When John Hickling died at 3 15 a.m. on the 9th November 1858, he was the oldest Wesleyan minister and the last remaining minister who had been sent out by John Wesley as an itinerant.
John Hickling was born in Hathern, Leicestershire on 30th November 1765. At the age of 17 he attended Wesleyan Methodist worship and had a conversion experience. He began to preach in 1788 and in the same year Wesley appointed him to Chester Circuit.
He remained an active circuit minister for 49 years. He was a member of the Connexional Book Committee, the Loan Fund Committee and the ‘General Committee for the affairs of our Schools’. For several years he was a member of the Woodhouse Grove School committee becoming its chairman in 1834. His obituary in the Wesleyan Minutes of Conference tell us that he ‘devoted his energies to the work of God with unwearied zeal and diligence’. This statement is highlighted by his constant preaching and lecturing until his death.
On 8th July 1858 when he was 92 he lectured at the Music Hall in Chester for over an hour on ‘Wesley and Early Methodism’. Just two weeks before he died he lectured in Birmingham on ‘Early Methodism’. When he met his Superintendent the Rev John Bolam shortly afterwards, he said, ‘I am not tired yet. ’ Wen he died there were posters announcing that he was to preach at a series of six services. He died in the 71st year of his ministry at the home of his niece Jane Wooley Gwynne, née Wright and her husband Samuel at Audley, Staffordshire. On Saturday 13th November the funeral was held in the Audley Wesleyan Chapel which was attended by a large number of ministers and friends. The President of the Conference, the Rev John Bowers, let the devotions and the Rev Dr John Hannah, Secretary of the Conference, in his address said that ‘their brother had performed the duties of the ministry with earnestness, regularity, and affection over a period of more than 70 years; and when death came, it found him with his sword unsheathed and armour on.'