Kerswell, John Ambrose (1877-1944)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference

JOHN AMBROSE KERSWELL: born at Teignmouth, Devon, in 1877. He came under the influence of the Rev. Henry Buckenham, Primitive Methodism’s pioneer missionary to South Africa, whose class he joined. After training at Hartley College, Manchester, he entered the Ministry in 1904, and served three years in the Aldershot area. 

Then, for twenty-nine years he lived a lonely and sometimes hazardous life of a missionary in Northern Rhodesia. It may truly be said that Northern Rhodesia was written on his heart. He was very modest about his part, but people never tired of hearing his fascinating story, and often asked for more. The result is reflected in the circuit’s missionary income. 

He was a faithful pastor, a true friend, and a great-hearted colleague of his brethren in the churches of all denominations. He was full of faith and of good works, and was at everybody’s service. He always had room in his heart for the weak and the erring, and people of all sorts and conditions loved him for his goodness. There will be many to greet him around the Throne and to supplement his Lord’s “Well done!” 

On his way home from a meeting at one of his churches, “God’s finger touched him in his sixty-seventh year, and he slept,” and so passed to his reward on April 3, 1944, having served the Church through forty adventurous years.


John was born on 22 April 1877 at Teignmouth, Devon.

At the time of 1901 census return, John was working as a Primitive Methodist evangelist at Seend, Wiltshire.

He married Kate Louisa Pugh (1876-1965) in late 1907 in the Newton Abbot Registration District, Devon. Census returns identify one of two children.

  • William John (1917-1975) – a sanitary inspector (1939)

John died on 3 April 1944 at Oldbury, Worcestershire.


  • Hartley
  • 1904 Aldershot
  • 1907 N Rhodesia
  • 1936 Oakengates
  • 1938 Oldbury


Methodist Minutes 1944/138

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

Comments about this page

  • John Ambrose Kerswell was my paternal Grandfather. His son, William John Kerswell was my Father.
    Apart from my Father, John and Kate Kerswell had a daughter, about 8 years older than William (Bill), whose name was Doris Emma Buzande Kerswell (always known as Zande. She was a nursing sister, trained in the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel. She was never married and had no children. She lived in Fulham and was a lay preacher in the local methodist church.

    By Patricia Ker-Davies (09/09/2023)
  • He documented his ministry in magic lantern slides which have recently come into my possession. I am endevouring to start and view the slides document, and hopefully publish them along with a reprint of my grandmother Kate Kerswells book “The romance and reality of missionary life in N. Rhodesia”.

    By Richard John Kerswell (22/03/2023)

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