James George Penney

Last Name: 
First Name: 
James George
Grave Plot No.: 
Date of birth: 
1st February 1792
year of death: 
date of death: 
1 Feb 1839
Ethnicity / Origin: 
Age at death: 
47 yrs
Son of Mr Joseph Penney of Hereford; husband of Mrs Mary Penney
Full Epitaph: 
In Memory of Mary Penney,/ who departed this life Dec. 24th, 1829,/ aged 42 years./ She was a sincere and devoted Christian,/ an affectionate and prudent wife,/ an amiable and faithful friend; her life was/ useful, and her death happy./ Also sacred to the Memory of the Rev. J. Penney,/ who was for the space of twenty-two years/ the able, diligent, and successful teacher of the/ Benevolent Institution./ He was bom in London on the 1st Feb. 1792 ;/ arrived in India on the 1st Feb. 1817 ;/ was arrested by the hand of death/ 1st of Feb. 18.39; and after a struggle of only/ a few hours, fell asleep in Jesus./ “ How many fall as sudden, not as safe.* *—Young./ 44 The Memory of the just is blessed/’—Prov. x. vii.
Missionary; Schoolteacher in charge of the Benevolent Institution
Place of birth / origin: 
Places mentioned 1: 
Place of death: 
places mentioned 2: 
Cause of death: 
Detailed information: 

James George Penney was a missionary of Baptist Mission Society and was entrusted by the running of a school called the Benevolent Institution. The Benevolent Institution, founded in Calcutta on 25 Dec 1809 by the Serampore Missionaries, was a school that focused on the education of a diverse community of children, including Eurasians (who were presumably Christian), Hindus, Muslim, Mogs, Malays, Chinese, Jews, Armenians, Roman Catholics and Protestants. Penney took over the school in 1817 when the school had fifty students. The Benevolent Institution offered lessons in both English and Bengali.

According to his biographer, William Carey, Penney had a difficult childhood and lived with his mother and brother. He was soon to be taken into the care of a Mr Lancaster of London and a Mr Porter, a Baptist minister of Bath. He also worked with a Mr Palmer of Shrewsbury and set up schools in Shrewsbury, Oswestry, Bath, Whittington, Tavistock and several other places. Penney arrived in India on 1st February 1817 on board the ship Devaynes. He preached both in Bengali and English and his letters reflect his attempts to learn Bengali rapidly. With his fellow missionaries he taught in Calcutta, Durgapur and adjacent places. In 1827, the report of the missionaries in Calcutta commended his work in the Benevolent Institution. In 1829, he started a Sunday school (where some students were Hindus) with the help of the Juvenile Society. In the same year, his wife died of jungle fever [See entry on Mary Penney].

Being repeatedly afflicted by fever, he decided to leave for England. Before his departure, he married the widow of Rev. Brunsdon in 1832. On the voyage, he lost his only child. After having recuperated in England, he returned to India in September 1834 aboard the Orontes. On his return, he preached at the new Baptist Church in Dum Dum and at the Bethel pastorate. He was interested in Algebra, Botany and Conchology in his leisure hours.

James Penney died of cholera when he was 47 and after 22 years of missionary work.

The plaque from the grave of James Penney and Mary Penney is to be found in the South Park Street Cemetery today. A scanned copy of a lithograph by Colesworthy Grant is displayed here.


Carey, W. H. Oriental Christian Biography, Containing Biographical Sketches of Distinguished Christians Who Have Lived and Died in the East. J. Thomas. Baptist Mission Press, 1850.
Riddick, John F. The History of British India: A Chronology. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006.

Photo name/s: 
Biblical References: 
The Memory of the just is blessed’—Proverbs x. vii.
This record has been created by:: 

Souvik Mukherjee