Thomas was born on 1 February 1815 at Knutsford, Cheshire to parents Thomas and Elizabeth. He was baptised on 26 February 1815 at Knutsford. As a child he attended the Wesleyan Sunday School, but it was through the Primitives that he was converted at the age of 18. He spent a few years as a local preacher before becoming itinerant.
Patterson writes in relation to the Tabernacle chapel at Yarmouth. “The great increase of converts during the ministry of the Revs. J. Smith and T. Swindell resulted in the taking down of the first, and the building of the second more spacious Tabernacle.”
In the April number of the “Primitive Methodist Magazine” for 1850 appears a communication from the late Thomas Swindell, who was stationed at Yarmouth at the time. It is headed , “PREPARATORY BEGGINGS FOR AN ENLARGEMENT OF OUR YARMOUTH CHAPEL,” and commences, ” Dear Editor, last July a public meeting was convened in our chapel at Yarmouth, partly for the purpose of laying before the hearers the necessity for enlarging the sanctuary in which they were assembled. With the project they acquiesced ; some donations were then promised . . . a committee was organised. . . . Anxious to raise the necessary funds, the committee established monthly meetings, to receive instalments and contributions, and to inquire into the success of the canvassers for aid who had been planned to visit every district of the town.” January I5th was chosen as the day when all outstanding sums should be received. Two hundred persons sat down to a tea, the “Primitive” way always of inaugurating a move or celebrating its consummation. ” A public meeting was held, which, for unity of feeling and purpose, surpassed any that I ever witnessed. Each seemed to vie with his neighbour in liberality, and hence notes, gold, silver, copper, and valuable books were poured into the Lord’s treasury.”
Work commenced in April 1850 and re-opening services were held in September 1850.
His obituary records that he was an excellent administrator. As a preacher he made no attempt at intellectual or rhetorical display, neither were his ministrations characteristically those exhibitions of great emotion which so distinguish some preachers. Nevertheless his preaching was of high order.
Thomas married Hannah Witter (1819-1876) on 4 February 1843 at Knutsford, Cheshire. Census returns identify five children.
- Mary (b1844) – a music teacher
- Thomas Greenall (1845-1829) – a Baptist minister in 1871; by 1881 he was an Anglican clergyman.
- Theophilus Witter (1850-1930) – an accountant
- Frederic Smith (1855-1941) – an Anglican clergyman
- Arthur Witter (1860-1919) – an organist and professor of music
Thomas married Caroline Simpson (1828-1899) at Norwich in the summer of 1878. He died on 8 November 1897 at Norwich, Norfolk.
- 1837 Preston
- 1838 Bury
- 1840 Silsden
- 1841 Bolton
- 1842 Wrexham
- 1843 Stockport
- 1844 Keighley
- 1846 Stalybridge
- 1848 Yarmouth
- 1851 Docking
- 1853 Upwell
- 1856 Aylsham
- 1858 Swaffham
- 1861 Cambridge
- 1864 Thetford
- 1867 E Dereham
- 1869 Lowestoft
- 1874 Wymondham
- 1875 Norwich (Sup)
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1864 (portrait); 1877/434 (Hannah)
PM Minutes 1898/23
H B Kendall, Origin and History of the PM Church, vol 2, p229
A H Patterson, From hayloft to temple. The story of Primitive Methodism in Yarmouth: biographical, reminiscent, chronological, etc.
W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits , 1990
Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers