Thomas Hughes (priest)

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Thomas Patrick Hughes, (26 March 1838-1911) was born in Henley Shrophsire, England, was a missionary with the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in Peshawar in British India (now Pakistan) for 20 years.

Family life[edit]

Biographical information regarding Hughes early life is scarce. It is known though, that he was the son of a miller, Thomas Hughes. The small Hughes family consisting of two children and their parents lived with Thomas Hughes Sr.'s mother in a house in Ludlow. Thomas Hughes Sr. died when Thomas Patrick Hughes was but ten years old.[1]

At the age of 26, Hughes married Eliza Lloyd on 17 August 1864 in the Manchester Cathedral; Canon Bardsley of St. Anne's Manchester officiated. Their marriage was held shortly (less than a month) after his ordination as a deacon with the CMS. Together the couple left for the mission field 12 September 1864.[1] While on the mission field, they had eight children, six of whom survived infancy. The two that passed early on, Minnie and Alice, were first born of the eight and did not make it past the age of three. Infant mortality was not uncommon in Peshawar for there were consistently recurring bouts of cholera and other illnesses.[2] The surviving children lived for a few years with their parents at Peshawar before being sent to England at age three, in part to avoid losing them also to illness. Hughes was often separated from his family, as they were in England for a good part of their lives, but also because of the nature of his work – since he frequently was in his office, visiting in the Hujra, or on preaching journeys throughout the countryside surrounding Peshawar.[1]


Hughes' family was not very well off (monetarily), yet his godfather, Thomas Massey, managed to pay for his way through grammar school in Ludlow. In subsequent years Hughes went to work at Messrs S. and J. Watts Co. in Manchester as a salesperson. While in Manchester he was involved with the Sunday School as a teacher and Superintendent at St. Anne's church. During this time he applied to the CMS for the position of deacon and missionary.[1] He was accepted into the Church Missionary Society College,Islington and in 1862 commenced his studies there. In 1864 his studies at Islington were complete and he was ordained deacon on 24 July in the Islington College Chapel.

Although this was the extent of his formal education he was awarded a number of honorary titles during the rest of his career on the merit of his astounding literary accomplishments. Bachelor of Divinity and Doctor of Divinity were bestowed upon him by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1876 and 1886, respectively. He also received from St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland the LLD in 1897.[3]

Missionary Work[edit]

Hughes and his wife originally set out for China;[1] however they never made it there and were instead posted in a city on the Indian frontier, Peshawar, where they remained for twenty years.

Itinerant Preaching[edit]

Although posted in the city, Hughes had a passion for those in the rural areas around Peshawar. He would go to the villages, sending a delegation ahead of him to let the leaders know he was coming, and meet with the Imam(s) and the people to talk about the Christian and Islamic faiths.

The Hujra[edit]

Hughes recognised that hospitality was very important to the Afghans. In lieu of this he had a hujra built. A Hujra is a guest house common to Northern India and Pakistan. This hujra played a very important role in his ministry, as many came as guests and talked with him in this context. A while after he left Peshawar, his co-worker, Worthington Jukes, made an addition to this Hujra to accommodate more guests.[4]

All Saint's Memorial[edit]

A great feat accomplished in part by Hughes, is the completion of All Saint's Memorial Church in Peshawar. It was erected for the use of the native Christians in memory of those who gave their lives for the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Peshawar vicinity. He was a leading visionary on the construction of the church, and also played a vital role in the fundraising of the means to build it. Among many other features, there are inscribed the names of those who passed on during the work at Peshawar. Included among these names are those of Hughes' infant daughters who died.

Hughes believed that the most effective way to minister to the people around him was to adapt to their culture. So he set aside his British attire and adopted the dress of the Afghans. He also mastered their language to be able to converse with ease. Additionally, he employed an Afghan man, familiar with the customs of his people, to host in the hujra. His method of acculturation also carried over to All Saint's Church. Since the church was to be for the native people, he made it in their style. The edifice is similar to a mosque in that there are domes and minarets rather than steeples. The interior utilises local materials, designs and special handiwork, in accordance with Hughes' philosophy and practice.

After Peshawar[edit]

In 1884 after 20 years of service in Peshawar, Hughes retired to England to attempt to find work in a church there, and be reunited with the four children not with him. When he could find no work, he set out to the United States. He departed on 21 May 1884, and his wife and 5 oldest children joined him in 1888. Their youngest son, Sidney, remained in England to finish his schooling.[1]

In the United States he worked in churches in the vicinity of New York. Retiring from the ministry in 1902, he continued writing until his death. Thomas Patrick Hughes passed on from this life in the year 1911.[3]

Literary Accomplishments[edit]

Hughes wrote extensively during his lifetime. Of his most notable works are the Dictionary of Islam (still in print) and the official government textbook for learning Pushto. For a chronological list of all Hughes' known writings, visit Project Canterbury.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Hughes Clark, Elizabeth. "Thomas Patrick Hughes, A Missionary to British India: The Class Ceiling". Retrieved 22 February 2011. 
  2. ^ Hughes, Thomas Patrick. "Twenty Years on the Afghan Frontier". The Independent. Retrieved 22 February 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Anderson, Gerald (1999). Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions. Wm. B Eerdman's. p. 308. 
  4. ^ Jukes,Worthington Reminiscences of Missionary Work. Worthington Jukes, 1925, pp. 1–80.

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