Frederick Canning Cleaver was born on 25 August 1881 the son of Frederick William Cleaver a draper’s assistant in Sheffield and his wife Mary Jane, née Bew. After the death of his mother in 1884 Frederick William Cleaver married Fanny Moss Lowndes in 1886, and William Edward and Mary Moss completed the family.
The 1901 census finds Frederick Canning Cleaver as a commercial clerk living at home, but in 1905 he became a student at St Aidan’s Theological College, Birkenhead. As St Aidan’s College was formally associated with Durham University this entitled him to become an unattached student at Durham and take a degree there. Unattached students had no obligation to reside in Durham and Cleaver probably remained in Birkenhead. He passed his Durham first year examinations in the Michaelmas term of 1907 and his finals in the Easter term of 1908, thus obtaining his Licentiate in Theology (L.Th.).
He then served as Curate at St Steven’s Sheffield from 1905 and was ordained deacon in 1908. In January 1909 the Sheffield Independent Record published two articles about the dismissal service held by the Bishop of Sheffield on the departure of Rev. Frederick Canning Cleaver for the Gold Coast (now Ghana) as a missionary with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels in Foreign Parts (S.P.G.). He was ordained priest by Nathaniel Temple Hamlyn, Bishop of Accra in 1909. Hamlyn was himself a Durham graduate (L.Th. 1889; M.A. 1901; Hon. D.D. 1904).
In Ghana Frederick Cleaver served at Tarkwa 1908-1909, Sekondi (a rapidly developing port and railhead) 1909-1912, Accra 1912-1914, and again at Sekondi until 1916. He was invalided back home at some point, but subsequently returned to his missionary work in Ghana: passenger records reveal that he embarked on the “Karina” at Liverpool bound for West Africa on 4 November 1914, and so this voyage may mark his recovery. A letter he wrote during this period to the Native Races and Liquor Traffic United Committee provides a brief glimpse of some of his activities.
“Bibles held up by Gin
In a letter to the Native Races and Liquor Traffic United Committee, the Rev. F.C. Cleaver, a Gold Coast missionary, reports the difficulty he had to “clear” a case of Bibles at the Customs warehouse in Sekondi, as there were 16,000 cases of gin to be dealt with.”
Nottingham Evening Post, Today’s Gossip section, December 1913
Cleaver was appointed Temporary Chaplain to the Forces on 24 October 1916. He transferred to the R.A.F. in 1919, which necessitated his resigning his Army commission and being granted a new commission on 28 January 1919 with a relative rank of a Captain (T.C.F.). His service records note that he served with 8 Wing around York for a while, before being deployed overseas on 31 March.
Rev. Frederick Cleaver died at sea on board the Hospital Transport “Ellora” before its arrival at Basra, Iraq, on 17 June 1919. He is buried in Basra War Cemetery and commemorated on its memorial screen wall. At St Stephen’s Church, Sheffield, he is listed on the war memorial as well as on the Young Men’s Society plaque in the parish room. His address at probate was in Sheffield, at 6 Priory Road.