Winkfield, John (1807-1875)

Transcription of obituary in the Primitive Methodist Magazine

The subject of this sketch began his mortal career at Castle Acre, Norfolk, on the 22nd of January, 1807.

Concerning the years of his childhood and youth we know only this – that being by “nature a child of wrath,” he “walked according to the course of this world.” His life bore testimony to the fall of humanity. The germ of depravity developed into a course of ungodliness for more than twenty years. While pursuing death, however, he was arrested by the Spirit of life.

His craft (that of a shoemaker) brought him into contact with a few devoted Christians, who were members of our Society at Lynn.

About the year 1830, he was convinced of his lost state and depraved character. The awakening was terrible to him. He was filled with astonishment, sorrow and apprehension.

But the time of his redemption soon appeared. Directed and encouraged in private and faithfully exhorted in public, he cast his disquieted soul on the “Lamb of God” by faith. Guilt was removed – forgiveness was realised – an inward assurance of adoption into the family of God was received, and our friend entered upon a new life.

His day of usefulness now commenced. Having learnt to pray, he loved the exercise, and in answer to his earnest request God revealed plans of religious service unto him. We find him in the Sabbath School seeking the salvation of the children. But he was not long to continue there. The circuit was large, and preachers must be obtained. Mr. Winkfield having given evidence of a renewed heart, an abiding sense of the Holy Spirit, burning zeal for the salvation of sinners and the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom, he was authorised to preach the word of life to the people.

While labouring as a local preacher his labours were made a blessing to many. He was soon called into the Itinerancy, in which sphere of Christian service he served God and the Church faithfully and well for thirty-eight years. He travelled at Fakenham (three times), Norwich (three times), North Walsham (three times), Lynn (twice), Mattishall (twice), Brandon, Upwell, Rockland, Yarmouth, Hadleigh, and Swaffham. At the last-named place his health completely failed; the strong man broke down, and he was compelled to seek supernannuation at the Conference of 1870.

He located at Lynn, the place of his spiritual birth, where, after four and a half years’ cessation from the cares and toils of the regular ministry, he finished his course, and left the tears, trials, and sickness of earth for the smiles, the joys, and the life of heaven.

Brother Winkfield was physically strong and robust for many years, and his labours were abundant. His system was, however, much weakened by excessive toil and nervous disorders, so that during the latter part of his life he seemed only a wreck of the man he used to be. As a Christian he was sincere, conscientious, prayerful and holy. There was no contradiction between the man and the minister. He displayed no priestly sanctity in the pulpit which was not borne out in the little things of his daily life.

The moral power which he wielded in public he also brought to bear upon the details of his private life. It could be seen at a glance that the man was a Christian and meant to be one. Our pen does not falter in the least when we write that we felt no blush for our holy religion when studied in his life. He was not angel, but he was a saint.

His ministry was thoroughly evangelical in doctrine – the cross was his central theme. We have heard him discourse earnestly and powerfully on “I am the way,” “ Christ died for us,” “ The love of Christ constraineth us,” &c. He basked in the sun of eternal truth. The flickering torches of modern rationalism and ritualism offered him neither light nor interest – hence they never tinged his creed. His theology was of the old Methodist school – a full Christ for empty sinners. His manner of preaching was intensely earnest and soul-stirring. He darted the fire of his sanctified soul through his discourses, and the evidences of his success are numerous. His sermons cost him an unusual amount of toil. He had no sympathy with the class of men who are accustomed to preach without premeditation. He would not give to the people that which cost him nothing.

He was very highly esteemed as a friend. Those who knew him best speak of him in the highest terms of respect. True, the exterior might appear somewhat uninviting, but beneath the outer covering there throbbed a heart of pure sympathy and tenderest love. The latter part of his life was marked by shadow, arising from the wreck of the nervous system; but amid all the darkness he was ever ready for prayer. The old love for communion with God was in him still, although affliction had flung a cloud around his mental perceptions.

It is very cheering to know that as the end of his journey drew near his soul enjoyed great quiet and rest. As he grasped the writer’s hand he exultingly exclaimed, “We shall meet again in heaven” After bidding his family an affectionate farewell he uttered “Praise the Lord!” “Praise the Lord!!” “Praise the Lord!!!” and lay himself down to await the arrival of the messenger of death, which came on the 8th of January, 1875,

The funeral obsequies were conducted by the Rev. E. Blake, W. Thorsett and the writer, in the presence of a very large number of sympathising and sorrowing friends. The writer preached a funeral sermon for him to a crowded congregation on Sunday evening, January 24.

A widow and family are left to mourn their loss, but it is their joy to know that he is “forever with the Lord.”



John married Ellen Buskell/Buscall (abt 1811-1903) on 28 June 1836 at Little Walsingham, Norfolk. Census returns identify six children.

  • John Thomas (1837-1917) – a draper
  • Elizabeth (abt1840-1910) – married Alfred Charles Berry, a railway foreman, in 1883
  • Joseph (1845-1910) – a shoemaker
  • Ellen (1847-1870) – married Robert Matthews in 1869
  • Edward (1850-1929) – a carpenter
  • Martha Emma (abt1855-1949) – married Arthur Henry Hall, a grocer, in 1878

John died on 8 January 1875 at Kings Lynn, Norfolk


  • 1832 Fakenham
  • 1833 N Walsham (6 mths)
  • 1833 Norwich (1 yr 6 mths)
  • 1835 Mattishall
  • 1836 Soham
  • 1837 Mattishall
  • 1839 Brandon
  • 1841 Norwich
  • 1843 Lynn
  • 1845 Upwell
  • 1847 N Walsham
  • 1849 Fakenham
  • 1851 Rockland
  • 1853 Yarmouth
  • 1855 Lynn
  • 1857 Norwich
  • 1859 Fakenham
  • 1862 N Walsham
  • 1865 Hadleigh
  • 1867 Swaffham
  • 1870 Lynn (Sup)


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1875/746; 1904/494 (Ellen)

PM Minutes 1875/12

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers


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