Acornley, Richard (1812-1869)

Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by J.H. Acornley

Was born at Carey Bridge, near Colne, in Lancashire, on the 8th of April, 1812. Until he reached the age of eighteen years he lived in open rebellion against God. His father had been dead about four years, and his mother had removed to Bury with her family, when one Sunday evening Richard attended the Primitive Methodist Chapel in that town. When the preaching service was over, he was invited to attend a prayer meeting to be held that evening in a cottage at Park Hills. He went, and when the time arrived, a boy of about fifteen years of age arose and began to give out a hymn. Conviction seized his mind in a moment. He felt miserable and wretched to think that he had sought death in the error of his way for so long a time. He began diligently to seek the Lord; day and night he wept, and groaned, and sighed, and earnestly prayed for pardon. He joined the society at once; but was kept in bondage about three weeks, when one day, while at work, his heart being fully engaged with God in earnest, humble, and sincere prayer, divine light suddenly broke in upon his dark mind; and in a moment his fetters were broken, and he stept into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Oh! what peace and love he felt. He says, “I felt such a burning love for immortal souls, and such a deep solicitude that every one should enjoy the same happiness, the same salvation, and the same glorious hope of heaven, that I ran with zeal and earnestness to all my immediate acquaintances and workfellows, telling them how good religion was, how happy I felt, and what God had done for me he would do for them, if they would seek him; therefore I earnestly invited, exhorted, tried to persuade them to pray, to give up their sins, and seek the Lord.” He thought in the simplicity of his heart that he could persuade every one to ‘‘seek the Saviour.” He fancied they only needed to be told in order to be persuaded. He was diligent in attending all the means of grace, he was constantly on the watch, both with regard to thoughts, and words, and actions, he says, “I really did pray without ceasing, and enjoyed everything with a thankful heart.” In the beginning of the year 1831, the brethren of Bury circuit began to say that it was now time for him to try publicly to exhort sinners to flee from the wrath to come (he had now begun occasionally to exhort at Sunday evening cottage prayer-meetings). He was asked what he thought about it, but he felt so much of his inefficiency for the task, that he durst not give consent; however, at the next March Quarterly Meeting the subject was named. A note being sent to him requesting him to accompany Brother John Crawford in his preaching appointments the ensuing quarter, he took up his cross. Before the end of this quarter his family removed from Bury to Burnley. The Society in Burnley was very low; they worshipped in an upper room about four stories high, access being gained by a long wooden ladder placed outside the building; and situate in the very worst part of the town. This little society received him with open arms, and at the June quarter day his name was placed on the preachers’ plan as an exhorter. In due time he was raised to full plan, and laboured as an accredited local preacher until the year 1833. In the spring of this year he was called to labour more fully for Christ and for the Church, by becoming a travelling preacher in the Bolton circuit. He got to Bolton in April, and subsequently travelled in the following circuits: Isle-of-Man, Leicester, Nottingham, and Mansfield. In these five circuits his labours were not in vain, great numbers were in distress on account of sin, and many were hopefully converted to God. In Nottingham he travelled in conjunction with the Rev. W. Antliff,  at which place they had an increase in one quarter of near 500 members. They visited from house to house in the good old Primitive Methodist style. He says, “We visited a great deal from house to house, and both here and in Leicester circuit I have seen many converted at their own homes during my family visits.”

On the 16th December, 1835, he was joined in holy wedlock to her who now mourns his loss. Leaving Mansfield they came to reside at Burnley. My father had been obliged to resign the ministry through ill health. They brought proper credentials and were received. He came on the plan as a local preacher, and continued to labour in this sphere until the year 1854. He had been very unfortunate in business, which was a cause of very great grief and sorrow to him for a long time. He withdrew at this time from the Society, for fear of bringing a reproach on the cause of God. He however continued to attend the means of grace as formerly. In 1864, residing at Rochdale, he again joined the Society, and in March 1865, was again put on the preachers’ plan; but he had not much physical energy left; however, he continued to labour for Christ to the utmost of his ability until his death, which took place on the 7th Feb., 1869, in his fifty-seventh year. He had been several years so very weakly and infirm that he had not been able to perform much work, In his last illness he was confined to his bed about six weeks, and during that time his faith was strong, his prospects bright, and his hope of glory blooming with immortality. He was heard at intervals to administer words of exhortation, counsel, and encouragement to the kind friends who visited him; and although his mental faculties wavered at times, and seemed almost ready to desert him, yet with eyes uplifted, and heart fixed, his soul constantly waited on God.


Richard was born on 8 April 1812 at Colne, Lancashire, to parents James, a labourer, and Isabel. He was baptised on 24 June 1812 at St Bartholomew, Colne.

Census returns identify the following occupations for Richard.

  • 1851 tea dealer
  • 1861 travelling bookseller

He married Ann Holmes (b abt1816) on 16 December 1835 at Mansfield Nottinghamshire. Census returns identify seven children.

  • George (abt1837-1842)
  • Sarah Jane (abt1840-1851)
  • John Holmes (1842-1907) – became a PM minister in the United States from 1871.
  • William Henry (b abt1847) – city missionary in Salford (1811); later a clergyman in USA (1900)
  • Mary Jane (1849-1891) – a cotton wider 1871
  • Frederick (b abt1857) – a doffer 1871
  • Samuel (1859-1945) – a plumber

Richard died in early 1869 at Rochdale, Lancashire.


  • 1933 Isle of Man
  • 1834 Leicester
  • 1835 Mansfield
  • 1836 disappears – due to ill health


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1870/172

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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