Urwick, William (1791–1868), congregational clergyman, was born 8 December 1791 in Shrewsbury, England, seventh child and third son of William Urwick (d. 1799). merchant, and Elinor Urwick (née Eddowes; d. 1853). He was the only son to survive, and had only two sisters. He himself was seriously ill during most of his childhood, and his education suffered. Urwick was educated at Worcester and, after he had decided to enter the ministry of the congregational church, at Hoxton Academy. He was ordained in Sligo (19 June 1816); he made a name for himself by taking part in public theological controversies with catholic priests. This was a popular spectator sport of the day, and his supporters at Easkey, Co. Sligo, rejoiced in what they regarded as a striking victory over the local priest; Urwick published (1825) his own account of the proceedings to support this assessment. He was noted for preventing several duels, and he assisted the whole area with famine relief in 1823.
In 1826 the congregation of York St. chapel, Dublin, cast lots to decide between him and another candidate. When he accepted the call, the Sligo people wrote an unusually bitter and antagonistic letter to the Dublin church. Urwick was an exceedingly successful and hardworking minister, whose congregation flourished, and as many TCD divinity students attended his two-and-a-half-hour-long weekly services, it was said that he had had more influence on religious life in Dublin and beyond, than any of his contemporaries. In 1832 Dartmouth College in the US awarded him the degree of DD. He was one of the earliest ministers to advocate temperance; he himself was a total abstainer, but felt that because wine was drunk in Bible times, it ought not to be banned. He was involved in all the other good causes of the day: in the abolition of slavery, in public charities, in the home mission of his church, and in famine relief during the late 1840s; he travelled to London in 1846–7 to seek aid.
While he was secretary of the Irish Congregational Union (1835–47) there was an unpleasant row between the Irish church and the larger English Congregational Union over which should exercise control over the Irish mission societies and their property. Urwick strongly supported his adopted country. According to his son, all the difficulties had been caused by a ‘selfish love of power and a desire of centralisation’ by the London officials of the Irish Evangelical Society. As well as his preaching and congregational work, Urwick taught theology in a dissenting academy in Manor St.; he was president for some years. He published a number of books that were influential in their day; in particular, his attack on pre-millennialism in The second advent (1839) was well regarded. He also wrote a short history of Dublin, a memoir of James Digges La Touche (qv), a sketch of the early history of Independency in Dublin, and a sad little piece, Grace in the bud (1838), on his much loved son Thomas, who died aged six. Urwick's dislike of Roman catholicism lasted throughout his career, and he published a number of pamphlets and books opposing ‘papal aggression’ and Puseyism. He was one of the founders of the international Evangelical Alliance in 1845, and attended meetings in Paris and Geneva. In 1865 a cheque for £2,000, books, and an illuminated address were presented to him to honour his fifty years in the ministry; he gave a tenth away to charity, as he did routinely with his stipend.
After preaching his farewell sermon on 29 October 1865, he died, worn out, in Dublin on 16 July 1868, and was buried in Mount Jerome cemetery. He married (16 June 1818) Sarah, daughter of Thomas Cooke of Shrewsbury; five of their ten children died in infancy, leaving three daughters and two sons. Sarah Urwick died in August 1852, and one of his two surviving sons died in Kentucky in 1854 of cholera.
The other son, William Urwick (1826–1905), was born 8 March 1826 in Sligo, and attended Sligo school. After graduating BA (1848) and MA (1851) from Dublin University, he studied theology at Lancashire Independent College, and spent the rest of his life as pastor to congregational churches in Cheshire, Hertfordshire, and London. He wrote a life of his father, an Early history of Trinity College, Dublin . . . (1892), polemical pamphlets, lengthy historical accounts of nonconformity in several English counties, and translations of German theology. On 1 June 1859 he married Sophia Hunter, daughter of Thomas Hunter of Manchester. They had four sons and five daughters. He died 20 August 1905 of pneumonia on a visit to his old home in Dublin.