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Jonathan left the Navy when his ship was broken up in 1810, returning to Norton, near Stockton-on-Tees, where he worked as a tanner and married his first wife, Martha, who bore him a son, Richard, in 1814. Jonathan’s time in the Navy, however, had given him a love of roving, “which prevented him from settling down to regular employment”.
After his parents died, he became a Wesleyan preacher in 1814, strongly denouncing the Church of England and gaining a reputation for disrupting church services. His passionate religious fervour led him to indulge in frequent fits of rage against the clergy, coming to a head with his plot to assassinate the Bishop of Oxford, Edward Legge, at a confirmation service in Stockton in 1817, for which he was arrested, tried and committed as a lunatic at West Auckland asylum.
Jonathan described the Bishop of Oxford thus, “I was astonished at the wonderful size of the bishop. I had never seen so corpulent a man before. Surely he hath drunk a great deal of wine for his stomach’s sake.”