Tag Archives: Old Rectory

Old Rectory offers tours for National Heritage Day

The Old Rectory in Epworth, the home of the Wesley family, will be open for free tours as part of National Heritage Day on Sept. 14

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Methodist sites to visit

UM: Seven Sites every United Methodists should see The Old Rectory in Epworth is on a list of seven sites this United Methodist article recommends visiting.

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Epworth: A brand plucked out of the fire

The story we all remember about John Wesley and Epworth is the fire that destroyed the Old Rectory in which the Wesley family was living. Samuel Wesley believes all of his family is out of the burning building and then from the second story window, John appears trapped in the flames. John Telford describes the story in his biography of Wesley:

On February 9th, 1709, the memorable fire at the Rectory took place. It broke out between eleven and twelve at night, when all the family were in bed. The roof of the corn-chamber was burnt through before any one was aware of the danger. Some of the fire fell upon Hetty Wesley’s bed, in a little room adjoining. She at once ran to call her father, who lay in the red chamber. He had heard some one crying “Fire !” in the street a little while before, but did not understand that his own house was in danger. He roused his family and told them to make baste, because the roof was falling fast, and only a thin wall or door kept the flames from the staircase. They bad not even time to put on their clothes. Mr. Wesley, with the nurse and two of the children, got downstairs into the garden; the servants and two others escaped through the window. After three fruitless attempts Mrs. Wesley waded through the fire, which scorched her legs and face. At last all were safe save John, then five and a half years old. He had been asleep in the nursery, with three of his sisters, his little brother Charles, and the nurse. When the alarm was given, the nurse snatched up Charles, the youngest child, and bade the rest follow her. John was left in bed fast asleep. In a few minutes he awoke, and, seeing how light the room was, called to the maid to take him up. As no one answered, he put his head out of the curtains and saw streaks of fire on the ceiling. The child jumped out of bed and went to the door, but found that all beyond was in a blaze. He then climbed on the chest which stood near the window. The Rector tried to rush through the flames, which enveloped the staircase, to rescue his boy; but though he made two attempts, holding his trousers above his head as a kind of shield, the fire beat him down. He then went into the garden; and, calling his family around him, all kneeled down whilst he commended the child to God A man below, however, had seen John, and would have run for a ladder; but another spectator said there was no time to lose, and suggested that a light man should be set on his shoulders, so as to lift the little fellow out of the window. The first time the man fell down, but he was helped up again, and was thus able to reach the child. Just as they rescued him the whole roof fell in. Fortunately, it fell inwards, or the boy and his brave deliverers would have been crushed by the weight.

When John was brought to his father by the brave men who had rescued him the Rector cried out, “Come, neighbours, let us kneel down; let us give thanks to God ! He has given me all my eight children; let the house go; I am rich enough.” Nothing was saved. In about fifteen minutes the building, with all its furniture, books, and papers, was utterly destroyed. John Wesley’s wonderful escape always filled him with gratitude. In one of his early prints a house in flames is represented below his own portrait, with the words, “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire” • One interesting reference to the event is found in his journals. On Friday, February 9th, 1750, whilst holding a watchnight service in his West Street Chapel, London, “About eleven o’clock,” he says, “it came into my mind, that this was the very day and hour in which, forty years ago, I was taken out of the flames. I stopped, and gave a short account of that wonderful providence. The voice of praise and thanksgiving went up on high, and great was our rejoicing before the Lord.” Both he and the Methodist people knew by that time for what blessed work he had been spared.

The Old Rectory has several prints of famous paintings of the event displayed in the stairwell of the house.


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Wesley Physic Garden at Old Rectory, Epworth

Behind the Old Rectory in Epworth, UK, you will find John Wesley’s Physic Garden. It opened in July 2006 and was created to celebrate the contribution made by Wesley to the well-being of the poor who were unable to pay for a physician. He wrote An Easy and Natural Way of Curing Most Diseases in 1747. The garden is an interpretation of a typical Georgian garden and not a reproduction of what was at the site. We placed photos from our visit on the JohnWesleyBlog flickr page.

