Whatever happened to John Troughton?


When John Troughton came to the Bexhill area some fifteen years ago he came with a fine reputation. He was in his mid-fifties by then, but was thinking of his retirement.


He had been trained in electronics, and that was still his trade to some extent until he retired in 2017 -  but his true life was in charity.


John had been a Methodist since he was born.  He grew up inside the Church. In his thirties he became an accredited local preacher.  As he approached middle-age, his religion moved him further into areas of society  where he could help people.


It was in 1992, when he was 40, that he began to concentrate on charitable works. He took his wife and family to Devon. There, he set about providing spiritual, and even financial,  support for despairing fishermen and their families in a  mission in Brixham.


Within two years the Troughtons had left Devon for the West coast of Scotland. John began helping to provide a lifeline for sailors in Mallaig on the  West Coast of Scotland. Mallaigh had once been the busiest herring port in Europe – and, though now in decline, it  was still the main commercial fishing port on the west coast of Scotland.


John became an assistant at the Fisherman’s mission in Mallaigh, taking care of families of men lost at sea and those who had fallen on hard times.  With the decline in the herring trade, there had been a decline in fishing in Mallaigh as the port turned to catching prawns.


After three and a half years in Mallaig, John Troughton, took his wife and family back South -  to  the Queen Victoria Seamen's Rest in London. John’s Methodism no doubt played a part in his new position, for the Seaman’s mission was funded by the Methodist Church. He became the assistant manager there. For the next ten years, he was in overall control of  some 180 rooms and half a dozen residential flats. It took good management and organisational skills. It also put him in daily contact with ex servicemen suffering with post traumatic Stress Disorder.


In his mid-fifties, John ended his wanderings by moving to Bexhill. He now lives in retirement in a terraced cottage near to the new roundabout, just outside Sidley.


Once established in the local Bexhill Methodist Community, John once again turned to doing charitable work.   He became close to Christopher Stewart-Maxwell a prominent and influential former civil engineer who, in retirement, had become a local historian and conservationist. Because of this connection, John became a founding member of the “Snowflake” organisation. “Snowflake” is a  highly regarded organisation based in St Leonards. It assists homeless and rough sleepers within the Hastings and Rother area.


John soon demonstrated his organisational skills.  He became a director of the “Snowflake” company and deputy chair of the trustees. Many poor people in the area have reason to thank John Troughton for his work. His work in St Leonard’s  was in line with his lifetime commitment to the poor.  It had become his mission to look after the  unfortunates in our society.


When he was approaching the age of seventy, John resigned his trusteeship in “Snowflake” -  in 2019. By then he had been heavily engaged in his work as Circuit steward in the Methodist Church for several years. It was a heavy and prestigious job for which he was well-suited. He was also a prominent member and trainer on the local Methodist Safeguarding committee.


But something had changed. In 2014 John Troughton began a vicious campaign to damage the reputation of the oldest Methodist minister in the area – Rev. Peter Timms. This campaign led to Rev Timms being  suspended from all Methodist activities; he has suffered very much as a consequence.


Why John Troughton should have started this remains a mystery – for the two men were similar in their benevolent aims, though on different levels of society and with different levels of authority and responsibility. 


John Troughton looked after poor and ailing seamen and those in need on the South Coast. It had become his mission in life.  


Rev Peter Timms devoted his life to prisoners in our jails. He had been a leading prison governor, responsible for many reforms to help the system. It was his life’s work, his mission.


The lifestyles of the two men were different. Rev Timms was an ordained minister, with a masters degree. He had been given an O.B.E. by the Queen for his services to prison reform.


John Troughton had worked tirelessly in his chosen area without any such reward.


Nevertheless, one must wonder why such an worthy man as John Troughton, with such a loving approach to those in his care,  could turn into someone who was ready and willing to torment and pursue an innocent octogenarian Methodist minister.  For that is what John Troughton did. In 2014 he began a campaign against the Rev Peter Timms which continues to this day.


It began at a routine Methodist circuit meeting in 2014. An argument developed among the local ministers about the appointment of a new Superintendent for the circuit. John Troughton, who was then a relatively new steward, involved himself in the argument.


When Rev Timms began to speak, one of the ministers who disagreed with his opinion interrupted the debate and demanded that he step down from the podium.  John Troughton decided to intervene to help the minister who had objected. He advanced to the front of the hall, threatening to pull Rev Timms down from the podium. This level of violence was unprecedented in the Bexhill Methodist community and several members stopped John before he could carry out his threats to harm Rev Timms.


It did not end there. When Rev Timms issued complaints about what had gone on at the meeting, John Troughton, now chief steward,  set about prejudicing the inquiry. Rev Timms had sent him  a confidential internal email -  John Troughton immediately passed it on to the leader of the complaints inquiry in London. It was a short email, simply pointing out that the person whose employment was under consideration, at an invitation  meeting that John Troughton chaired, was the subject of a complaint. The implication of the email was that this situation could cause complications for the local circuit. What if they employed a man who was subsequently censured by the national executive?


John Troughton considered that this internal email was a breach of the confidentiality of the complaints system. The leader of the national panel of inquiry, having heard Troughton’s accusations, sent a extraordinary document to Rev Timms. It was this unprecedented action  which was to cause the Methodist Church a lot of distress over the next half decade.


The document that the complaints panel sent to Rev Timms was a false confession. It demanded, with coercion, that Rev Timms sign an admission of guilt to a misdemeanour of which he had no knowledge – and which had nothing to do with his complaints about the 2014 meeting.


Rev Timms had no idea that John Troughton had sent the confidential internal email to the complaints team who had considered it sufficient to find the hapless minister guilty. He had been accused and tried  – and found guilty – in complete secrecy. It had all been done behind his back.


Consider the situation – Rev Timms and John Troughton had attended worship together, with this betrayal of Methodist community spirit in place. No doubt they exchanged the usual pleasantries – with John Troughton fully aware that he had effectively stabbed his minister in the back.


The coercion that the church authorities  used to persuade Rev Timms  led eventually to him being suspended from all church activities – until he agreed to sign the false confession.


Even then, Rev Timms continued to refuse to sign the self- incriminating document. By now the affair was becoming a national scandal because of a film that had been made about it – and there was also a website that showed how the church had tried to threaten Rev Timms into submission.


And so John Troughton entered the fray again. He determined to  further incriminate Rev Timms. It was now 2016 – two years after the original trouble when he had threatened the octogenarian minister with violence.


John Troughton hatched a remarkable attack – one which no one could have thought possible from a man so ready to help and care for those in need. His life’s work had been to help the needy – he now made it his life’s work to bring Rev Timms down and make him sign the false confession.


Troughton issued a formal complaint against Rev Timms’ conduct in the matter. It went to the national headquarters of the Methodist Church in London.


He repeated the claim that Rev Timms had broken the rules in sending the internal email to him in 2014  – the claim which had initiated the false confession and the scandal that followed.


This new complaint revealed new details of his actions – and a remarkable side of his character. He revealed that before he had sent the copy of the email to the leader of the inquiry panel in 2016, he had collected all the relevant documents concerning it – and destroyed them. Having made the accusation against Rev Timms,  he destroyed the evidence which would have proved it false!


He now called Rev Timms’ objections to the false confession “a campaign”. He accused Rev Timms of orchestrating such a campaign - ignoring the fact that Rev Timms had had nothing to do with the emails and notes that were now flying around Bexhill.

It did not end there. John Troughton criticised actions that Rev Timms had taken elsewhere in Bexhill. He claimed that a lady whom Rev Timms had employed as a church treasurer  had shown signs of  suffering from dementia. He offered no evidence for this - except his accusation.

This was a gross defamation of a lady who was highly respected in the Bexhill community. John Troughton seemed to ignore the fact that claiming that someone has dementia, when there is no clinical documentation to back up the allegation, is libellous. But then, it is clear that John Troughton has a poor grasp of the law.

Troughton also complained that Rev Timms had allowed various church members to pay some of the minor church bills out of their own pockets – something that many church members do. He thought that such costs should be listed in church accounts. It was clear from this that, unlike Rev Peter Timms, John Troughton would not be paying for a broken window to be replaced out of his own pocket. Such was how much he really cared for his church.

He claimed that the church accounts – drawn up by the “demented” lady treasurer and properly audited - were in a bad state and should not have been signed off as they were. John Troughton has no qualifications as an accountant.


Troughton further claimed that Rev Timms had planned to demolish one of the main churches in Bexhill in order to create a parking lot. This was total nonsense, but John Troughton added to this by claiming that Rev Timms should have found the money to repair parts of that same church.


Not content with these totally un-founded slurs and allegations, John Troughton then accused Rev Timms of several actual crimes.


Perhaps the worst of these was his allegation that Rev Timms had so intimidated a woman that she was afraid to be in the same building as him. This is a crime for which the punishment can be several years in prison.


This allegation was completely false. The lady herself denied it - and proved the point by entering the same building as Rev. Timms. When evidence of the lack of truth in the outrageous charge was so easy to find  – why on earth did John Troughton ever think about making it? Did he really want the police to enter into the affair and charge Rev Timms with sexual abuse?  It seems that he did – for his criminal allegations increased.


He next claimed that Rev Timms had abused members of the Methodist Church in Bexhill. They had been abused, he claimed,  not only physically, but also mentally.


In fact of course, it was John Troughton himself who had offered physical violence to Rev Timms at the meeting where all this had blown up, and it was John Troughton who had instigated the mental abuse of Rev Timms by the church authorities in demanding that he sign the false confession.


John Troughton also claimed that Rev Timms had abused the finances of the church in Bexhill. Any financial irregularity is a serious offence – and that is what John Troughton charged Rev Timms with. He did not specify exactly how this had been done, how the books had been fiddled, for what reason, nor who had benefited financially from the fraud, but he made the accusation nevertheless.


This all occurred in the early months of 2018. John Troughton had appeared to have acted impulsively and without reason. When Rev Timms pointed out the falsity of these criminal charges, his persecutor acted bewilderingly and irresponsibly in reply.


When confronted, John Troughton withdrew all the charges and apologised for having presented them. He thought that this was a sufficient response. He had thrown mud at Rev Timms to see where it might stick and when nothing stuck, he stopped.  He made no attempt to justify his initial attacks in any way  - and he continued to oppose  Rev Timms’ objections, now calling them   “a campaign”.


And he issued further complaints. 


The quarrel rumbled on until March 2018 when Rev Timms finally persuaded John Troughton to face him across a table so that they could formally discuss the matter and be reconciled. A neutral convenor was in charge of the meeting – a member of the church from another district.


Once again John Troughton made an allegation that a criminal activity had taken place – that the meeting was secretly “bugged”. There was no evidence of this. He had concocted the accusation out of thin air. He has never apologised for this.


Over four hours, during March and April 2018,  the discussion between the two men continued. It was the first time in two years that Rev Timms had been able to discuss with John Troughton the email from 2016 that had caused all the fuss. 


And eventually John Troughton saw the light. Now under a neutral chairman, he realised that the game was up. He admitted that Rev Timms’ rationale for sending the internal email in 2014  was perfectly correct  and acceptable.


Why had it taken him two years to understand Rev Timms’ rationale for sending the email? Had John Troughton’s eyes been clouded over by hatred? And did he now realise the damage that had been done to the Church because he had sent the email on to the National Executive? It seems not.


One might think that any reasonable person might have left the matter there. Having launched his second wave of attack on Rev Timms in 2016 and caused a tremendous upheaval inside the Methodist Church,  John Troughton had finally effectively admitted that he had been wrong in the actions he took – which had so damaged the reputation of the Methodist Church. He had, either deliberately or stupidly,  misinterpreted Rev Timms’ reason for sending the email and had, himself, breached the standing orders of the church by leaking it and then destroying all the evidence surrounding it.


His submission of all points in the discussion  was not, however, the end of his attack on the minister.


Within a month, John Troughton dismissed the official report by the independent neural chairman of the meetings. He retracted his acceptance of Rev Timms’ explanation for the “offending” email. The four hours of discussion had been for nothing. He had shaken hands on the agreement with Rev Timms in front of a highly- esteemed neutral member of the church. He had given his word that it was all over – then he had broken his word.


This is not the action of a man who has devoted his life to helping the poor and needy.  It is not the action of a man given to making sane sensible judgements. It is the action of a man with hatred in his heart who accuses without evidence, a man who is quite capable of destroying evidence when it suits his purpose. It is not the action of a man who is worthy of protecting the church with his safeguarding advice. It is not worthy of a man who has been a preacher in the Methodist Church for almost half a decade.  This is a man who stabs his chosen enemy in the back.


How can this be, when John Troughton has such a wonderful record of devotion to the poor in our society?  We may only guess at his reasons for his actions - for he has now been waging his campaign against Rev Timms for six years. Indeed, one might say that he has made a career out of it. It is a question that many in Bexhill may ponder.


The answer may lie in the personal histories of these two men and their different attitudes towards the rules of the organisation they work in.


Rev Timms was a Prison Governor for some forty years. Prison Governors need to deal directly with the Home Office and need to define clearly the policies that they are subject to and the statute law that underpins those policies.


As a governor,  Rev Timms had to deal fairly and properly, in accordance with the rules, with dangerous criminals such as members of the IRA and murderers such as Myra Hindley. At the same time he had to deal with demands from a wide range of interests and offices – such as the judiciary, the probation service, welfare and medical staff  and prisoner charities. 


One of the main tasks that Prison Governors need to deal with expertly is the interpretation of  the Home Office’s Prison Service rules. They must apply them in accordance with the general principles laid down by government.  This involves careful interpretation of the legal strictures that surround the treatment of prisoners.


John Troughton’s experience in life has been quite different to this. The rules he lived with were much more simple. There was little need for interpretation – and the recipients of his charitable actions  were usually so grateful for his help that his interpretation of any particular rules was never questioned.


Close examination of the original argument that sparked  John Troughton’s campaign against Rev Timms shows that this difference of approach may be important in  understanding John Troughton’s more violent moments.


Rev Timms’ objections at the 2014 circuit meeting were essentially about the interpretation and application of a new Standing Order – SO 545. This had come into effect a few days before the meeting. It concerned extensions of the role of presbyters.


Rev Timms claimed that what was under consideration at the meeting was indeed an extension – or at least could be.  The agenda of the meeting did not help – it merely referred to “the employment” of the minister. This could mean either a temporary or a permanent appointment. The minister under consideration had already been acting in the job for about half a year.


During the ensuing arguments, an Assistant Deputy District Chair took over and told the meeting that the appointment of a new Superintendent had to be made that very night. She claimed that SO 545 meant that it had to be done within three days.


Rev Timms disagreed. He thought this hasty – and not required by the new standing order. He considered the hasty action   discriminatory  against other potential applicants. His reading of the new standing order was to the effect that a selection could be delayed for a year. The incumbent could stay in the job temporarily whilst things were handled properly.


The two ministers had two different interpretations  of  this new Standing Order. The wording of the agenda of the meeting did not help – indeed it confused the issue. Rev Timms considered that the meeting might be accused of a lack of impartiality if it rushed the proceedings. But John Troughton shouted him down.


Could it be that John Troughton did not appreciate what Rev Timms was arguing at the meeting in 2014? Is that why he suggested dragging the minister from the podium by brute force? Did he believe  that there was to be no discussion or consideration of different possible interpretations of a new standing order? Considering his later rash actions in this affair, it is perhaps doubtful that he ever got that far in his thinking.


Rev Timms’ approach to the rules was along the same lines that he had adopted throughout his working life. When the new standing orders had been published at the turn of the century, he had read them avidly. In spite of the fact that the new standing orders appeared to have been written by lawyers, for lawyers, he was accustomed to reading and absorbing such documents. So he had kept abreast of any changes.


As for John Troughton, he was not in any position of power inside the Methodist Church when the new standing orders were introduced. He was very busy looking after the men in the Seaman’s Mission in London. It seems that he never caught up with the changes. As a consequence of this, he led himself up the wrong track.


Perhaps the simple lesson of all this is that as men grow older they become less adaptive to change. Neither Rev Timms nor John Troughton could change their approach to the way in which rules are applied in an institution. Their different approaches led to a fatal dispute that is still unresolved.


But the consequences of John Troughton’s many mistakes still affect the life of the Methodist Church in Bexhill. His great charitable work in the past means that many members of the Church remain his friends. Those people are naturally mystified by his attitude towards on of Bexhill’s most loved ministers.


John Troughton’s latest efforts have led to a disciplinary inquiry at which Rev Timms might be expelled from the Methodist Church.


Is this really what John Troughton intended to happen with his persecution of Rev Timms? Or is the destruction of a minister more important to him than truth, honesty and justice?




This document is written in line with Standing Order 1100 which demands openness in dealing in the Methodist Church


-Peter Hill