Sykes, Tom (1874-1962)

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1927
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1932
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1927

Early years

Tom was born in 1874 at Wetwang, Yorkshire, to parents Witty and Mary. Witty worked the land. Tom was one of nine children, four of whom became local preachers in addition to Tom.

Tom worked the land before entering the ministry. He spent three years at Hartley College from 1895 after serving as a lay pastor at Pocklington..


In 1917, Tom became Secretary of the National Brotherhood Movement. He was released from circuit work to concentrate on that task. Although he found the movement disappointing he stuck to his post for seven years. Of those years, ‘Clericus’, writing in the Liverpool Post commented: ‘One day, perhaps, an honest man with all the facts in his possession, one capable of examining and analysing all the factors, will write the epic of Tom Sykes, heroic and undaunted, while the wheel of misfortune tried to break him.’

In the following years, Tom had great success as a Missioner for the National Free Church Council. He spent some time in Canada, where he conducted a series of missions.

After his retirement, Tom continued to preach and lecture, and during the second World War lectured to soldiers and civilians under the aegis of Hull University and the Ministry of Information.

His obituary records that Tom was a prince of preachers, and was gifted with a rich baritone voice, which he used to expound his great themes. His sermons were warmly evangelical, but he was never tawdry or sentimental. He proclaimed the great truths of the gospel with a clarity that sprang from a well-stored mind as well as a burning personal conviction; for he was a great reader, and he had an astonishing library of theology, philosophy, criticism, and general literature.


Tom authored the following.

The challenge of Brotherhood, 1922

The price of providence and other sermons


Tom married Annie Ainsley (1876-1949) in the summer of 1902 at Middlesbrough, Yorkshire. Census returns and birth records identify four children.

  • Kathleen (b1905)
  • Donald Ainsley (1907-1991)
  • Marguerite (1910-1985) – married James W Thorpe in 1940
  • Barbara Mary (1912-2000) – married Ernest Cranston in 1939

Tom died on 6 January 1962.


  • Hartley
  • 1898 Hull V
  • 1902 Hull II
  • 1906 Hull VII
  • 1908 Newcastle I
  • 1917 London SE
  • 1925 Brompton
  • 1933 H.M. Comm
  • 1940 Northallerton (S)


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1917/564; 1927/372; 1932/330

Methodist Minutes 1962/201

R Newman Wycherley, The Pageantry of Methodist Union, 1932, p393

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers



Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference.

Comments about this page

  • Tom Sykes was born 1st January 1874 in Wetwang. He left school at 11 and taught himself Latin and Greek so that he could go to theological college. Tom died on 30th December 1961 in Scarborough (the date given here, 6th January 1962, was the day of the funeral). His daughter Kathleen died in 1996. Kathleen married Frederick Windress Archer in 1941. Donald married (Bertha) Jean Wickenden in 1942. Tom married (2) Florence Mackenzie (1881 – 1963)

    By Barbara Beeley (11/09/2022)

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