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Manton, John Allen (1807–1864)

by E. R. Pretyman

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

John Allen Manton (1807-1864), Wesleyan minister, was born on 17 August 1807 at Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, England, the son of Thomas and Jane Manton. At 15 he felt called to preach the gospel and in January 1823 was admitted into the Methodist Society on trial. He soon became a local preacher and in April 1830 entered the Christian ministry. Next January he was set apart for missionary service, and sailed in February for New South Wales in the Surry.

Manton's first appointment was at Parramatta. Six months later he replaced Rev. William Schofield in the penal station at Macquarie Harbour, Van Diemen's Land, whence he sailed in January 1833 for the new penal settlement at Port Arthur to become its first chaplain. At Sydney in April he married Anne Green from Spilsby, Lincolnshire. In addition to the usual clerical duties at Port Arthur, he organized and conducted schools for adult convicts and instructed some seventy convict boys at Point Puer, later receiving special thanks from Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur for his faithful services. In 1834 he was transferred to Launceston where for three years he conducted a most successful ministry. This was followed by short terms in other settled parts of the colony. In 1841 Manton was reappointed to Port Arthur, where he remained until the government, unsettled by the influence of Bishop Francis Nixon, decided to withdraw Wesleyan chaplains from penal stations despite their long ministry of fourteen years. He then became superintendent minister at Hobart Town, and later moved to other centres.

At Campbell Town, in co-operation with Captain Samuel Horton of Somercotes, near Ross, Manton prepared to establish a Wesleyan school for boys in Tasmania, for which the captain offered a site of twenty acres (8 ha) and £1000 in cash. In 1855 the Wesleyan Methodist Conference in Sydney, the first in Australasia, decided to open a college named after Captain Horton in an uncompleted wing of the new school building; Manton was appointed its first principal. Two years later he asked to be relieved of its oversight and moved to New South Wales, where he suggested that a second Wesleyan collegiate institution should be established. In 1863 members of Wesleyan Conference, of which he was elected president, supported him. Newington House, built in 1832 and owned by the Blaxland family, was inspected, leased and repaired throughout; with Manton as principal, it was opened in July as Newington College. He was never robust and his health failed altogether after fifteen months. He died at the college on 9 September 1864, survived by his widow and several children.

The Tasmanian Messenger said of him, 'He was a man of sound judgment and enlightened mind, a good preacher, a strict disciplinarian, a perfect gentleman, a thorough Wesleyan … Faultless he was not, but about him there was such a combination of tenderness and firmness, of sympathy and manliness, of Christian liberality and consistency, that his enemies were few and his friends were many'.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Colwell (ed), A Century in the Pacific (Syd, 1914)
  • Launceston Advertiser, 27 Nov 1834
  • Hobart Town Courier, 12 Apr 1855
  • Tasmanian Messenger, 1 Nov 1864
  • Manton papers (privately held).

Citation details

E. R. Pretyman, 'Manton, John Allen (1807–1864)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/manton-john-allen-2430/text3231, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 23 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

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