Ann Burton

founder of the JMA in Swannington, Leicestershire

Around 1910, a brass memorial plaque was placed in the then recently erected new Wesleyan chapel at Swannington, the inscription on which read:

To the memory of James Burton, who gave the first Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Swannington, and of Ann Burton, his wife, who in this village formed the first Juvenile Missionary Association in the Wesleyan Methodist Church, this Tablet is erected.

Ann Merriman was born on 10th May 1770 near Sheepshead, as it was then often known, to respected farming parents. In due course, she was led to the Wesleyan chapel in Sheepshead and on 11th February 1798 aged 27 she there accepted Jesus as her Saviour, writing This day the Lord has saved me from sin. At Sheepshead on 24th April 1800 she married James Burton, a farmer, and it is said that in the evening the couple came to Swannington and attended a prayer meeting there. Their home became Burton House in Swannington. Her husband was a steward and class leader at the old Wesleyan chapel for which, in 1795, he had provided the land and built. Ann soon became involved in the work there and later, like him, became a class leader.

In around 1812, articles appeared in The Wesleyan Magazine on the work of the Rev William Toase amongst French prisoners of war which made such a deep impression on the Burtons that they decided to give a shilling a week to the recently formed Wesleyan Missionary Society. They had 6 children, James, Mary, Sarah, Eleanor, William and Henry. At the beginning of 1814, Mrs Burton formed these and a neighbour’s children into a group of monthly contributors to the Society and so the Juvenile Missionary Association was born.

Four years later, in 1818, the giving was bolstered by self-denial. Butter and sugar were foregone on one day a week which raised the additional amount of nine pence per week. The first report of the Wesleyan Missionary Society recorded that the Association at Swannington collected £1 6s 0d in 1818 and the following four years show annual contributions of £1 7s 6d in 1819, £1 16s 6d in 1820, £2 7s 0d in 1821 and £6 11s 9d in 1822 by which time a Juvenile Missionary Association had been formed in Ashby and the figure for the year included its contribution.

Ann died on 12th December 1832 aged 62 and was interred in the burial ground at Griffydam, later to be joined by her husband, but Ann’s work and devotion had a lasting effect and lived on. Sarah, her daughter, wrote Cherished Remembrances of a beloved mother; a Memoir of Mrs Ann Burton the preface to which probably indicates the main purpose of its publication since it states Any profits arising from the sale of this Memoir will be devoted to that cause so peculiarly dear to Mrs Burton, the Wesleyan Missionary Society. Sarah herself became the second wife of Samuel Broadbent, a former missionary in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and southern Africa who after his return to England served in the Ashby circuit from 1827 until 1830. Their two children, John and Joseph, became Wesleyan missionaries serving in India.

The child of Henry and his wife, Frances, was another Henry who later emigrated with his parents to America where they became members of the Methodist Episcopal Church before returning home, where he was recommended for the Wesleyan ministry by the Castle Donington Circuit. He wrote several hymns. The best known today is probably There’s a light upon the mountains (Hymns & Psalms 246) though some may recall Have you had a kindness shown? Pass it on, pass it on! (which was sung at Swannington’s closing service in 1998).

Interest in JMA (now called Junior Mission for All) started by Ann Burton at Swannington Wesleyan chapel continued to the end. There was a poignant reminder of this earlier this year when the writer archived papers and documents relating to Swannington Methodist Church for among them was a JMA account book from the 1990s.

(The writer records the help provided by an article located by Lesley Hale of Swannington in the February 1911 issue of The Foreign Field.)




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