Durance Ernest William Antliff (1866-1895)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference by W. Durrance

Ernest W. A. Durance was born at Lincoln, November 22nd, 1866, and was brought up in the fear of the Lord, early manifesting good desires, and enjoyed the benefits of a fairly good education. He realised Christ as a personal Saviour in a grand revival at Kimberley, in which scores were converted, when he was about fifteen years of age. Forthwith, without waiting for official appointment, he consecrated himself to Christian work, as if in his resurrection for a new life he had heard the Divine voice calling him to special service. 

He frequently expressed the desire to enter the regular ministry. On January 1st, 1886, he started on his first mission full of faith, hope, love. It was an encouraging success, not without its drawbacks, and resulted in upwards of sixty conversions. During the time he pursued his studies as a candidate for the ministry, and passed his examination for the College. At the expiration of his engagement with Pocklington he accepted an invitation to the Lincoln Second circuit, where he laboured sixteen months as a hired local preacher, many being brought to Christ under his ministry. In July, 1887, he entered the Manchester College, where he spent twelve months in hard work; but he valued his studies only in proportion as they qualified him to become a more efficient minister of the Lord Jesus. 

The Conference of 1888 stationed him at Chichester, where he laboured two years successfully with Rev. J. Mayles as his superintendent, who says, ‘During the two years of our association no hitch ever occurred to mar our friendship. He was thoroughly devoted to his work, and had special delight in making sermons and preaching them. He was a welcome visitor to the homes of the people, and his vivacity and geniality won the hearts of the children. As a colleague he was obliging and differential, and never spared himself in sharing the burdens of the station. Sussex soil is proverbially hard; but notwithstanding this he succeeded in ‘turning men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.’ 

Walthamstow was his next station, which, after a few months, at the request of the General Missionary Committee, to oblige a ministerial brother, he exchanged for Dover. Here he finished his probation, and on removal was united in marriage to Miss Cooke, eldest daughter of the Rev. G. J. Cooke. He spent the three following years as superintendent of the Dartmouth station, where his incessant labours, diligence, and tact were crowned with no small measure of success, both numerical and financial. In November, 1894, he and his father, each without the knowledge of the other, were invited to Bedford circuit. He regarded the appointment as a splendid opportunity for systematic pulpit teaching and pastoral visitation, and every letter he wrote contained some valuable suggestion for giving effect to his purposes. Little did he, or anyone, think that instead of being allowed to engage in work so congenial, his Master had appointed for him sickness and death. So it was, nevertheless. Before he had fairly begun, his work was finished. 

Only once he preached in each of the town chapels and at two or three of the country places, and was then laid aside. Consumption was the cause of his death, the foundation of which was laid in Dartmouth station by a too faithful devotion to circuit duties. Quite forgetful of himself, he took his work in the severest weather when he ought to have been at home, hoping a change of circuits would restore him. Unfortunately, however, he got wet his first Sunday in this circuit at Clophill, and early in August was obliged to take to his room, which he never again left. The disease did its terrible work rapidly, and but for the loving attentions, night and day, of his devoted wife he must have died earlier. He was hopeful and cheerful to the last, talking only a day or two before the end about what he would be able to do when he recovered. But though hopeful, at times he spoke of the end, and felt keenly leaving his dear wife and children. He felt, however, the peace and consolations which spring from a loving trust in Christ, and was often refreshed by reading the grand old hymns he had so often given out from the pulpit, as ‘Jesus, lover,’ &c., and ‘Rock of Ages,’

The end was sudden. On Sunday night, November 3rd, a blood-vessel broke on the diseased lung, and in five minutes his eyes closed in death, but opened to behold in the light of eternity the King in His beauty. 

His career as a minister was short, but successful. He loved the work, and again and again said, ‘I would rather die than not be able to preach.’ How utterly inexplicable that one so devoted and promising should have been ordered to lay aside his armour so early when consecrated service for Christ is so manifestly needed. But so it is. The best human plans and hopes seem to be confounded by the mysterious workings of an All-wise Providence. The loss to surviving ones is terrible; but as our dear one said as he lay waiting the last summons, ‘Providence never makes a mistake.’ We bow with submission to the will of the Divine Father, and wait and hope for fuller explanations in the cloudless light of eternal day. On November 7th Rev. S. Dobson conducted a very impressive funeral service in the presence of a large number of friends in Hassett-street chapel, after which the mortal remains were laid to rest in Bedford cemetery, in hope of a resurrection to eternal life.


Ernest was born on 22 November 1866 at Lincoln, Lincolnshire, to parents William Durance, a PM minister, and Hannah Mason. he was baptised on 20 December 1866 at Hope Parish Church, Derbyshire.

Follow this link to view Ernest’s Candidates Testimonial Form

He married Sarah Annie Cooke (1868-1900) in the summer of 1892 at Dover, Kent. Birth records identify two children.

  • Annie Ernestine (1893-1987) – married Robert K Linday, a secretary in soap works (1939), in 1915; married Sowerbutts in 1945; died in Australia
  • Dorothy (b1895)

Ernest died on 3 November 1895 at Bedford, Bedfordshire.


  • Hartley
  • 1888 Chichester
  • 1890 Walthamstow
  • 1891 Folkstone
  • 1892 Dartmouth
  • 1895 Bedford


PM Minutes 1896/13

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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