Order with this ReferenceMMS/Special Series/Biographical/South Seas/FBN 37 (fiche 1665-1670)
Ref NoMMS/17/02/10/07
TitleMr Joseph Orton
Date(s) of Creationc1826-c1837
Level of DescriptionSub-Sub-Series
Extent5 items
Name of CreatorOrton; Joseph (1795-1842); ordained missionary; mission administrator
Administrative & Biographical HistoryJoseph Rennard Orton was born in Kingston-Upon-Hull, Yorkshire, on 10 October 1795 to John (d. 1811) and Elizabeth (d. 1808) Orton. In 1810 Joseph Orton moved to London to live with his brother Thomas and three years later he joined the Wesleyan Methodist Church. During this period at St George's he served as a Sunday school teacher and local preacher before being accepted by the WMMS as a missionary candidate. He, along with his wife (Sarah Jane Bragg of East Smithfield, London, whom he married on 19 November 1815), left England on 25 February 1826 for missionary work in Jamaica where they arrived 3 months later.

Orton initially served in St Anne's Bay but later relocated to Montego Bay. He developed a mission to the Maroons in Accompong Town, south of Montego Bay, and like many of his colleagues preached to slaves (often at the displeasure of local plantation owners and officials). In 1828 Orton returned to visit St Anne's Bay where colleagues were being prosecuted by local magistrates for allegedly preaching without a licence. Whilst supporting their cause Orton himself preached and was arrested and imprisoned for not having permission to preach in that parish (despite once having been a minister there). After 10 days in prison Orton's case was, by writ of Habeas Corpus, passed to the Supreme Court where the charges against him were quashed and the original magistrates criticised for their conduct. However, Orton's incarceration had left him with significant health problems compelling him to leave Jamaica on 5 December 1829.

After having spent a couple of years preaching in home circuits (Bath, Somerset, and Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk) Orton was asked to serve as superintendent for the New South Wales District in Australia and he duly departed England on 3 August 1831. The district was in need of re-organisation so Orton improved communication with the missionary society in London, reformed financial proceedings, encouraged discipline and introduced better pastoral oversight. As a result the district gained more members and expanded its territory. In February 1836 Orton was relocated to the Van Diemen's Land District to serve as superintendent. As well as supervising the work of the district he joined John Batman in seeking to found a mission in Melbourne, particularly amongst the Aborigines, laying the foundation for the Port Phillip circuit and Buntingdale mission. In 1840 he relinquished control of the Van Diemen's Land District in the hope of returning home but was instead asked to assist in the fledgling 'Australia Felix' District. He and his family arrived in Melbourne on 3 October and over the next year the mission grew. Orton also found time to visit and report on the prospects of a mission in Adelaide. By 1842 Orton's workload combined with his poor health necessitated his return to England. Leaving Melbourne in March 1842 with his wife and seven children his health further deteriorated due to the poor weather conditions the ship encountered. Orton's health finally failed him and he died at sea on 30 April 1842.

Further Reading:
Blacket, J, Missionary triumphs among the settlers in Australia and the savages of the South Seas: a twofold centenary volume (1914);
Colwell, J, The illustrated history of Methodism: Australia, 1812 to 1855: New South Wales and Polynesia, 1856 to 1902: with special chapters on the discovery and settlement of Australia, the missions to the South Sea Islands, New Zealand and the aborigines, and a review of the movement leading up to Methodist union (1904);
Findlay & Holdsworth, The History of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, (vol 2 & 3, 1921);
Orton, J. R, Aborigines of Australia (1836);
Pretyman, R. D, A chronicle of Methodism in Van Diemen's Land 1820-1840 (1970).
Held at:SOAS University of London
DescriptionJournal of Joseph Orton probably compiled between 1826 and 1837 but including reference to events dating back to 1795. Begins with an overview of Orton's life up to 1826. Individual dated entries begin on 25 February 1826 and end on 15 January 1832. Journal covers the period leading up to his acceptance as a missionary for the WMMS and then records his service in Jamaica, England and New South Wales. Journal ends whilst in the early stages of his superintendency in Van Diemen's Land [Tasmania]. Rear of volume has chronology of family events (e.g. births, deaths, etc). With index at front of volume.
Manuscript, probably composed by Orton after 1830, entitled 'Memoranda for the Committee' recording thoughts and ideas regarding the missions in New South Wales, Van Diemen's Land [Tasmania] and New Zealand.
Manuscript on Tonga (divided into two sections sections) which was probably composed by Orton after 1830. The front section is entitled 'No 1 Government and Succession of Friendly Islands Chiefs' whilst the rear section is entitled 'No 2 Queries and Memo[rand]a regarding the War Friendly Islands'.
Manuscript on Tonga, probably composed by Orton after 1830, entitled 'No 3 Information on Queries Friendly Islands'.
Manuscript on Tonga, probably composed by Orton after 1835, entitled 'No 4 General Information Friendly Islands'.
Access StatusTemporarily Closed
Conditions Governing AccessOnly to be viewed on microfiche
CopyrightCopyright probably held by Methodist Missionary Society
Conditions Governing ReproductionFor permission to publish, please contact Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library in the first instance
Language(s) of MaterialEnglish
Related MaterialOfficial correspondence by Joseph Orton whilst a missionary in Jamaica and Australia can be found within the (Wesleyan) Methodist Missionary Society archive. Correspondence (including extracts from his journal) for Jamaica can be found within MMS/West Indies/Correspondence/General/FBN 6-8. Correspondence written from the districts within which he worked whilst in Australia, along with papers relating to the mission to the Aborigines, can be found amongst MMS/Australasia/Correspondence/Australia/FBN 1 and MMS/Australasia/Correspondence/Tasmania/FBN 11. Furthermore, the synod minutes should detail his work, and that of his colleagues, in the West Indies (MMS/West Indies/Synod Minutes/FBN 1) and Australia (MMS/Australasia/Synod Minutes/Australia/FBN 1).

The Mitchell Library at the New South Wales State Library in Australia holds journals and correspondence by Orton, 1825-1842.
Access Points - Person, Corporate & Family Names
Name CodePerson, Corporate or Family NameType of Entity
GB/SOASNAF/P949Orton; Joseph (1795-1842); ordained missionary, mission administratorPerson
Access Points - Places
Place CodePlace Name
2635167United Kingdom
2155400New South Wales
2186224New Zealand
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