John George Wilding (1870-1923)

Can you help solve a mystery?

Rev John George Wilding, with his wife Beatrice and son Joe
Suzanne Scaife
The chapel and manse in Monnow St where the family lived, 1921
Suzanne Scaife

Rev John George Wilding was a well known and much respected Primitive Methodist Minister in Monmouth, from 1919 until his death in 1923, as the local newspaper reports covering his death, funeral and memorial service show only too clearly.

A  mystery

The local newspaper (see below) mentions that had he lived, he intended leaving for Truro, Cornwall. But where was he before the family moved to Monmouth?

This is something of a mystery, as John Wilding does not appear in the official list of Primitive Methodist ministers at all.

His Monmouth church members called him their Minister, and he and the family lived in the Manse. His death certificate also states he is a Primitive Methodist Minister. But was he?

His early life

John’s father Joseph was killed in a tragic railway accident in 1874 while shunting wagons.  John was only 4 at the time, and his mother Matilda was probably unable to cope with looking after two young children and earning a living, so John ended up in the workhouse.

He seems to have moved around a great deal – being born in Hardingstone, Northamptonshire, in Glourcester as a child, then Nuneaton, married in Co. Durham, to a girl from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire.

At the time of his marriage to Beatrice Hinson, at Dock Street Chapel, Sunderland, in 1895, John was working as a Railway Porter and living in Monkwearmouth. Beatrice came from a family of successful market gardeners and the Hinsons are listed in local Kelly’s directories for Cambridge. In 1903, when their last child, Joseph, was born, they were living in Hull, and John put his occupation as general labourer.

Prinitive Methodist Minister

By the time of the 1911 census he was describing himself as a ‘Methodist Minister, Primitive Connexion’, and was boarding with a widow in Malton, North Yorkshire, while his wife and family were still living in Hull.  By road that is about 50 miles, probably less cross country.

The most likely explanation is that John, whose formal education must have been very limited, became a Primitive Methodist local preacher. His talents being recognised, he was paid as a hired preacher to travel further afield.  The next step should have been to become a Primitive Methodist Minister, also known as an itinerant or travelling preacher, but it appears that John was never formally recognised or ordained.

That raises another question. If he was not officially recognised, he could not have been stationed by Conference. In that case, how did the church in Monmouth hear about John, living the other side of the country in Hull, and ask him to come and be their minister?

Perhaps he was ordained after all, but has somehow become lost from the official record?  If so, did he serve in any other circuits?

Or perhaps he simply re-invented himself, self-educated and-self styled as a minister?  Whatever the truth, he was certainly successful in leaving behind his humble beginnings to become  a respected pillar of the community.

Family memories

Family members remember that when they were growing up in Monmouth there were still people who had fond memories of John and what he did for the area. John’s great grand daughter, Suzanne Scaife, interviewed John’s granddaughter (now in her late 80’s) who remembered that his wife Beatrice used to play the organ in the circuit while John gave the sermons.

After his death, Beatrice would stay at the houses of her grandchildren and wake them up in the morning by getting in their beds and singing a rousing hymn with them!  Suzanne says, ‘I am told she had a lovely voice, which her daughter Dolly inherited.  Dolly wanted to be a professional singer, but John wouldn’t allow it.’


Monmouthshire Beacon, Friday 13 April 1923


W ILDING – At Cardiff Hospital, on Wednesday, after a painful illness, the Rev. John George Wilding of Monnow Street, Monmouth.  Funeral Saturday, Cortège will leave the house at 2.15.  Friends please accept this the only intimation.

DEATH OF WELL-KNOWN LOCAL MINISTER – We regret to record the death on Wednesday morning at 7’o’clock, at Cardiff Hospital, after an operation, of the Rev. John George Wilding a well-known and much respected Primitive Methodist minister of this town.  The deceased who was 53 years of age had been on the local circuit for nearly 4 years and intended leaving for Truro (Cornwall) in July.  His illness had been a very painful one, but had been very patiently borne, and much sympathy is extended to his widow and children (2 sons, and one daughter) who are left to mourn his loss.  The funeral will be on Saturday.

