Howcroft, Robert (1791-1859)

Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by John Jobling

ROBERT HOWCROFT, was the youngest son of Thomas and Mary Howcroft, of Hambleton, in the parish of Brayton, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, at which place he was born, May 24, 1791. His father and mother attended the Established Church, his father was a rigid churchman, his mother was a good praying woman and was zealous for the spiritual welfare of her children; she looked beyond this world to that which is to come. Not like many who only care for the temporal welfare of their families in early life, and leave them to care for themselves, in after days, about their immortal souls. She wished for her children to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and other things she believed would be added. She had four sons, all of whom were converted to God in early life, and all died in the faith of the Gospel. Three of them became ministers of the Gospel, John was a local preacher among the Wesleyans, William, who was a burning and a shining light among us, laboured with great success as a travelling preacher for more than thirty years.

Robert Howcroft was the subject of saying grace when about seven, years of age, but like too many he lost his first love, and launched forth into the pursuits of the world with all his heart, but he could not find rest for his soul. One night, after he had been trying to stifle convictions, by gratifying his depraved passions, he said to himself, “I will give up serving the devil and try to save my soul,” and he sought the Lord with a broken penitent heart, till the love of Christ possessed his soul and he rejoiced in the hope of future glory; this was in the twenty-second year of his age. He joined the Wesleyan Methodist society, became a local preacher, and laboured with success and general acceptance for about six years. He then left that connexion and joined the Primitives; this was in 1819. In February, 1820, he was taken out to travel by Hull Circuit, and assisted in missioning Leeds, Dewsbury, Halifax, North Shields, and other places. In the year 1823 he was stationed at Barnsley, in 1824 and 1825 at Whitby, with his brother William, where there was a great revival. In 1826 he laboured at Tadcaster, Ferry Bridge, &c., but his health failed and he gave up travelling; in all the above places he was made a blessing to many souls. 

After he gave up the itinerancy he located at Leeds, joined another Christian community, and about the year 1846 he re-joined our Connexion, or, to use his own words, “he returned home again.” After being appointed to the office of local preacher he laboured with general acceptance, and he remained with us till his death.* Mr. R. Smith, of Barnsley Circuit, says, “I was much surprised with the intelligence of the death of R. Howcroft; you have lost a valuable man, he possessed a vigorous and penetrating intellect, in connection with a sound judgment, he had a clear, instructive and an impressive manner of preaching the Gospel, he was devoutly pious, and felt a deep interest in the Connexion’s welfare.”

His son, R.B. Howcroft, now travelling in Liverpool Circuit, writes as follows:—
“1. He was a kind husband and an affectionate father, was deeply anxious for the temporal and spiritual welfare of his family, their conversion to God was a subject on which he delighted to dwell.
“2 He was a great reader of the Bible; I have known him sit and read the blessed book for hours together.
“3. He was often found in his closet, I have frequently heard him praying in the night season, anxious for the temporal and spiritual welfare of his family, their conversion to God was a subject on which he delighted to dwell.
“4. He placed great confidence in prayer offered at the family altar, and he was strict and punctual in the discharge of this important duty. His family, the church, and the world, were the themes on which he dwelt,
“5. His preaching was practical and scriptural.
“6. He was a very intelligent and charitable hearer, one that was ever willing to instruct a young preacher or give counsel to an old one, and never complained, unless he thought the preacher was seeking his own glory.
“7. In official meetings he seldom spoke but to the point.

Lastly, he was a man of strong faith and had great confidence in Divine Providence. He lived and died trusting in the Lord.”

Brother Howeroft was in nearly his usual health till the day before he died, when on Friday forenoon, September 2, he complained to his daughter of being unwell, he gradually got worse. A medical man was called in; all that could be done was done, but in vain, he suffered much with great patience. He told his friends he was about to leave them, and was going to be with the Lord. On Saturday morning, a little before he died, Brother James Allen prayed with him, when he said to Brother Allen, “all is right, I am going to be with Jesus which is far better.” After twenty-four hours affliction his spirit left this world for the world above, September 3rd, 1859, in the sixty-ninth year of his age. He has left three sons and two daughters to lament their loss.


[* Instability in the conduct of a Christian is to be lamented—more, we fear it is often very injurious to the cause of God.—ED] 


Robert was born on 24 May 1791 at Hambleton, Brayton, nr Selby, Yorkshire, to parents Thomas, a labourer, and Mary. He was baptised on 8 June 1791 at Brayton.

He left the PM ministry due to illness and lived in Leeds where he joined another denomination. He returned to the PM Connexion in 1846 at a local preacher.

Robert was working as a carrier in 1829 at the time of his first daughter’s baptism. The 1851 census records him as a medicine vendor.

He married Sarah Barker (1800-1857) on 24 March 1827 at York, Yorkshire. Census returns identify five children.

  • Mary Louisa (1829-1904) – a dressmaker (1851); Samuel Richardson, an engine fitter, in 1864
  • Robert Barker (1832-1911) – a PM minister
  • Eleanor (1840-1907) – employed at Flax Mill (1861); married Jacob Haigh, a miner, in 1881
  • William (1841-1904) – a loco engine fitter (1881)
  • Charles (1844-1894) – a railway clerk & Methodist Free Church local preacher

Robert died on 3 September 1859 at Hunslet, Leeds, Yorkshire. He was buried at St Mary, Beeston, Leeds on 6 September 1859.


  • 1821 Hull
  • 1823 Barnsley
  • 1824 Whitby
  • 1826 Tadcaster


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1860/21

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.