Rev Robert Maxwell


Robert Maxwell was born 16 August 1809 in Preston, Lancashire. Maxwell’s obituary in the Minutes of Conference, 1879 noted that he joined the Methodist Society aged 14, having accompanied a friend to the services and about a year later began to preach.

He entered the Wesleyan Methodist ministry in 1831. Maxwell’s second appointment was in the Biggleswade Circuit, Bedfordshire from 1833-1836. It would appear that during time he met and married his wife Eliza (born c1814) who was born in the nearby village of Old Warden.

From Biggleswade, Robert Maxwell moved to the Bedford Circuit from 1836 until 1839 where he was likely to have been stationed in Ampthill.

His other appointments by Conference included being stationed in Cambridge, Gravesend, Kent (1845-7), St Neots and a return to Biggleswade Circuit as Superintendent Minister from 1851 to 1854.

The 1851 census records, Robert Maxwell, Eliza and family living in Kings Place, St Mary’s Nottingham.
The resident children were:
Fanny Ellen aged 12 born in Ampthill
William John aged 7 born in Cambridge
James Ward aged 5 born in Gravesend
Frederick Charles aged 3 also born in Gravesend
Elizabeth Neal aged 1 born in Nottingham
Resident also in the Maxwell household were 2 servants. Unfortunately, Maxwell’s son William John predeceased his father on 6 January 1867 in his 24th year. The Essex Standard of 11 January 1867 announcing his death states that he was Maxwell’s third son. There was at least an elder son, GN Maxwell and a younger daughter, Sophia.

At the time of the 1871 Census, Robert, Eliza and Sophia aged 19 were living in Park Road, Bromley. In that year, Robert became a supernumerary, retiring to Bedford.

Maxwell’s Conference obituary describes him ‘as a faithful and earnest preacher and pastor’. Further, that ‘His delivery was grave and impressive’. During his ministry a number of new Chapels were opened such as Bell End, Kempston (1839). The Bedfordshire Times reported that Rev J Bonser said of Maxwell at his funeral that ‘he often worked hard in preaching the Gospel, without regard to pain or physical infirmity.’ Indeed, Maxwell’s last public addresses, although his health was failing were at the Bedford Thanksgiving meeting (held in aid of the Wesleyan Thanksgiving Fund) and preaching engagements in Hitchin just a fortnight before his death.

A memorial stone to Robert Maxwell in St Paul’s Methodist church, Bedford records that he came to ‘at Bedford, where for his wise counsel, his blameless life, and his timely visits to the poor, the sick and the dying he was greatly esteemed.’ Maxwell died on 20 February 1879 aged 69 years.

References and Sources
Index of Methodist Ministers Bedfordshire Times 22 and 29 February 1879
Minutes of 1879 Wesleyan Conference
Census records
A brief history of Bedford St Paul’s Wesleyan Methodist Church by Joseph Shrimpton
Luton Times and Advertiser 21 August 1875
Photograph of memorial in St Paul’s Methodist Church demolished 1969 may be viewed at

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