FUNERAL OF THE REV. J. G. WILDING – The funeral took place on Saturday last of the Rev. J. G. Wilding, the well-known Primitive Methodist minister of this town.  The deceased who was interred at the Cemetery, died at Cardiff and was brought home by motor hearse just before the first portion of the service which was held at the Primitive Methodist Church.  The Rev. J. J. Harrison (District Missionary Secretary, Tredegar), conducted the service assisted by the Rev. A. M. Brewer (Brockweir) who read the lessons, and the Rev. F. Tavender, B.A., B.D., who said prayers.  The Rev. F. C. Tucker (president of the Free Church  Council), wrote regretting his inability to attend, and expressing his deepest sympathy.  Miss Lena Williams was the organist.  The bearers were Mr. Clarridge, Mr. G. Meredith, Mr. W. Meredith (junr.), and Mr. Clements.  The chief mourners were Mr. J. H. Wilding (eldest son, of Durham) who represented the family; Mr. A. Robbins (Dunmow) and Mr. Parrot (Symonds Yat).  There were many beautiful floral tributes including those from the following:  His loving Wife and Children; Mrs. And Miss Walters; All at Drybridge Farm; Gwern-y-Saint P.M. Society; Newton Common P.M. Society; Mr. and Mrs. Boyce; Cousin Rose and all at 3 Borlace Street, Leicester; Miss Baker; Mr. and Mrs. Robbins; Mr. and Mrs. Clements; Mrs. Croudace; Monmouth Men’s Adult School; Willie James; Mr. Mapp and Family; Mr. and Mrs. Stacey; Mr. and Mrs. A. Gundy; Mr. and Mrs. G. Meredith; Monmouth P.M. Society; E. M. Molland and Friends; P.M. Church Penalt; Mr. and Mrs. Jones and Family; Mr. and Mrs. Webber; Mr. and Mrs. Morgan (Penalt); and Mr. and Mrs. Greenwood (Penalt).  At the Congregational Church on Sunday morning the pastor the Rev. F. Tavender, in his sermon mainly dealt with the great loss the town and neighbourhood had sustained in the death of Mr. Wilding, and paid a high tribute of respect to the deceased.  At the close of the sermon the congregation rose whilst a resolution conveying their deep sympathy to the family and churches he was connected with was silently passed.  A memorial service will be held at the Primitive Methodist Church on Sunday evening next at 6.30 p.m.

MEMORIAL SERVICE TO THE LATE REV. J. G. WILDING  –  On Sunday evening last a special Memorial Service was held at the Monnow Street Primitive Methodist Church in memory of the late Rev. J. G. Wilding.  There was a large congregation present.  Friends assembled from far and near to pay a tribute of respect to the memory of one whose death so many deplored.  Mr. Wilding was always doing his best for the Community and associating himself in many ways to help on any good work in the town or country.  To Mrs. Wilding and her family much sympathy has been extended on this their hour of sorrow and bereavement.  The service which was conducted by Mr. G. Meredith, assistant Circuit Steward was very impressive.  Mr. Meredith preached from the text, 9th Chapter Job. 12 V. “Behold he taketh away who can hinder him, who will say unto him what doest Thou” in a very effective manner.  Mr. Meredith in alluding to the death of Mr. Wilding said his demise was a loss to the district and he himself had not only lost a good Pastor but a good friend.  Mrs. Meredith officiated at the organ.  The hymns sung were: “How Blest the Righteous when he dies”; When our heads are bowed with Woe”; “A few more years shall roll”; “Oh God our help in ages past”; “Oh God to whom my life I owe”.

Friday, April 20, 1923


MRS WILDING AND FAMILY wish to thank all friends for kind sympathy and the tributes during their recent sad bereavement.

Comments about this page

  • For an update on this story see ‘John George Wilding: a mystery solved’.

    By Jill Barber (14/11/2012)

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