National Portrait Gallery

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Born: Ju­ly 24, 1725, Lon­don, Eng­land.

Died: De­cem­ber 21, 1807, Lon­don, Eng­land.

Buried: Orig­in­al­ly at St. Ma­ry Wool­noth Church, Lom­bard Street, Lon­don. In 1893, New­ton and his wife Ma­ry were re­in­terred in the south­east cor­ner of the grave­yard at St. Pe­ter and St. Paul Church, Ol­ney.

Pseudonym: Omicron.



John was the son of John New­ton the El­der, a ship­mas­ter in the Me­di­ter­ra­ne­an ser­vice, and Eli­za­beth Scat­liff, and hus­band of Ma­ry Cat­lett (mar­ried Feb­ru­ary 12, 1750, Ro­ches­ter).

Early Life

His mo­ther died when he was se­ven years old. At age 11, with but two years school­ing and on­ly a ru­di­ment­a­ry know­ledge of La­tin, he went to sea with his fa­ther.

Life at sea was filled with won­der­ful es­capes, vi­vid dreams, and a sail­or’s reck­less­ness. New­ton grew in­to a god­less and aban­doned man.

He was once flogged as a de­sert­er, and for 15 months lived, half starved and ill treat­ed, as a slave in Af­ri­ca.

After Conversion

A chance read­ing of Tho­mas à Kem­pis sowed the seed of his con­ver­sion. It was ac­cel­er­at­ed by a night spent steer­ing a wa­ter­logged ship in the face of ap­par­ent death. He was then 23 years old.

Over the next six years, dur­ing which he com­mand­ed a slave ship, his faith ma­tured. He spent the next nine years most­ly in Li­ver­pool, stu­dy­ing He­brew and Greek and ming­ling with White­field, Wes­ley, and the Non­con­for­mists.

He was ev­en­tu­al­ly or­dained, and be­came cur­ate at Ol­ney, Buck­ing­ham­shire, in 1764.


A mar­ble plaque at St. Ma­ry Wool­noth car­ried the ep­i­taph which New­ton him­self wrote:

Once an infidel and libertine
A servant of slaves in Africa,
Was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour
restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach
the Gospel which he had long laboured to destroy.
He ministered,
Near sixteen years in Olney, in Bucks,
And twenty-eight years in this Church.