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John Newton
Contemporary portrait of Newton
Born 4 August [O.S. 24 July] 1725
Died 21 December 1807(1807-12-21) (aged 82)
London, England, United Kingdom
Occupation British sailor and Anglican clergyman
Mary Catlett
(m. 1750)

John Newton (4 August|1725 – 21 December 1807) was an English Anglican clergyman who served as a sailor in the Royal Navy for a period, and later as the captain of slave ships. He became ordained as an evangelical Anglican cleric, served Olney, Buckinghamshire for two decades, and also wrote hymns, known for "Amazing Grace" and "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken".

Newton started his career at sea at a young age, and worked on slave ships in the slave trade for several years. After experiencing a period of Christian conversion Newton eventually renounced his trade and became a prominent supporter of abolitionism, living to see Britain's abolition of the African slave trade in 1807.

Early life

John newton plaque
John newton plaque

John Newton was born in Wapping, London, in 1725, the son of John Newton Sr., a shipmaster in the Mediterranean service, and Elizabeth (née Scatliff), he died of tuberculosis (then called consumption) in July 1732, about two weeks before John’s seventh birthday. Newton spent two years at boarding school before going to live in Aveley in Essex, the home of his father's new wife.

At age eleven he first went to sea with his father. Newton sailed six voyages before his father retired in 1742. At that time, Newton’s father made plans for him to work at a sugarcane plantation in Jamaica. Instead, Newton signed on with a merchant ship sailing to the Mediterranean Sea.

In 1743, while going to visit friends, Newton was captured and pressed into the naval service by the Royal Navy. He became a midshipman aboard HMS Harwich.

Final years

Newton j
John Newton

Plagued by ill health and failing eyesight, Newton died on 21 December 1807 in London. He was buried beside his wife in St. Mary Woolnoth in London. Both were reinterred at the Church of St. Peter and Paul in Olney in 1893.

  • Newton is memorialized with his self-penned epitaph on his tomb at Olney.
  • When he was initially interred in London, a memorial plaque to Newton, containing his self-penned epitaph, was installed on the wall of St Mary Woolnoth.
  • The town of Newton, Sierra Leone is named after him. To this day his former town of Olney provides charity for the African town.
  • In 1982, Newton was recognised for his influential hymns by the Gospel Music Association when he was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

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