Clayton, Benjamin (1839-1865)

Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by Charles H. Boden

The Rev. B. Clayton, eighth son of William and Lucy Clayton, was born at East Retford, January 25th, 1839, and took his departure for the “spirit land” from the house of his birth, August 8th, 1865, after an earthly sojourn of twenty-six years. His father being a Wesleyan local preacher and his mother a consistent member of the same church they brought a religious influence to bear upon him in childhood, but his early days were not characterised by any remarkable incidents. At the age of nine death deprived him of the tender care of a pious mother, and he was consequently left to receive only such an education as his father could afford; but the moral training given was not in vain. 

When seventeen years of age he was led to yield to the gentle persuasions of the Spirit, and he sought and found the pearl of great price. He at once became a Primitive Methodist, and soon entered the local ministry. Having been a reader of good books from boyhood, and now requiring pulpit preparation, he commenced a course of appropriate study and made rapid progress. As a local preacher he became a general favourite in the Retford circuit. He soon received and responded to a call from Donnington, where he commenced his itinerant labours in October, 1860. 

His name appeared on the stations of 1861. The following year he was appointed for Newark, where many discovered and highly valued the sterling qualities he possessed. His next sphere of labour was Leicester second. Here it was his lot to dwell in troublesome times. He was authorised to take the superintendency, but though this occurred in the third year of his ministry, he acted with a prudence which would have done honour to a more experienced head. 

At the Conference of 1864 he was stationed for Sheffield first circuit; here he nobly led on the host of God. At the March quarterly meeting of 1865, his services were requested for another year. The appointment was made, but ere that year has run its round, he is ranked with “the fallen standard bearers of Zion.”

The Rev. S. Parkin, his first superintendent, says, “I had considerable opportunities of becoming acquainted with the late Mr. B. Clayton. If in one sentence I were to sum up my views of him, I should say he was deeply religious; was intellectual and studious; had a deep insight into character; was industrious, and ambitious to be an able minister of the New Testament. In respect to general ability, I looked on him as more than an average young man, and hoped that he was designed to take a high position amongst us as a minister.” 

The Rev. T. Baron, his tutor, writes, ‘‘I was led from my somewhat limited acquaintance with brother B. Clayton, to form a favourable estimate of him as a man and a Christian, and of his qualifications as a minister of the Gospel.”

He was an intelligent preacher. Though lacking the advantages of early education, he applied himself diligently to reading and study, and thus supplied the deficiency. He had a clear view of the true character of preaching. The writer recollects with pleasure hearing from him a sermon on the “Divine Paternity.” The preacher evidently felt that “Truth loves the light.” The sermon was proportionate in outline, distinct in thought, and full of unction.

He was a laborious preacher. No work was avoided which he knew ought to be done. From a note in his pocket book I find that during his last year he walked more than 800 miles, preached 220 times, visited 2,117 families.

He was a successful preacher. Many in Sheffield circuit lament his loss. During his last year, his journal records fifty-three conversions. It was his delight to see people saved. He has preached and then walked three miles to a special prayer meeting, to aid in plucking “brands from the fire.” He has preached in the morning, and spent the afternoon of a cold winter’s Sabbath in conducting a procession, and after the evening service seen nearly a score of sinners born for heaven. He has lingered at God’s house with two or three until near eleven at night to struggle with one seeking, Jesus, These cannot forget him; “The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.”

His death was premature. Though of frail build and predisposed to consumption, circumstances facilitated the development of the disease. About four months prior to death, he returned from a distant appointment.amid drenching rain, from which he received a severe cold. Another tributary were his incessant labours at Sheffield special services, before the close of which his voice failed, and a deep and heavy cough announced him the victim of pulmonary consumption.

His exit was expected. Before he had made the discovery the watchful eyes of friends had discovered that his mortal structure was sinking into the dust, and the opinion of the physician gave confirmation to their views. About six weeks before his death, a friend revealed to him the opinion of his medical adviser. At the announcement he was overcome, not through fear of the future, but at the relinquishment of a work to which he was consecrated even unto death.

His departure was provided for. He gave evidence of growth in grace and readiness for eternity. The following is the last entry made in his journal:—

“March, 5th, morning. I feel I am under the smile of heaven. I rejoice in the prospect of warning men to flee from the wrath to come. Preached at Bethel Chapel this morning, had liberty and power. Conducted a love-feast in Hoyle street chapel in the afternoon. Many spoke of the goodness of God. Preached at Bethel at night, congregation very good; service very impressive. Many stayed at the prayer meeting. Returned home tired and faint, but rejoicing in God; prepared by grace to do or suffer his will; the Lord help me, amen.”

About six weeks before his death, when seated in the train, starting home to die, a brother minister said to him, “Mr. C., you have encouraged others, you must now practise the precepts you have asserted. Do you feel all right?” Tears sprang to his eyes, but he replied, “I have no fear; I am quite at ease.”

His brother, the Rev. A. Clayton, writes:— “The last few weeks of his life were spent in patient waiting for the Son of God; ecstasy there was none, but the calmest confidence, the sweetest peace. Every day but the last he sat up from ten to twelve hours, and the last day about three hours less. He received the visits of friends and ministers, who can testify to his readiness for the inheritance of the saints in light.”

Another brother, the Rev. W. Clayton, states, “I went, to see him on the 12th July; he told me the doctor had informed a friend that it was a rapid decline. I said, ‘Well, are you, resigned? He, without the least hesitation, replied, ‘O yes.’ At the same time he desired me to take out my pencil and put down a few things he wished to be done after his funeral. He then made arrangements for his interment,” 

He waited for the, heavenly messenger until August 8th, 1865, when about half-past seven in the evening, feeling angelic hands gently unlocking his earthly fetters, he said to a friend called to his assistance, “Farewell, I must leave you now.” Thus, without a sob, without a cloud, without a murmur or misgiving, he bade adieu to this fair creation, cast his eyes to the sparkling gates of bliss, and passed to an early reward. On the following Friday his earthly remains were laid in the dormitory of the dead, connected with the Wesleyan chapel in his native town.

His death was gain. To him death was not the meagre skeleton followed by a train of terrors, but the angel of liberty, not the gateway to mystery and silence, but the stepping stone to heaven. Now the sun shines upon his grave, but “he shines in the light of God.”

“And when the Lord shall summon us,
Whom he has left behind,
May we, untainted by the world,
As sure a welcome find;

May we like him depart in peace,
To be a glorious quest,
Where the wicked cease from troubling,
And the weary are at rest.”


Benjamin was born on 25 January 1839 at Retford, Nottinghamshire, to parents William, a blacksmith, and Lucy.

Benjamin died on 8 August 1865 at Retford, Nottinghamshire.


  • 1861 Donington
  • 1862 Newark
  • 1863 Leicester II
  • 1864 Sheffield I


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1865/878

PM Minutes 1866/6

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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