Woodley, George (DNB00)

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WOODLEY, GEORGE (1786–1846), poet and divine, born at Dartmouth, and baptised at Townstal church in that town on 3 April 1786, was the son of Richard Woodley, a a man of humble position. His education was slight, but he sedulously cultivated every opportunity for self-improvement. When very young he served in a British man-of-war, and began versifying for the amusement of his messmates before he was twelve years old. After spending several years at sea he lived at Plymouth Dock, now Devonport, and in London, engaged in literary pursuits, but his work brought him very little profit. He was of a mechanical disposition, and in 1804 competed for the gold medal of the Royal Humane Society for the best essay ‘On the Means of preventing Shipwreck.’ Through a change of dates on the part of the society the essay arrived after the distribution of the prizes, but he claimed to have anticipated the invention of George William Manby [q. v.] He applied to the admiralty, the navy commissioners, and the corporation of Trinity House for aid in furthering his scheme, but could not obtain any assistance. His address to Dr. Hawes (Gent. Mag. 1807, ii. 1051–2) is dated from Dover.

In 1808 Woodley left London for his health's sake, and soon afterwards settled at Truro as editor of the ‘Royal Cornwall Gazette,’ the tory paper of the county. Here he employed himself in writing several volumes of poetry, and in competing for prize essays on theological and social subjects. About June 1820 he was ordained by the then bishop of Exeter, and he at once proceeded to the Scilly Islands as the missionary, at a salary of 150l. per annum, of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, in the islands of St. Martin and St. Agnes. He was ordained priest by Bishop Carey in Exeter Cathedral on 15 July 1821. At Scilly he remained until June 1842, and during that time rebuilt the church on St. Martin's, and restored that on St. Agnes. At that date he retired with a gratuity of 100l. and a pension of 75l. per annum. He was appointed on 12 Feb. 1843 to the perpetual curacy of Martindale in Westmorland, and held it until his death on 24 Dec. 1846. His wife, Mary Fabian, whom he married at Stoke Damerel, died at Taunton in August 1856. Their only son, William Augustus Woodley, was the proprietor of the ‘Somerset County Gazette’ (Taunton) and other papers; he died at 3 Worcester Terrace, Clifton, Bristol, on 11 March 1891, and was buried in St. Mary's cemetery, Taunton.

Woodley was the author of 1. ‘Mount Edgcumbe,’ with the ‘Shipwreck’ and miscellaneous verses, 1804; preface signed G. W. (cf. Halkett and Laing, Anon. Lit. ii. 1670). 2. ‘The Churchyard and other Poems,’ 1808. 3. ‘Britain's Bulwarks, or the British Seaman,’ 1811 (composed for the most part in 1803). 4. ‘Portugal Delivered: a Poem in five books,’ 1812. 5. ‘Redemption: a Poem in twenty books,’ 1816. 6. ‘Cornubia: a Poem in five cantos,’ 1819. 7. ‘The Divinity of Christ proved,’ 1819; 2nd edit. 1821. For this essay he received a prize of 50l. from the St. David's diocese branch of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. He was the author of similar essays ‘On the Succession of the Christian Priesthood’ and on ‘the Means of employing the Poor.’ 8. ‘Devonia: a Poem,’ five cantos, 1820. 9. ‘View of the present State of the Scilly Isles,’ 1822; the best work on that district which had been published. 10. ‘Narrative of the Loss of the Steamer Thames on the Scilly Rocks’ on 4 Jan. 1841.

Woodley was a contributor to the chief periodicals, and the ‘Gazetteer of the County of Cornwall,’ published at Truro about 1817, has been attributed to him.

[Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. ii. 902–903, 951, 1362–3; Allen and McClure's S.P.C.K. 1898, pp. 400–1; British Lady's Mag. February 1818, p. 93; Gent. Mag. 1847, i. 444; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. iii. 399; postscript to Portugal Delivered; information from Mr. Arthur Burch, F.S.A., Diocesan Registry, Exeter.]

W. P. C.