Whitefield, William Reverend

Date of Birth/Death:


William Whitefield was born c1805 at Frome, Somerset. He moved to Willunga in 1859 to supervise the building of a Primitive Methodist Chapel on Strout Road. At that time this area was known as McLaren Flat even though it was only a few miles from Willunga township. Tenders were sought in August 1860 for masonry work on the modest building 20 by 30 feet, which opened in March 1861. Ordained in the Primitive Methodist Connexion in 1838, William had ministered in England before migrating to SA in 1851 at the age of 46 years. After twelve months at Burra Burra he was posted to Brighton where he met and married widow Jane Maddeford in August 1852. Then followed an appointment to Nairne before a move to Willunga in 1859 with Jane and their two children Sarah Anne and William John.

On arriving in Willunga Reverend Whitefield purchased several allotments in the town and built his family’s home at  13 High Street. He routinely walked several miles across the paddocks day or night to hold church services at the Chapel. It was common practice in country areas to hold evening services near the time of the full moon to enable minister and congregation to journey safely. The Church prospered under his leadership and in 1868 a second Primitive Methodist Chapel at 27 High Street was opened in the High Street in Willunga. William was highly respected and esteemed by all who knew him and was often the guest speaker at religious and community functions in Willunga.

William was returning to Willunga from conducting service at the Strout Road chapel, ‘just as the moon was sinking and shedding a deceptive light, when he slipped over the edge of a rugged and precipitous creek, from 15 to 20 feet deep’. The bruising and other injuries sustained were generally considered to be the cause of his death a few months later in November 1871, aged 66 years. At the request of his family, the funeral service at the Strout Road Chapel was conducted by James Bassett and ‘numerously attended’, with about 20 vehicles and many on horseback.

William and Jane Whitefield’s only son William John was a talented violinist who played duets with his teacher James Bassett who had a high regard for the young lad. But William John died unexpectedly at Willunga on 27 December 1873, aged only 18 years. Their surviving child, Sarah Ann, married William Rothwell Pounsett son of  Henry Rothwell Pounsett who was the first Post and Telegraph Station-Master at the Post Office and Telegraph Station 62 High Street. Jane Whitefield’s brief re-marriage in 1881 to William Nottle of Willunga ended with his death in 1882. Jane was 79 years old when she died in 1895. She was buried in the Whitefield family grave at Strout Cemetery beside her previous husband and son.


Ancestry 1851 Census, Class: HO107; Piece: 1709; Folio: 39; Page: 8; GSU roll: 193617.

Index to Methodist Ministers, University of Manchester Library, https://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/rylands/special-collections/subject-areas/methodist-archives-and-research-collections/using-the-collections/index-of-methodist-ministers/w/

Genealogy SA, https://www.genealogysa.org.au/resources/online-databases.html

Alison Samuels Reading between the Lines 2006
1860 ‘Advertising’ [Tenders for Primitive Methodist Chapel], Adelaide Observer , 11 August, p. 2. , http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article158176403
1871 ‘Law and Criminal Courts.’ [A Fall], Evening Journal , 31 May, p. 2. , http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article197657012
1871 ‘Family Notices’, The South Australian Advertiser, 8 November, p. 2. , http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article28605852
Willunga National Trust


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