Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by W.D. Judson
Between seventy and eighty years ago, two Primitive Methodist preachers took their stand in Retford market-place and preached the word of life. For so doing they were arrested and taken before the Mayor. ‘But the word of God was not bound,’ for it found its way to the heart of a young man called William Clayton, who ultimately became converted as the result of that service. As there was not a Primitive Methodist Society formed in Retford at that time, William Clayton, with his wife, joined the Wesleyan Society, he afterwards becoming a local preacher in that denomination, and remaining so until death.
Alfred Clayton, his son, was born April 17, 1837, and was one of a family of twelve children who were blessed with a religious training in a Christian home. It is not surprising, therefore, that such religious training told for good upon the family, Edwin becoming the secretary of our Sunday-school in Retford, Benjamin, William, and our late brother entering the ranks of our ministry. Alfred was early taken to the Wesleyan Sunday-school, but upon the breaking out of the Reform Movement he joined the Free Church choir, his master, with whom he was apprenticed, being a prominent member of that church. While yet young, our dear brother was converted under the ministry of Rev. Mr. Warwick, of the Methodist Free Church. Shortly afterwards he joined the Primitive Methodist society in Retford, where he became a member of the choir, the secretary of the Sunday school, and a local preacher. It was here also he met with the lady whom he afterwards married, and to whose untiring devotion he owed so much, especially during his painful and protracted affliction.
In the year 1858 he entered our ministry, and subsequently travelled in the following stations: Sheffield Second, Grantham Branch of Bottesford Station, Mansfield, Nottingham First, Leicester Second, Loughborough, Ripley, Boston, Sheffield First and Fifth, Derby Second, and Ventnor, Isle of Wight. He had a lofty idea of the Christian life. He was a voluminous reader, a diligent student, a hard worker, and an effective speaker. When travelling in Sheffield the second time, he took a severe cold while engaged in holding protracted services at Bethel. This laid the foundation of an illness which ultimately developed into asthma and bronchitis. When, at the early age of forty-five, his health so completely broke down that he was obliged to seek superannuation, the ranks of our ministry suffered no mean loss.
His last years were spent in his native town of Retford, where he ultimately died. He travelled in active service twenty-four years, was superannuated eight years, and leaves a widow and a family of nine children. While living in Retford, he suffered most severely from frequent distressing attacks of asthma and bronchitis. His attacks were at times positively alarming to even strongly-nerved people, but the brave heroine of his home never failed in her unswerving devotion to her afflicted husband.
The end came somewhat suddenly on Sunday evening, December 7, 1890. Our dear brother assuring his wife that he felt better and urging her to attend the service, she accordingly went, leaving the younger children at home with their father. His usual wish on such occasions was to be quiet. The children were, therefore, somewhat surprised when he asked them to sing a little. He assisted them in the singing, and seemed to enjoy it, especially the singing of the hymn commencing, ‘I hear thee speak of a better land.’ Upon the return of Mrs. Clayton from service she and her husband had supper together alone, and our brother seemed no worse. Immediately upon leaving the supper table, however, he was seized by death and he passed away about an hour afterwards in his armchair, supported by his faithful wife. Our dear brother’s last words were in reply to his wife, who asked him whether he was better. His reply was a feeble ‘No.’ No, the great sufferer was, upon earth, to be no better. But a moment or two later, and it was ‘Better,’ ‘Far Better.’
Alfred was born on 17 April 1837 at Retford, Nottinghamshire, to parents William, a blacksmith, and Lucy. He was baptised on 26 April 1837 at Clarborough, Nottinghamshire.
He married Mary Ann Brown (1840-1913) in the summer of 1862 at Retford, Nottinghamshire. Census returns identify nine children.
- Letitia Martha (1863-1933) – married Ernest Adams, an assurance agent, in 1890
- Ernest Alfred (1864-1888) – a draper’s apprentice (1881)
- Henry Brown (1866-1950) – a steam laundry manager (1901)
- Egbert William (1868-1930) – a master tailor (1911)
- Augustus Wilfred (1870-1912) – a journalist (1911)
- Hermann Frederick (1871-1939) – a gentleman’s outfitter (1911)
- Rudolf Edgar Wiclif (1873-1943) – a hosier (1903); a sub-postmaster (1939)
- Amelia Lucy (b1875)
- Laura Edith (abt1879-1928) – married George Edward Linfoot, a secondary schoolmaster (1911), in 1903
- Eleanor Flora (abt1881-1966) – married Marmaduke Robinson, a PM minister, in 1905
Alfred died on 7 December 1890 at Retford, Nottinghamshire.
- 1858 Grantham
- 1860 Mansfield
- 1862 Nottingham I
- 1864 Leicester
- 1867 Loughborough
- 1870 Ripley
- 1872 Boston
- 1873 Sheffield I
- 1877 Sheffield V
- 1879 Derby II
- 1881 Ryde & Ventnor
- 1882 Retford (S)
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1892/177
PM Minutes 1891/13
W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990
Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers