A Notable Blencowe: Reverend George Blencowe 1817-1893

Not a lot is known about Reverend George Blencowe. He was born in 1817 in Banbury, Oxfordshire and baptised 1st February 1818. His parents were James Blencowe a plush weaver and Jane Peake nee Keys from Henley in Arden, Warwickshire. James quite probably was also a Methodist preacher. In the 1841 Census the family was living in Bridge St, South Banbury, in 1851 in Austins Yard. They had two daughters, Sarah, Mrs Rymill and Jane, Mrs Hopcraft.

George. became a Methodist minister in 1839 and appears to have moved on roughly every two years: Dover 1840/42, Chelmsford 1843/44, Tenterden 1845, Faversham 1846/48, Leighton Buzzard 1851, Cambourne 1852/55 and 1857 in Norwich. We dont know when George married Jane Peake, nee Keys (1817-1893). Their only child was James Richard (1851-1895).

George Blencowe, Methodist minister and missionary, went to Natal in South Africa in 1858 and was resident minister in the Durban and Verulam circuit (1859-1861), Pietermaritzburg (1862-1866), Ladysmith (1867-1871), and again in Durban (1872). While in Pietermaritzburg he served on the council of the Natal Society during 1863-1864 and was joint vice-president of the society in 1865-1866.

During his years in Natal he undertook long missionary journeys into northern KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State, and the Transvaal. He established the Mission Beyond the Vaal River and spent two years in Potchefstroom during 1872-1874 and some time in Pretoria, before moving to Pilgrim's Rest before January 1876.

He was inclined to meddle in local politics and left the Transvaal in 1877 for pastoral work in England.

George was keenly interested in geology and physical geography. In 1879 his "Notes on the physical geography of Zululand and its borders" was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society (New series, Vol. 1, pp. 324-328). It contained significant information on the natural features of Zululand and parts of Natal, with notes on the climate of the region and the local inhabitants. During the same year he read a paper, "On certain geological facts observed in Natal and the Border Countries during nineteen years' residence" before the British Association for the Advancement of Science. His paper was published in the Association Report for 1879 (pp. 349-350), and in 1880 also in theQuarterly Journal of the Geological Societyand theGeological Magazine.

In 1882 Blencowe returned to the Transvaal, living in semi-retirement in Wakkerstroom. In 1892 he moved to Pietermaritzburg, where he died on 16th Feb 1893. Wife Jane had at some stage returned to England, as she died at 2 Park View Blackheath Park, Woolwich 9 months after George.

George is listed amongst others as A Dissenting Academic! I haven't found why. Perhaps it is to do with his religion or his meddling in local politics.

Ref: Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 5, 1987.Hall, A.L.

Bibliography of South African geology to the end of 1920. Pretoria: Geological Survey, Memoir No. 18, 1922. Mendelssohn, S.A. South African bibliography. London, 1910.

Natal almanac, directory and yearly register, 1863-1866.

Daphne Austin, UK