Rev John Hewgill Bumby

Scope and Content

Correspondence, mainly received by John H Bumby, from colleagues and friends including John Waterhouse, Mr & Mrs J Tomkinson and John Smedley. There a few letters by Bumby himself and the odd letter where he is just the subject matter. With some posters and printed notices advertising events, the odd membership list and brief notes on a sermon. 1827-1872.

File of 21 letters written by or relating to John H Bumby: 7 letters (1836-1838) written by Bumby whilst in Birmingham, Thirsk [Yorkshire] and aboard the 'James' to friends (principally Mrs Tomkinson of Snow Hill, Birmingham); 14 letters (1839-1857) mostly written in the aftermath of Bumby's death in 1840 by family (Bumby's father) and colleagues (principally W[illia]m Woon). A couple of Woon's letters are written on a printed circular announcing Bumby's death.

Manuscript entitled 'Extracts from the journal of John Hegwill Bumby', c1838. Extracts begins on 2 March 1829 with Bumby at Morton Hall [Lincolnshire] and his work as a local preacher. The subsequent extracts record his post ordination work in home circuits (principally Birmingham) and his preparations for missionary life. Concludes on 21 September 1838 having just left England bound for New Zealand.

Printed circular entitled 'Particulars of the Lamented Death of the Rev. John H Bumby, Wesleyan Minister, Missionary on the Island of New Zealand', c1840.

Print depicting the drowning of Rev John H Bumby and some of his colleagues whilst travelling by canoe in New Zealand, mid C19th. (This print is based on a sketch by James Garland, a survivor of the tragedy, and is attached to a letter dated 8 September 1840 by W[illia]m Woon which is with the MMS New Zealand correspondence).

Administrative / Biographical History

John Hewgill Bumby was born in Thirsk, Yorkshire, on 17 November 1808. From a religious family he became a Wesleyan Methodist at the age of fifteen and later a lay preacher. He entered the ministry in 1830 beginning his career in Waltham Abbey, Essex, but spent many of the following years working in and around Birmingham where he acquired the reputation of being a fine preacher. He offered his services to the WMMS and was accepted as a candidate being dispatched for New Zealand aboard the 'James' in late September 1838.

Having arrived in New Zealand at Hakianga on 9 February 1839 he travelled onto the mission station at Mangungu. From April he undertook a three month tour of the Bay of Islands to preach to the local inhabitants and to assess the case for a mission. Later that year he undertook a smaller expedition to Wesleydale - just north of Mangungu - to see if it was possible to re-establish the mission there. Bumby was by this time chairman of the district and implementing mission policy in New Zealand.

In May of 1840 the newly commissioned Wesleyan Methodist mission ship the 'Triton' arrived in New Zealand with further missionary staff. Bumby joined the ship travelling down the west coast as far as Kawia [Kawhia] with the intention of travelling back overland to Mangungu. Whilst crossing the Hauraki Gulf in a canoe with nineteen colleagues he, along with 11 Maoris and one Tongan, drowned between Rangitoto and Tiritiri Matangi on 26 June 1840.

Further Reading:

Barrett, A, The life of the Rev. John Hewgill Bumby, with a brief history of the commencement and progress of the Wesleyan mission in New Zealand (1864);

Findlay & Holdsworth, The History of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, (vol 3, 1921);

Whyle, I (ed), Rev. John Bumby sesquicentennial commemoration June 26 1990.

Access Information

Only to be viewed on microfiche


Archivist's Note


Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by Methodist Missionary SocietyApply to SOAS Archives & Special Collections in the first instance

Custodial History

The 21 letters were given to MMS by Rev W L Doughty of Langley Park, London (although previously the property of Dr Nelson of Birmingham).

Correspondence (1827-1872) gift to the MMS from Mr G D H Grant, 1968.

Related Material

Also within the records of the (Wesleyan) Methodist Missionary Society is the official correspondence for John Hewgill Bumby (MMS/Australiasia/Correspondence/New Zealand/FBN 7-8). Furthermore, the synod minutes will detail his work, as well as the work of his colleagues, in New Zealand (MMS/Australasia/Synod Minutes/New Zealand/FBN 1).

The Alexander Turnbull Library at the National Library of New Zealand holds correspondence, journals and manuscripts, 1832-1840.

The Mitchell Library at the New South Wales State Library in Australia holds correspondence between Bumby and John Beecham in 1840.