Kellett, James (1800-1864)

Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by Frederick Smith

James KELLET was born in Maudsley, Lancashire, in the year of our Lord 1800. His parents being Roman Catholics he was brought up in that perverse faith till he was seventeen years of age. Just at this time the Wesleyans missioned Maudsley, when, accompanied by his brother John, James went to hear, out of curiosity. But the two-edged sword of the Spirit cut them to the heart, and they were greatly alarmed at their sinful state. James cried loud and long unto God for mercy, and after dreadful agony on the brink of the dark abyss of despair, he found joy and gladness. He then went round the village telling of his newly found bliss. His piety rose like a clear light. He bitterly repented of the sins of his youth, and sought where possible to make restitution for the injuries he had done. Whilst amongst the Papists he killed a neighbour’s hen, and also stole some apples from an orchard; he now went to the parties and confessed his deeds, and paid the damages. 

He joined the Wesleyan society; but very soon afterwards he heard our preachers, and, thinking they had more of the power of the Holy Ghost with them, he cast in his lot with us. His religious experience was rich and unctuous, his sympathy for souls abundant, his prayers eminently prevailing; his faith shook strongholds, and removed mighty mountains; he was, especially at this time, and for many years, a good man, full of faith and of the Holy Ghost. 

Our people observing all this, thought him fitted for the ministry; he accordingly was called out as a travelling preacher, and he travelled in Tunstall, Bath, Hull, Cornwall, Frome, Isle of Man, and Stroud. In each of these places the hand of the Lord was with him, and a great many believed and turned to the Lord; sinners sometimes by scores in a night fell like dead men under this son of thunder, and rose up to praise God. After many brilliant successes his health failed him, but a home furlough recruited his health. 

The venerable H. Bourne again sent for him, and he girded on the armour, and once more took the field, resolved to be a champion for his God. But once more his fine set frame yielded to herculean labours, and he retired from his post. But we are happy to say that after a brief rest he again planted the artillery of the gospel against sin’s strongholds in his native village and the neighbouring hamlets. 

One day, while kneeling in his chamber, he felt somewhat impressed to preach some miles off at Croxton, and again the impression was renewed, but he scarcely knew whether it came from God, or the devil, or himself. But he became very unhappy and could not pray, the countenance of his Lord seemed hid in displeasure, and he thought it was for his disobedience to him who had spoken once, yea, twice, and he had obeyed not. On his knees in tears he promised God that if the impression was repeated he would promptly obey. He again received the heavenly vision, and went in the name of the Lord. Singularly, Croxton people had given it out for him to preach without knowing of his coming. A monster meeting was held in our big Primitive chapel (the open air). God’s hammer broke many rocky hearts in pieces, his wondrous two-edged sword pierced his enemies even to the dividing of the soul and spirit, and the joints and marrow. Many were the slain of the Lord; and an extensive work of grace ensued. Preston circuit then engaged him to mission Churchtown, on this condition, no souls saved, no wages. In this part of the country Zion increased with men like a flock, strong men fell to the earth by dozens, a far reaching and lasting revival was produced; his first “penitents’ form” was a chair in the street, and the first penitent was Miles Moss, who became an itinerant preacher with us. 

I am informed that there is scarcely a Christian church in the parish of North Meols without one or more of his converts. He established societies in this part; we have one or more local preachers in this circuit who were converted through his labours. His health again failed, after which he married and entered into business.

Shortly before his last illness he took the writer aside, and said with a full heart and tearful eye, “Brother Smith, I shall be grateful if every day you will meet me at the throne of grace at 10 o’clock in the morning, on behalf of the unconverted members of my family; if they are not soon converted they will break my heart: I should go like to see them converted before I die.” I promised him I would do as he desired. A few weeks before his death he seemed to regain some of his former power in prayer. The day before he died I met him “in the chamber where the good man meets his fate, quite on the verge of heaven.” He was suffering intensely; he prayed, he one for patience and release. He said, “I am on the rock, Lord Jesus, take my soul to glory! Next morning, December 28th, 1864, his spirit, under the covering angel’s wing, went to the bosom of his God, which is far better. 

The writer preached the usual funeral sermon to a deeply affected and crowded audience, and had the happiness on a subsequent Sabbath of leading the deceased’s eldest son to the penitents’ form.


James was born in 1800 at Mawdesley, Lancashire.

Census returns identify the following occupations for James after he left the ministry.

  • 1841 bread baker
  • 1851 grocer
  • 1861 grocer & baker

He married Jane Johnson (1800-1865) on 13 September 1830 at St Cuthbert, North Meols, Lancashire. Census returns identify five children.

  • John (1832-1883) – a bread baker (1861); a grocer shopman & baker employing 2 men (1881)
  • Sarah (b abt1834)
  • Elizabeth (1836-1913) – married John Peet, a grocer, in 1864
  • Oliver Sumner (abt1840-1891) – a journeyman tailor (1861)
  • James (1842-1877)

James died on 26 December 1864 at Churchtown, Southport, Lancashire.


  • 1824 Isle of Man
  • 1826 Tunstall
  • 1827 Brinkworth
  • 1828 resigned


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1865/612

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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