Greenwell, Frederick (1898-1966)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference

FREDERICK GREENWELL: born at Thornley, Co. Durham, in 1898. After working for some years as a coal miner he became a candidate for the ministry in 1921. There followed two pre-collegiate years, first in the Clitheroe Circuit, and then in the Dalton and Millom Circuit. On leaving Hartley College in 1926 he proceeded to Eastern Nigeria, to begin what was destined to be a great career of missionary service, covering thirty-one years. He took with him the marks of the virile Primitive Methodism of his early years, and the rare spirit of comradeship for which he is remembered to this day by men who worked with him at the coal face. 

For many years he worked in the Ovim Circuit, entering fully into the life of the people, and learning the language by his constant sharing of their communal life. During this period he was instrumental in the building of the Ovim Girls’ School, a marked advance in the education of girls in Eastern Nigeria. As the district developed he worked in the Agbain, Ihube, Kono, Opobo, and Ibiaku Circuits, being loved in them all by a people who came to know him as guide, philosopher and friend. A lover of children, he entered into their activities with exuberant joy, and was regarded by them, as by their parents, as a very wonderful man. 

His knowledge of the country made of him a most valuable member of the numerous district committees on which he served. African and European colleagues alike speak of him in terms of affectionate esteem. His preaching was original, and his people were offered a gospel full of love and challenge. It was a great blow to him and to his many friends when ill health caused him to return to England as a supernumerary in 1957. He settled in Middlesbrough, and the remaining years of his life were years of brave resistance to increasingly failing health. 

When it was possible he attended Sunday services, his presence always being helpful to the preacher. On very rare occasions he assisted in the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. For the greater part of his retirement, however, it was not possible for him to play an active role in public gatherings. He was no stranger to heartache. Besides physical handicap, he bore personal burdens that had the elements of tragedy in them. Family intimates excepted, he bore these burdens alone. This was a mark of his deep faith in God. He died on 18 April 1966, in his sixty-eighth year and the forty-third of his ministry.


Frederick was born in 1898 at Thornley Colliery, Co Durham, to parents Frederick Richard Greenwell, a coal miner, and Eliza.

He married Amy Bell Jones in the summer of 1928 in the Eastbourne Registration District, Sussex.

Frederick died on 18 April 1966 at Middlesbrough, Yorkshire.


  • 1921 Clitheroe
  • 1923 Dalton & Milton
  • 1924 Hartley
  • 1926 E Nigeria
  • 1957 Supernum


Methodist Minutes 1966/214

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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