Boskenna is an early medieval settlement and large 17th-century mansion house with associated farms in the civil parish of St Buryan, west Cornwall, United Kingdom. Nearby, to the south, is the valley and cove of St Loy and the site of St Loy's chapel which was on the Boskenna side of a stream. Mary Wesley lived at Boskenna for a time and later used it as a backdrop in some of her novels, including The Camomile Lawn.

St Buryan parish in Cornwall

St Buryan is a civil parish and village in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom.


Wills was the author of: [1]

Wills also published sermons, and edited religious works, including Letters from the late Rev. William Romaine to a Friend, which passed through many editions. [1]


On 6 October 1774 William married Selina Margaretta Wheler in Bath. She was third daughter of Granville Wheler of Otterden Place, near Faversham, Kent, by his wife, Lady Catherine Maria Hastings. [1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Lee, Sidney, ed. (1900). "Wills, Thomas"  . Dictionary of National Biography . 62. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  2. Beeke, Joel R. "Wills, Thomas". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/29607.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain :  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1900). "Wills, Thomas". Dictionary of National Biography . 62. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

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