Branfoot, John (1795-1831)

Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by W. Garner

(Sunderland circuit.)

“Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh,” Matt, xxiv. 44.

On Saturday Feb. 26, 1831, about three o’clock in the afternoon, our justly respected brethren, J. Branfoot, and John Hewson, were going to their appointments, they were by an inscrutable Providence removed out of this world. This took place on the rail-way on which the coals are brought down from the Hetton colliery. It may be observed there is near Warden-law a steep or inclined plain on this rail-way. And in such cases the rail-way is double; and a train of loaded waggons in going down one rail-way, draw a train of empty ones up the other. The two brethren in ascending this incline, were met by a train of loaded waggons, which they carefully avoided; but it seems did not recollect that a train of empty waggons were rapidly coming up after them, on the other rail-way. And it seems in avoiding the loaded waggons they stepped on the other rail-way, on which were the empty ones; and these suddenly overtook, and partially at least passed over them, Brother Hewson was killed in an instant. Brother Branfoot was likewise thrown down and dreadfully injured, He, however, raised himself up, and inquired for Bro. Hewson, and on being informed he was no more, Bro. B. replied, “He is gone to glory, and I shall soon be with him.”

Brother Branfoot lingered a few hours in extreme bodily pain, but was surprisingly supported in his mind. He was once observed to shiver, and heard to complain that he was cold, which probably was owing chiefly to the great effusion of blood which had issued from his wounds. About half past nine o’clock he departed in peace, and entered that rest which remains to the people of God.


Why the Lord has done this thing we know not now, but we shall know hereafter. His ways are not as our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts; for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his ways higher than our ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts. But whatever he does is well done. For he is too wise to err, and too good to be unkind, I think it would be wrong for any one to presume to tell us why they were removed from us by means so singular and distressing, “The ways of God are unsearchable, and his judgments are past finding out.” And it would not become us to pry into his secret and eternal counsels, and summon him to give an account of his matters. That would he an attempt,

“To snatch from his hand the balance and the rod,
Rejudge his justice (and) be the God of God.”

We are certain the time and circumstances of their dissolution were under the control of Jehovah, and a hair of their head could not have fallen to the ground without his divine permission. But why one was suddenly taked away in a moment, in the midst of health and usefulness; and the other removed in a few hours after, are mysteries too profound for us to explain. They are too wonderful for us, we cannot attain unto them. Let us not comment upon the secrets of God, but reverently adore what we cannot comprehend, and humbly acknowledge that he is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.

Though death came upon our brethren like a thief in the night, at an hour they thought not of, he did not find them unprepared. They had trimmed their lamps before that fatal period, and it is a matter of consolation to their surviving friends and the church, that they were well employed when it arrived. We are told by one of our members who was with them when the misfortune happened, that a lovefeast which Bro. Hewson was appointed to hold at Hetton, the day following, was the subject of their discourse. Thus their conversation was in heaven. Their death has awakened an uncommon sympathy in the public mind, and excited an extraordinary spirit of benevolence towards their disconsolate widows and fatherless children.

John Branfoot was born in the year of our Lord 1795, at Gofa, near Ripon. In the days of his youth he neglected the one thing needful, and lived according to the course of this world. Among other crimes to which he was addicted, he was somewhat given to intemperance in drinking, and lavishing his time and money in public houses, with company as thoughtless and carnal as himself. And as an almost necessary consequence, he despised religion, and treated the people of God with proud contempt.

When about nineteen years old, the grace of God arrested him in his wild career, and awakened in his careless mind very serious reflections. Brother Branfoot did not (like too many) stifle convictions and resist the Holy Ghost, but humbly yielded to this divine impression, and earnestly sought to be reconciled to God through the atonement of Christ. After transiently suffering the anguish inseparable from such a state of mind, he was mercifully brought into a state of salvation.

Brother Branfoot commenced his itinerant labours in the Hull circuit, and preached the gospel with considerable success and good reputation, ten years and a half. He was the first missionary employed by our authorities, who visited Sunderland, Shields, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. For these last two or three years his health had been declining, and he had scarcely recovered from a fit of illness when the sudden period was put to his mortal existence. After the melancholy accident took place, Bro. B. continued quite sensible till the moment of his death. He spent his dying hours in pointing sinners to the only Saviour, expressing his joy in the Lord, and calmly waiting for his change. He died in the Lord, aged 36 years. He has left a widow and 5 children, the eldest 8 years of age, the youngest 8 weeks.

Sunderland, March, 1831.


John was born in 1795 at Gofa, Yorkshire.

He married Hannah Sturdy (abt1797-1875) on 26 November 1821 at Guisborough, Yorkshire. Census returns identify five children.

John (abt1823-1903) – a blue manufacturer who went bankrupt in 1864

William (1825-1902) – a coal fitter

Richard Sturdy (1827-1909 – a clerk

Joseph (1828-1861) – a shipwright

Betsey (1830-1897) – married Thomas Greenfield, a PM minister, in 1877

Hannah earned a living as a grocer after the death of John.

John died on 26 February 1831.


  • 1821 Sheffield
  • 1822 Hull
  • 1824 Carlisle
  • 1825 N Shields
  • 1826 Hexham
  • 1827 Ripon
  • 1829 Sunderland


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1831/274

J Petty, The History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion, 1880, p175

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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