Hopgood, Cecil Robert B.A. B.D. (1908-1985)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference

CECIL ROBERT HOPGOOD, B.A., B.D.: born at Andover on 1st January 1908. His great skill with languages was apparent while at Hartley College, after which he spent a year at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. In 1935 he went to Northern Rhodesia where he must have been the first missionary to Central Africa to preach fluently in the venacular on his first Sunday in the country. As well as circuit work, he produced a grammar of the Tonga language, and, with an African colleague, translated the whole Bible into Tonga by 1961. He spoke and preached in at least five of the languages of the area. He was at heart an evangelist and pastor, with special concern for the villages, and he was entrusted with the leading of two-year training courses for full-time evangelists. 

After twenty-five years, he returned to Britain in 1960, serving in Bingley, the North of Scotland Mission, and Falkirk. In 1971 he was invited to return to serve with the United Church of Zambia, working for six years at the Ministerial Training College. He came home in 1977, and lived and served in the Eastbourne Circuit for the remaining eight years of his life. 

As a man he was always humble, unassuming, gentle and patient. He lived, and walked, at a slow pace — he has been described as ‘serving a three-mile-an-hour God’ — and this, together with his language skills and pastoral gifts, enabled him to find a way into the mind and heart of the African with an ease that few missionaries attain. He kept as near as he could to the local diet, and lived frugally in every way. He had a name given him by the Africans — it meant ‘Son of God’. 

In all he did, he was lovingly supported by Nancy, his wife, whether it was making a home in Africa, or enduring the many months of separation. In his latter years he had to suffer the double sadness of his wife’s death and the early death of one of his two daughters. It would be difficult to over-estimate the contribution to missionary service which he made during his many years in Zambia. 

He died on 22nd September 1985, in the seventy-eighth year of his age, and the fifty-first year of his ministry.


Cecil was born on 1 January 1908 at Andover, Hampshire, to parents William Hopgood, a baker, and Elizabeth Lane.

He married Annie Mabel Bourne Norton (1909-1983) in late 1939 at Weymouth, Dorset. Annie was a children’s nurse before her marriage.

Cecil died on 22 September 1985 at Eastbourne, Sussex.


  • Hartley
  • 1934 Mission Society
  • 1935 N Rhodesia
  • 1960 Bingley
  • 1965 N Scotland Mission
  • 1968 Falkirk &c
  • 1971 Church of Zambia
  • 1977 Eastbourne (S)


Methodist Minutes 1986/68

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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