Notes on William Witton Builder & Wesley Church Leader

the first church, 1838

The first church

By 1838, there was a Wesleyan society of about 30 people, meeting in a small brick church on the corner of Swanston St & Flinders Lane. They were led by lay preachers, including:
George Lilley, an Irish settler who ran a small shop,
Thomas Watson, a Waterloo veteran who ran a water-carting business, and
William Witton, the first class leader. ( reference Wesley Church History)


William Witton
(1811 – 1886)
“almost perpetual curate”

A Research Manuscript Prepared and Published by Rev Dr Barry T Brown

William Witton was the leading Local Preacher and Class Leader in Melbourne from 1837 and remained a major figure in lay ministry for 50 years.

Mr William Witton was one of the first lay leaders of the Wesleyan Methodist tradition in Melbourne. He was born in London on 12 April 1811. Orphaned at 15, he migrated to Tasmania when he was 18, and was a partner in a furniture business in Launceston by the time he was 21. He attended the Church of England and soon became involved with some Wesleyan Methodists associated with Saint John’s, Launceston. By 1836 he was married, a member of the local Methodist society and an accredited local preacher.

In March 1837 William Witton and his young family moved to the infant township of Melbourne. Here he was a pioneering local preacher, class leader and leading member of the Methodist society. He was instrumental in the establishment of the first permanent Methodist chapel (in Collins Street) and the appointment of the first minister (the Rev. Samuel Wilkinson). With others he assisted in the establishment of Methodist causes at Brighton and Williamstown. He played a key role in establishing the first mission to the aborigines at Buntingdale, near Colac.

In 1844 Witton went to Portland where he engaged in building works (the Gaol and Court House) and also had an overseeing role for the Wesleyan Methodist Church. There being another local preacher at Portland (Thomas Wilkinson),
Witton moved to make Belfast (Port Fairy) his base. He not only exercised pastoral oversight of existing Methodist groups, but played a leading role in establishing new Methodist causes, most notably Warrnambool in 1847. When the first minister was appointed for this region in 1850 (the Rev. William Lightbody), Witton remained in the area engaging in building and farming activities, and providing a key lay leadership role for the church throughout the coastal region – as “almost perpetual curate”.

When Gippsland opened up for settlement in the 1870s, Witton moved to the Warragul area where he helped pioneer a number of congregations, remaining active as a ‘well-seasoned’ local preacher, and also supporting his sons’ business
enterprises. At the Jubilee celebrations of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Melbourne’s Exhibition Building in May 1886, William Witton was recognized as the ‘Father of Methodism in Victoria.’ He died in Warragul on 5th September 1886, and the Local Preachers of Victoria honoured Mr Witton by erecting his gravestone.#


William’s Grandson George is the  now famous  via Breaker Morant ~ you may have seen the Movie..  More can be read at    http://breakermorant.com/blog/?p=199   BLOG.

imageHarry ‘Breaker’ Morant

31 MAY 2012 marked the 110th anniversary of the end of the South African War (Second Anglo-Boer War). The Peace Treaty of Vereeniging was signed on 31 May 1902 between the South African Republic and the Republic of the Orange Free State on one side, and the British Empire on the other. In Australia, the Boer War is often called Australia’s ‘forgotten war’.

Between 1899 and 1902, 16,000 men went from Australia to the Boer War in South Africa, with more than 500 of them dying there. Australians who served also included an unknown number of Aboriginal trackers. Six Australians received the Victoria Cross in South Africa, and many others received other decorations. Though the nation honoured its dead with ceremonies and monuments, the enormity of the following two world wars has overshadowed the legacy of this terrible and bloody conflict. In truth, it was a nasty, bloody affair. Cruelty abounded. British soldiers besieged in Kimberley refused to let Africans have meat or vegetables. Many starved to death or died of scurvy. In Mafeking, Baden-Powell left 2,000 Africans to starve or be shot by the Boers. The Boers flogged and shot Africans caught working for the British and did the same to white army scouts. Some units swore not to take prisoners.’’


Breaker Morant (part 1)

The Full Movie

Breaker Morant (1980) full movie



More on this case can be seen at..




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