Brittain, Ebenezer (1825-1852)

Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by Samuel Tillotson

EBENEZER BRITAIN, Primitive Methodist minister. He was born at Bradwell, in Derbyshire, November 5th, 1825, his father being then stationed there. In childhood he was of course nurtured amongst our own people, and was a regular scholar in our Sabbath-schools at the place where his father was stationed. In school he made rapid improvement in the various branches taught ; so that at an early period were discovered in him buddings of more than ordinary powers. One of his early teachers said, “He was a sharp one.” In early life he was kept from gross immoralities, but was disposed to be playful. He was, in fact a youth of much cheerfulness and vivacity.

In the seventeenth year of his age he was awakened to a sense of his sinful state, and with a broken and contrite heart began to seek the Lord. He speedily obtained a “knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins,” and then could sing,

“What we have felt-and seen,
With confidence we tell,
And publish to the sons of men,
The signs infallible.”

Brother David Tillotson, local preacher of Silsden circuit, was the means of leading him to God, Mr. J. Britain being then stationed in that circuit. At this time a revival broke out, and Ebenezer took much interest in it. Though himself but recently found in Christ, he laboured, both in and out of doors, to call sinners to repentance, and was much in private with God, pleading for himself and others, and numbers of souls were converted. He was early put on the plan as an exhorter, and made rapid improvement in public speaking.

On account of itinerant preachers being much wanted, and he being a youth of great promise, he was called out to travel in Tunstall circuit, when he had been converted little more than seven months. In this circuit he laboured a year with general acceptance, no one having cause “to despise his youth.”

From Tunstall he removed to Burland, in Cheshire, where he remained two years, and was not without seals to his ministry, some of which no doubt “will be the crown of his rejoicing in the day of the Lord Jesus.” His next station was Ludlow circuit, where he travelled with me. He also boarded with me, so that I had more than ordinary intimacy with him, and I respected him as a son. We spent two comfortable and profitable years together in this circuit, and he had some fruit of his labour, although his health was delicate. The intimacy which commenced between us in this circuit remained unbroken to the last; so that when I looked into his opened grave I could not refrain from weeping, and from saying, “There lies my friend and brother.”

From Ludlow he removed to Sandbach, where he became superintendent, and remained two years, preaching a free, full, and present salvation. In this place also God gave him favour in the eyes of the people, and crowned his labours with success.

From Sandbach he removed to Dudley, where he remained two years. His preaching in this large and powerful circuit was truly acceptable. He was frequently called upon to preach occasional sermons, for which he was eminently qualified. His mental powers were great, though his physical strength was small. Often had he to contend with bodily afflictions after he became a travelling preacher; but the Lord supported him, so that he generally took his preaching appointments.

In June, 1851, he entered into the marriage state with one every way suited for him; but oh, how transitory and uncertain are the things of this world! His life, even then, was near its close. At the last district meeting and Conference he was stationed for Rose Cottage branch of Cwm circuit, which was far from being congenial to his wishes, and which made his parting with old friends in the Dudley circuit increasingly painful. After leaving Dudley, he visited his relations, and then started for Abergavenny, in Monmouthshire, his fresh place of abode, where he arrived on the 23rd of July, in a very sickly and prostrated state of body. With some difficulty he mustered sufficient mental and physical energy to preach two sermons on the Sabbath, it being the day. appointed for the anniversaries at Abergavenny. This he did to the edification of the people, and his own soul appeared to be more than usually elevated and affected. His text at night was, “Worthy is the Lamb.” These two sermons excited in the people ardent longings to sit under his ministry, and expectations of its being a great blessing to the place, and to the branch at large. Little did the people think that his first heart Sabbath labours would be his last! but God seeth not as man seeth; His mind is unsearchable, and His ways past finding out.

I was appointed to assist our brother at a tea-meeting on Wednesday July 28th. I found him feeble and sickly in body, and much cast-down in mind, from a variety of causes. He rallied a little in and after the meeting, but on the following day I found him confined to his room. I wished him to take rest and call in a doctor, and hoped he would soon be better; but on Sunday, August 8th, a messenger met me to say that he died on Thursday, and that I was desired to attend his funeral. I repaired thither on Monday, and saw him respectfully interred in the cemetery belonging to the Independents.

I was informed that after I left him he called in a physician, who pronounced his complaint “typhus fever;” but none expected, not even his medical attendant, that his sickness would terminate fatally. He however was aware of his danger, and manifested a steady reliance on the Saviour, being persuaded that He would not forsake him; and thus in a calm, composed frame he entered the cold swellings of Jordan, and courageously passed over, his end being peace. He died August 5, 1852, in the twenty-seventh year of his age, and when he had finished the ninth of his ministry, leaving behind him a young and disconsolate widow about his own age, and a large number of mourning friends. May we who survive imitate all in him that was good, and avoid all that was not worthy of imitation!

Miss M.C. Buck, who travelled with him two years in the Burland circuit, says, “My dear young friend joined me in the Burland circuit in the year 1843. A pale delicate youth, little more than seventeen years of age, his fragile frame, delicate health, and extreme youth, rendered him in my opinion far more fit for the watchful attention of a mother, whose tender solicitude and jealous care are called into vigorous exercise by conflicting hopes and fears, than for the labour of an extensive and heavy circuit.

“With painful emotions I looked upon the pale, thin boy, and measured his footsteps round the circuit, timidly calculating on a speedy close of his career. Week after week, and month after month, however, he pursued the even tenour of his way without complaint: and never, to my recollection, neglected an appointment, whatever the distance, whatever the weather, whatever the state of his health,

“Without noisy show, he soon gained a very high degree of esteem. Judicious and discreet above his years, he wondered at the infirmities of many who might have been to him ‘fathers in Christ,’

“In his disposition he was kind and gentle, equally removed from dastardly fear and vain presumption; choice in the selection of his friends, close and firm in his friendships when formed: simple and unassuming in his manners, solemn and sound in his religious exercises; studious and diligent in his general habits; nor were the labours of his hands, his head, his feet, and his heart in vain. Many attributed their enjoyment of a hope blooming with immortality to his efforts. May they follow him to join the assembly around the throne, having washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb!”

Another friend writes,— “The very subjects he selected as his late pulpit themes were evidently calculated to lead the mind to contemplate a future state of existence, and more especially that which relates to the felicities of the glorified.

“His cheerful piety, richly furnished mind, correctness of judgment, ability in expounding and unfolding Divine truth; his vivid fancy, and his correct enunciation and thrilling eloquence, qualified him to be distinguished in the pulpit. But his sun has early set, though set to rise in ‘brighter day; the casket is broken, but the jewel is safe in the keeping of our heavenly Father.”

May the Lord raise up others to shine as stars of the first magnitude, and soon may the world be filled with heavenly light!


Ebenezer was born on 5 November 1825 at Bradwell, Derbyshire, to parents John Brittain, a PM minister, and Rebecca Smith. He was baptised on 21 May 1827 at Jersey St PM Chapel, New Islington, Lancashire.

He married Elizabeth Walley (b abt1825) in June 1851 at Market Drayton, Shropshire.

Ebenezer died on 5 August 1852 at Abergavenny, Monmouthshire.


  • 1844 Burland
  • 1846 Ludlow
  • 1848 Sandbach
  • 1850 Dudley
  • 1852 Rose Cottage


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1852/705

PM Minutes 1853/5

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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