Axson, James (1884-1967)


My grandfather James Axson was born on 2nd February 1884 at Hollinwood near Oldham, the son of Thomas Axson an insurance agent (though he had been a spinner in the cotton industry both in Oldham and in Massachusetts) and Milly Clayton. His elder brother had been born in Oldham, whilst his second brother and two sisters were born in the United States, the family returning to Oldham in 1878 or 1879. Both sisters died  in early childhood of scarlet fever.

Call to the Ministry

On leaving school, James helped his father with the insurance business, but early felt the call to ministry and in 1906 was accepted as a candidate for the Primitive Methodist ministry and trained at Hartley Victoria College, at the same time pursuing a degree course at Owen’s College, which had been absorbed into the Victoria University of Manchester in 1904. At the end of his course he was ill and unable to take his degree examinations and was awarded an aegrotat.

His first station was as a probationer in Grassington in Wharfedale where he met his future wife Henrietta Holmes, the daughter of a forester on the Duke of Devonshire’s Bolton Abbey Estate. They were married at the Primitive Methodist Church, Main Street, Grassington on 2nd July 1913 when James was 29 and Henrietta 35.


James was stationed in the following circuits during his ministry:

  • 1909    Grassington
  • 1911    Barrow-in-Furness
  • 1913    Rochdale
  • 1917    Rhondda
  • 1921    Aberdare
  • 1925    Oakengates
  • 1929    Wigan
  • 1932    Preston Brook and Runcorn
  • 1933    Runcorn
  • 1935    Bolton, Higher Bridge Street
  • 1940    Helmshore
  • 1944    Lowton
  • 1946    Supernumerary

He died on 20th July 1967.

Obituary of James Axson from the Minutes of the Methodist Conference 1967

Born at Hollinwood near Oldham on 3rd February 1884. Early in life he felt the call to the ministry. Working for a short time with his father in insurance, he entered Hartley Victoria College in 1906. …. He came of a generation which practised courtesy and graciousness and these qualities were inherent with him. He had a robust faith and the deep certainties of the Gospel were intensely real to him. This he imparted to others, not only from reasoned conviction but, as he had known sorrow, from experience. He gave every thought to personal relationships. He felt that good administration in church business contributed to this end, so he gave care to every detail. As people were his concern he gave his ministry to all, irrespective of belief. He excelled in pastoral care for his people. Particularly he had  a compelling way with young men: gathering them together in study groups, influencing many to come on the plan, some to offer for the ministry, causing most to have his burning desire to live and preach the Gospel.

In judgement he was without bias and, in spite of strongly held opinions, was tolerant to those who differed with him. He felt very deeply and was often moved to righteous indignation, but was not swayed by his own personal prejudices. Consequently, here too, his winsomeness won goodwill from opponents. Upon retiring, increasing ill health permitted little public activity, but visitors to his home, a place of excellent love and understanding, found rich benediction. He died on 20 July 1967 in the eighty-third year of his age and the fifty-eighth of his ministry.

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