Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Robert Young (1796–1865)

by S. G. Claughton

This article was published:

Robert Young (1796-1865), Wesleyan minister, was born on 14 November 1796 near Ryton, County Durham, England, son of practising Methodists. Early in 1820 he was received by the British Conference of the Wesleyans as a missionary candidate. He was ordained on 9 November and appointed to Kingston, Jamaica, where he showed preaching and administrative abilities. One of his sermons, A View of Slavery in Connection with Christianity, was published in Jamaica in 1824. He was in Nova Scotia in 1826-29 and visited the United States of America, but returned to England in 1830. In 1837-44 he published a series of religious tracts and ministered until 1852 in British circuits, 'where his zeal was tempered by sound judgement and unsual self-control'.

In 1852 the British Conference appointed Young and Rev. John Kirk as a deputation to visit Australasia to examine the feasibility of uniting the missions of New Zealand and Polynesia with the Australian Conference as a separate, self-supporting body. Unseaworthy ships separated them and Kirk returned to England. Young went on alone and after a voyage marked by delays, gales and fire, he arrived at Port Adelaide in the Adelaide on 4 May 1853. He preached in the Pirie Street Methodist Chapel and continued to Melbourne where he took notice of 'the substantial edifices of worship' and immigrants at the Wesleyan Home in Drummond Street. Amazed by the spread of Methodism in the colony, he preached several times in the Collins Street chapel to over 1000 people, three-fourths of whom 'were interesting young men'.

On 11 June Young arrived in Sydney where he was met by Wesleyan ministers and Rev. W. B. Boyce. At a tea meeting in the York Street chapel solidarity between Methodists in Britain and Australia was affirmed and he found support for the deputation's objects. On 20 July he attended a meeting of the Australasian Board of Missions and later spoke at Windsor, Richmond and Parramatta, everywhere collecting statistics. At the District Meeting on 29 July the New South Wales Wesleyan ministers approved the constitution of the Australasian Conference proposed by Young.

In September he left for investigation and talks with Methodists in New Zealand, Tonga and Fiji. Young returned to Sydney and Melbourne, spent Christmas Day on the Victorian gold diggings and travelled to Van Diemen's Land before returning to England in 1854, well satisfied with the Australasian Conference's ability to be financially independent. In eighteen months he had travelled 40,000 miles (64,374 km). On 3 April Young reported favourably to the British Conference at Birmingham on his assignment and on 9 August the plan for a 'distinct and affiliated connexion' for Australasian Methodism was signed. He published a record of his travels, The Southern World (London, 1854), and two years later the conference elected him as its president. For the next six years he ministered in London and Newcastle.

In 1860 paralysis forced Young to become a supernumerary; with his large family he retired to Truro, Cornwall, where he died of exhaustion on 16 November 1865.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Colwell, The Illustrated History of Methodism (Syd, 1904)
  • E. G. Clancy, ‘ “Christianity in aggressive action” ’, Australasian Methodist Historical Society, Journal, Dec 1969
  • Register (Adelaide), 2 Mar, 5 May 1853
  • Nathaniel Turner journal (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Wesleyan Methodist Australian District, Minutes, 1851-54 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • notes from Methodist Archives and Research Centre, London.

Citation details

S. G. Claughton, 'Young, Robert (1796–1865)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 24 February 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


14 November, 1796
Ryton, Durham, England


16 November, 1865 (aged 69)
Truro, Cornwall, England

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