Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Champneys, William Weldon

CHAMPNEYS, WILLIAM WELDON (1807–1875), dean of Lichfield, was eldest son of the Rev. William Betton Champneys, B.C.L. of St. John's College, Oxford, by his marriage with Martha, daughter of Montague Stable, of Kentish Town. He was born in Camden Town, St. Pancras, London, 6 April 1807, and was educated by the Rev. Richard Povah, rector of St. James's, Duke's Place, city of London, and having matriculated from Brasenose College, Oxford, on 3 July 1824, was soon after elected to a scholarship. He took his B.A. degree in 1828, and his M.A. in 1831, was then ordained to the curacy of Dorchester, near Oxford, whence he was transferred three months afterwards to the curacy of St. Ebbe's, in the city of Oxford, and in the same year was admitted a fellow of his college. In this parish he established national schools, the first that were founded in the city, and during the severe visitation of the cholera in 1832 he assiduously devoted himself to the sick. He was in 1837 appointed rector of St. Mary's, Whitechapel, London, a parish containing thirty-three thousand people, where, mainly through his personal exertions in the course of a short time, three new churches were built. Here also he erected schools for boys and girls, and a special school for infants; but finding that many children could not attend in consequence of being in want of suitable apparel, he set up a school of a lower grade, which was practically the first ragged school opened in the metropolis. In connection with the district he founded a provident society, assisted in the commencement of a shoeblack brigade, with a refuge and an industrial home for the boys, and co-operated with others in the work of building the Whitechapel Foundation Commercial School. He was the originator of a local association for the promotion, health, and comfort of the industrial classes, and also of the Church of England Young Men's Society, the first association of young men for religious purposes and mutual improvement which was seen in Whitechapel. The London coal-whippers were indebted to him for the establishment of an office, under an act of parliament in 1843, where alone they could be legally hired, instead of as before being obliged to wait in public-houses. His principles were evangelical and catholic. His sermons attracted working men by plain appeals to their good sense and right feeling. On 3 Nov. 1851, on the recommendation of Lord John Russell, he was appointed to a canonry in St. Paul's, and the dean and chapter of that cathedral in 1860 gave him the vicarage of St. Pancras, a benefice at one time held by his grandfather. The rectory of Whitechapel had been held by him during twenty-three years, and on his removal he received many valuable testimonials and universal expressions of regret at his departure. He was named dean of Lichfield on 11 Nov. 1868; attached to the deanery was the rectory of Tatenhill, and his first act was to increase the stipend of the curate of that rectory from 100l. to 600l. a year, and to expend another 600l. in rebuilding the chancel of the church. He died at the deanery, Lichfield, on 4 Feb. 1875, and was buried in the cathedral yard on 9 Feb. He married, 20 March 1838, Mary Anne, fourth daughter of Paul Storr, of Beckenham, Kent. He was a voluminous author of evangelical literature, but it is doubtful if many of his writings continue to be read. His no me is found appended to upwards of fifty works, but a large number of these are either books which he edited or to which he contributed recommendatory prefaces; whilst others are single sermons and lectures which had a local circulation.

The titles of the most important of his own works are given below: 1. 'Plain Sermons on the Liturgy of the Church of England,' 1845. 2. 'The Path of a Sunbeam,' 1845. 3. 'The Church Catechism made plain,' 1847. 4. 'A Child a Hundred Years Old,' 1848. 5. 'Floating Lights,' 1849. 6. 'A Quiet One in the Land; Memoir of Mary Anne Partridge,' 1849. 7. 'Drops from the Well, a simple explanation of some of the Parables,' 1852. 8. 'Marriage with a Deceased Wife's Sister,' 1861. 9. 'The Golden Chord, or Faith, Hope, and Charity,' 1852. 10. 'She hath done what she could,' 1853. 11. 'An Example of Suffering, Affliction, and Patience, or a Brief Memoir of Helen S —,' 28th thousand, 1853. 12. 'Confirmation, or the Citizen of Zion taking up his Freedom,' 1856. 13. 'Sin and Salvation,' 1858. 14. 'The Sunday School Teacher,' 3rd edit. 1857. 15. 'A Story of the Great Plague,' 1858. 16. 'The Spirit in the World,' 1862. 17. 'Early Rains; a Sketch of A. C. Savage,' 1863. 18. 'Facts and Fragments,' 1864. 19. 'Parish Work; a brief Manual for the young Clergy,' 1865. 20. 'Things New and Old,' 1869. 21. 'The Power of the Resurrection; a Sketch of H. Adams, a Whitechapel ragged-school teacher,' 1871. 22. 'A Simple Catechism for Protestant Children,' 57th thousand, 1877. He was also a writer in 'Home Words,' 'Our Own Fireside,' and other periodicals.

[Drawing-room Portrait Gallery (4th series, 1860), with portrait, pp. 1,2; Christian Cabinet Almanack, with portrait (1861), pp. 14, 31; Miller's St. Pancras (1874), pp. 21, 22; Champneys's Story of the Tent maker, 1875, with memoir and portrait; The Guardian, 10 Feb. 1875, p. 168, and 17 Feb. p. 209.]

G. C. B.