You can find Wesley’s booklet also known as Primitive Physic here.

epworth garden

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Tour guide discusses seven Wesley sisters

We had a great tour at the Old Rectory in Epworth, UK, thanks to our guide through the Wesely house, Amy. She shared details of the Wesley family and important information discovered in the restoration of the house. Afterwards, she talked with me about the seven Wesley sisters.

A book written about the Wesley women is Seven Sisters in Search of Love by Frederick Maser.

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Photo tour of the Epworth Old Rectory

Meet Amy, the tour guide for the Old Rectory, Epworth UK, the family home of John Wesley and see photos we took while Amy showed us the house on the JohnWesleyBlog flickr page. Amy provided an excellent tour, knew the story of the Wesley family and the details of the house. She pointed out specifics learned from the preservation efforts and shared stories about the Wesley family.

The Epworth Old Rectory souvenir guide states:

After Samuel Wesley’s death in 1735, the house continued to be the home for successive rectors of Epworth. Although it was recognized as the childhood home of John and Charles Wesley, it was not protected or preserved in any way, so each rector made it his own. Over the years, doors were moved, extensions were put up and taken down, plants grew across the front of the house and outbuildings were added.

By the 1950s, the Rectory was in a state of some disrepair, and the Church of England made the decision to build a new Rectory at the other end of the town. The Methodist church saw this as an opportunity to acquire it. Funds were raised from the world-wide Methodist community, and in 1954, the house was purchased by the Methodist Church.

In 2002, Epworth Old Rectory achieved the status of a Registered Museum and in 2009, it became an Accredited Museum. It is a Grade 1 listed building.


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Restoring the Wesley family home in Epworth

The Old Rectory in Epworth UK is held on trust by the British Methodist Church for the World Methodist Council. It is part of Methodist Heritage which oversees Methodist heritage sites in Britain including:

  • Wesley’s Chapel, the Museum of Methodism and John Wesley’s House and Tomb at City Road, London
  • The New Room, John Wesley’s Chapel at the Horsefair, Bristol
  • Englesea Brook Chapel and Museum of Primitive Methodism, near Crewe

The Epworth Old Rectory souvenir guide indicates

Plans are well advanced to complete the process of returning the rectory to the way it may have looked when the Wesleys lived there. Much research has been carried out so that the restoration is as near to the original as possible. It is a major project that entails installing underfloor hearing, replacing floors with traditional materials and analysis of wall finishes. Alongside this is a plan to improve access, interpretation and visitor facilities. The project has four phases:

  • Putting the hearth back into the home and external conservation
  • Improving access and interpretation
  • Restoring the Rectory
  • New visitor center and car park extension

rectory renovation project

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Rev Graham Carter discusses the Old Rectory in Epworth, UK

John Wesley’s life began in Epworth, UK. His family lived in the Rectory in the northern England community where his father served as the Anglican pastor. One of the shaping moments in young John’s life was a fire that destroyed the rectory. He was trapped in a second floor room and the family was unable to return to the house to save him. Neighbors formed a human ladder and pulled him from the flames as the room’s ceiling crashed down in flames. This fire occurred in February 1709. By December of that year, the family had returned to their new home at the site, the building today known as the Old Rectory. It is Methodist Heritage site. A Board of Trustees heads an organization working to restore the building that now serves as museum honoring John and Charles Wesley. Rev. Graham Carter chairs the board. He talks with us about the family and the house.

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Visiting the Wesley family home

We left Kings Cross station early Friday for Doncaster several hours to the north of London. From there we attempted to drive to Epworth and the Old Rectory. We talked with Rev Graham Carter who heads the Old Rectory Board of Trustees about the Wesley family and the home where they lived for 40 years. Carter talked about Samuel Wesley, a church leader in Epworth and his wife Susannah who raised their 3 sons and 7 daughters.

In coming weeks we will have video and photos from the Old Rectory,  a historical treasure of the Methodist faith.



The Old Rectory in Epworth UK



Amy, our tour guide, describing the restoration work in kitchen.

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Bishop Hope Morgan Ward visits Methodist historic sites in UK

Hope Morgan Ward, Bishop of the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, discusses her March 2014 visit to the United Kingdom to visit Methodist historic sites.

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