Carthew, Thomas Henry
(1856-1896; e.m. 1877)

Missionary in Africa, born in Bodminland, Cornwall on 22 May 1856, the son of a miner, who for a time took his family to Ayrshire in search of work, He was converted in 1868. By December 1874 he was pitman employed as a hewer and living at Moorsley, Co Durham, where his family had recently changed their allegiance from the Wesleyans back to the Bible Christians. In December 1874 he became a local preacher on trial and then in March 1876 offered for its ministry after having spent fifteen months in the Cleveland Mission at Brotton. He spent a year at Shebbear College and served three BC circuits 1877-1880. His third circuit was Chesterfield, and, not unlike Co Durham, the small Bible Christian community was on a coalfield. It collapsed in 1880 before he was received into full connexion.

He appears to have come to the notice of the UMFC and was employed as a hired local preacher in the Oxford UMFC Circuit. In 1883 he was accepted for the itinerant ministry at his third attempt. He was immediately appointed as a probationer to Freetown, Sierra Leone, where on arrival he found himself the acting Superintendent, due to the illness of Thomas Truscott (1848-1888; e.m. 1867). After furlough in 1887 he was appointed to Kenya. During a time of drought and local warfare in 1889-1890, he not only administered a famine fund raised at home, but supplemented it personally. He did not marry and made no provision for his old age. Instead he lived on native food and used his resources to redeem slaves.

His last letter asked for six more missionaries. Refusing to return home on furlough, on 27 November 1896 he died from blood poisoning after an accident, while answering a cry for help during the night. He was buried beside Rebecca Wakefield and Charles New at Ribe.


From In Memoriamby William Downing:

Thou livest, not alone in realms above,/ Nor yet alone in heart's of Afric's race./Thy brethren in the homeland, in their love/ Enshrine thy mem'ry, emulate thy graceā€¦/By one more pledge we claim for Christ the lands/ Of which the ancient Hebrew bard foretold,/That 'Ethiopia should stretch out her hands / To God,' whose loving arms should her enfold.

  • J. Kirsop, Life of Thomas H. Carthew (1897)
  • Colin C. Short, Durham Colliers and West Country Methodists: the story

of the Bible Christian Mission in County Durham, 1874-1910 (1995)