Annakin, Robert (1857-1932)

PM Magazine, 1932
Englesea Brook Museum

Robert Annakin was one of 14 children of Robert and Hannah Annakin.  He played a leading role in the development of the Primitive Methodist church in Harrogate.

Obituary in The Aldersgate Magazine, 1932, pp312-13

After only a few days illness, following an accident, Mr Robert Annakin was called home to God. He was in his 74th year. On the Friday before he had been at the Men’s Fireside and at Church on the Sunday morning. It is hard to realise that he has gone.  He was one of the stalwarts of Primitive Methodism in Harrogate and in all the surrounding district. Between fifty and sixty years ago, his mother, a widow came with her family of five sons and nine daughters to Harrogate. They came from Whixley where the Primitive Methodist chapel had been the centre of their life. Coming to Harrogate they immediately joined the Primitive Methodist cause there. From that day to this the family has been absorbed in our Church. Some of the members of this family have come to fame in the life of the town and nation.

Robert Annakin, though sharing in the family characteristics, had a personality of his own. There was individuality in him. He was frank and fearless and independent. Everyone knew that he was a man of God.  He knew God in the secret places of his heart. He was a man redeemed through the grace of God in Christ. He made no secret of his friendship with God. He could talk in the most natural way of things divine. They were his real life. There was nothing static in his experience. It was ever growing. That was why he loved the House of God and the means of Grace. Only illness kept him away. For fifty five years he was a local preacher and in the days of his strength he was a preacher of remarkable originality and power. Stories are told in Harrogate and district of his many exploits and quaint sayings.  He preached also in his daily life. He was great on ‘conversation preaching’. Scores of people must have heard his testimony to the saving grace of God. He was a great lover of children and so the Sunday school was his natural place. He had the child’s heart. The children in our Orphan Homes were dear to his heart. He was a great encourager.  Words of praise and thanks came easily to his lips. He was appreciative of all sincere effort and a fervent believer in the future of the Church. His was the forward look and the hopeful heart. He had many sorrows and trials and bereavements but they were all transmuted into faith and hope and love. His courage was very evident. Many would have regarded his physical disabilities as a cause for retreat.  He never knew defeat and persevered to the end. He served our church in many capacities and with great faithfulness. He has gone home to God but he will never be forgotten by all who knew him. With his widow, her sister, his own brother and sister, his sons and all the members of his family much sympathy has been expressed. He was laid to rest in Grove Road Cemetery, Harrogate, on Saturday, February 20th, 1932, after a service held in the Dragon Parade Church in which the Revs J E Leuty and J G Bowran took part.


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  • As I am currently researching the Annakin family I am consumed by curiosity regarding the above sentence “Many would have regarded his physical disabilities as a cause for retreat.” Robert’s obituary also states that “He had many sorrows and trials and bereavements”. My researches show his first marriage to Martha Ridsdale only lasted a couple of years and, based on the date, Martha probably died as a result of childbirth. His second wife, Mary Cooper, also died prematurely aged 38 but his third wife, Caroline Bickerdicke did outlive him. His first two marriages produced three children, two of whom predeceased Robert in 1901 and 1916 aged only 18 and 30 respectively.

    Below are two anecdotal extracts from letters which appeared in the Harrogate Herald during the Great War:

    Harrogate Herald - 4th July 1917


    “On Sunday morning I met an old friend of mine whom many of you have known from boyhood. He had come down to see if there was any war news in the office window. Robert Annakin, whose occupation is that of a coal merchant, has long been a familiar figure to us all. He still retains the old familiar smile and quaint good nature. Like the rest of us Robert is short-handed. Every morning, at half-past four, finds him at the coal depot, I believe, at Starbeck, as he says he is obliged to get up this early hour to get through his work single-handed. I took him into my office and let him hear the Dictaphone. It happened to be this letter to you. If you could have seen his face you would have known that the sentiments towards you expressed in the letter were profoundly endorsed by him. Of course, Robert, as he would put it, was “capped” with the invention. He would have his young grandson who was with him hear the voice in the ‘phone. Will all you who know him accept his kind regards and remembrance?”


    Harrogate Herald - 17th October 1917


    “On Monday, coal went up another 2s 6d a ton, reaching 32s 6d for the best. From that date the cost of cartage is increased. It is Sunday morning now and a most beautiful day. Not a cloud to be seen; bright sunshine; but the air is just pleasantly sharp. as soon as I got up I took my customary stroll, or, at least, walked what I call the quarter-deck in front of our building, and met Robert Annakin. You know he is a coal merchant, and believing I could be anxious about the poor people’s cost of winter, he gave me the information which is embodied in the leading article today. Robert has a touch of sciatica, otherwise is looking and is very well, but as you know that complaint is troublesome and difficult to move. It does not affect his spirits, however, for he is as smiling and jolly as ever.”


    The “letters” were written by the editor of the Harrogate Herald, W H Breare, and addressed to “Our boys in service” giving them home news from Harrogate. He ensured they were read by “our boys” by posting them all a copy of the weekly newspaper throughout the Great War. To learn more of this remarkable man Google “W H Breare” which will lead you to a 2012 on line article about him.


    I think W H Breare misidentified the young child with Robert because my researches, to date, show he never had any grandchildren and I suspect he was one of Robert’s many great-nephews. In 1917 Robert had a surviving son, Arthur Bertie, serving in the Great War. Arthur had enlisted in the West Yorkshire Regiment in early 1916 but was transferred to the Army Pay Corps and never left the UK. So Robert’s desire for “war news” would probably have been more about concern for some of his nephews rather than his own son.  


    Once again thanks go to Tony Cheal and his “Harrogate People & Places” website which gave me access to the newspaper articles.

    By David Redhead (13/05/2018)

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