Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Reverend John Toft - Caldbeck



REV.D JOHN TOFT
WESLEYAN MINISTER
DIED HERE NOV.19TH 1911
AFTER PREACHING AT 
HESKET-NEW-MARKET
AND CALDBECK

"BE YE ALSO READY "

ERECTED BY HIS FRIENDS
IN THE WIGTON CIRCUIT

For many years I travelled the roads above Caldbeck, often passing the memorial ( a rough map reference would be NY31042, against the southern road wall) to The Reverend John Toft. This for 'Lake Lovers' is just a smidgeon outside the National Trust Boundary and is situated on the Brocklebank Road which goes from Bluegate Crossroads to Red Dial above Wigton on A595 (and the old Roman Fort). It has been known that he had been  administering to his flock at Heskett New Market and Caldbeck, as the inscription states, and on his route back to Wigton had died at this location; the local population erecting a monument to commemorate his passing. I always wanted to know a little more about the man so with a bit of internet ratching, managed to turn up that he was buried in Northallerton of all places. Whilst on a recent holiday nearby, I decided to visit to find his grave and see whether this added any more information.


In Loving Memory of
THE REV. JOHN TOFT
WESLEYAN MINISTER,
WHO CEASED AT ONCE
TO WORK AND LIVE ON HIS WAY HOME
SABBATH EVENING NOV. 19TH 1911,
ON THE 60TH YEAR OF HIS AGE.

HAPPY HE SO SOON ASCENDED,
WITH HIS SHINING RAIMENT ON,
HAPPY HE WHOSE RACE HAS ENDED,
WITH A CROWN SO QUICKLY WON.

Unfortunately it didn't, beyond the knowledge that the grave still stands and the inscription adds to the testimony of the man. 
I then managed to view a short yet fuller account of the events that led to his death, though no one actually witnessed this. He died as stated, on the Sabbath, the Sunday. The inquest was held on Monday evening by the East Cumberland Coroner at Wigton, the late Reverend being the Superintendent of the Wesleyan Chapel for the Wigton area. The evidence presented was that he had conducted three services in the Caldbeck and Hesket-New-Market area and set off to cycle back to Wigton. (To anyone who knows this road it is a steep hill to Bluegate Crossroads before the crossing that starts to descend to Wigton.) There were no bruises to his head or body and it was supposed that he was pushing his bike up the hill when he had an apoplectic seizure. The medical opinion put forward was that he had given services in the warm atmosphere of the chapel and on cycling uphill in the cold air in a macintosh overall and cape, the seizure would have been brought on. It was noted however that the chain to the cycle was detached. A verdict of 'Natural Causes' was returned by the jury who also paid a tribute to his worth'.
It was stated he was a native of Yorkshire and had been in the Wesleyan Ministry for 38 years and widely known in the north of England, the location of most of his ministerial labours. He had also worked on the circuits of Cockermouth, Malton, Skipton, Doncaster and Barnoldswick. From Barnoldswick he then proceeded to Northallerton before taking up a position at Wigton two years prior to his death.

To date this is as much I can find of the Reverend. Perhaps there is some Toft family member who has more information on him. It is a sad event though he would look on life as a transient journey to meet his maker eventually; there are worse backdrops to the end of ones life than the beautiful view from above Caldbeck of the northern fells. 


The Hill the Reverend John Toft cycled up and the view behind of The Caldbeck Fells. Left to right; Carrock Fell, High Pike (centre) with Brae Fell, Great Sca Fell and Knott over to the right.

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