Shirtcliffe, Hubert Wilford (1862-1918)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference

Rev. H.W. SHIRTCLIFFE.—The passing away of the Rev. H.W. Shirtcliffe came as a sad shock and with tragic suddenness. His illness was limited to only one week, and after attacks of pleurisy and pneumonia he ultimately died from heart failure Born in Sheffield in 1864, he was surrounded by saintly influences from infancy. His was a humble home, and consequently the needed and necessary education was not available. At the age of ten years he went to work as a gilder. This was not to be his life’s work. In a “Band meeting” in the Heeley P.M. Society, of which Sunday School he had been a scholar, he secretly and without demonstration gave himself to our Lord. In this initial step he found the joy of salvation which was to be the wondrous power of his ministry. The Church of which he became a member soon became aware of his power and persistent effort, and invited him to become a local preacher, and eventually recommended him as a candidate for our ministry. 

He entered college in 1885, and at the Conference of 1886 he was stationed at Northfleet, on the Gravesend Circuit, where he had the joy of a successful three years’ ministry, He afterwards travelled at Windsor, Canning Town, twice, again at Northfleet, Farringdon, Keighley, Silverdale, and at Dalton-in-Furness, where he had nearly completed two years. 

Our friend did not cast envious eyes at high positions, neither did he bid for high places. It was his joy to labour powerfully in humble stations.. Yet he many times went to District Meeting, and twice attended Conference. As a preacher he had true power. Thrilling, gripping, moving, his was a message of feeling. Modern thought may not have had a great charm for him; if it had, it was totally eclipsed by the charm of winning souls. His was the Gospel message with the good news of salvation, and in almost every circuit he had that enviable joy of leading many souls to his Master. Saving souls was his master passion—it was appeased but never truly satisfied. He hungered for souls. 

In Canning Town this was the refreshing message, that “souls were being won.” Here also he did noble social work, being secretary of the Lord Mayor’s Relief Fund, 1900 to 1903, when poverty was the appalling condition of the people. Our friend was a true and helpful companion. Genial and kind, amiable’ and tender-hearted, manly and strong, gracious and dignified, he was a character which appealed to and impressed men. 

Whilst in Dalton he offered himself for National Service, and was employed at Barrow. Gracious testimony has been given to his influence there. Evidently this extra strain was too much for our conscientious comrade, and we lament this sudden loss, feeling, as the Rev. Ralph Shields put it, “he was a martyr to overwork.” 

It was the writer’s joy to have him as a colleague, and many pleasant, helpful times have been spent in his home, and impressions of his power in prayer, his grip of God, his constant care of his wife and family, and the love of the family altar, are abiding memories. The burial service was held in the Dalton Church on May 18th, the Rev. T. Hall, of Lancaster, conducting. Rev. R. Shields, representing the General Committee, gave a beautiful address of help and comfort. The Revs. Mills (Wesleyan), Anderson (Baptist) and the writer also took part. At the graveside the hymn “There is a land of pure delight” was sung by a large sorrow-filled group of mourners. 

Our friend leaves a widow and two sons, one of whom is a sergeant in the Army. All sympathy goes out to them. On Sunday evening the memorial service was conducted by the writer, and the words “O death, where is thy victory?” were the basis for the message given. The victory is with life. Our friend still lives. The last message that he preached was from “In My Father’s house are many mansions.” He has gone to its realization.


Hubert was born in late 1862 at Sheffield, Yorkshire, to parents Wilford Shirtcliffe, a cigar merchant (1871), and Mary Ann Padley.

He married Annie Elizabeth Mallender (abt1862-1926) in the summer of 1890 at Sheffield, Yorkshire. Census returns identify three children.

  • Gladys (1891-1914) – a student teacher (1911)    
  • Albert Wray (1895-1983) – secondary school teacher student (1911)     
  • Stanley Wilford (1902-1992)  – clerk in election office (1939)

Hubert died in May 1918 at Dalton, Lancashire.


  • Hartley
  • 1886 Gravesend
  • 1889 Portsmouth
  • 1890 Walworth
  • 1891 Windsor
  • 1892 Canning Town
  • 1895 Caledonian Road
  • 1896 King’s Cross
  • 1900 Canning Town
  • 1903 Northfleet
  • 1906 Faringdon
  • 1907 Keighley
  • 1911 Silverdale
  • 1916 Dalton & Millom


PM Minutes 1918/280

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

Note: Birth records identify his birth in 1862, not 1864 as stated in the obituary.

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