Tag Archives: Samuel Wesley

Samuel, father of John Wesley

Samuel Wesley was born December 17, 1662. He was the son of the dissenting pastor John Wesley, rector of Winterborne Whitechurch, Dorset. His mother was the daughter of John White, rector of Trinity Church, Dorchester.

John Wesley was imprisoned for not using the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer, imprisoned again and ejected in 1662. He died at the age of 42. Samuel was being educated as a dissenter. But he had a change of view and enrolled as an Anglican at Exeter College in Oxford. He served wealthy students to pay his way through school. In 1688, he completed his degree at Exeter and married Susanna Annesley. They moved to Epworth when he was named as rector there in 1697.

He was a supporter of royalty, an unpopular stand in Epworth. The marshy area had been ordered drained years earlier by the king. A portion of the newly created lands went to the king, another portion to the men who drained the land and finally a portion to those who lived there. This change in land ownership angered the locals and they did not look kindly on supporters of the king. This led to fires being set to the rectory and damage to its fields and livestock. Wesley stayed in debt especially after fire destroyed the rectory and he built a new home in its place.

The Foundery Press book on Samuel Wesley describes his imprisonment

All for the sake of a third pounds debt. His creditor seemed set on punishing Wesley and would not give Samuel 24 hours to find the money. The unsuspecting Samuel came out of church after christening a baby and was arrested in his own churchyard. News filtered through Epworth. Far from taking pity on Susanna, the villagers proceeded in the rector’s absence to wreak havoc on his farming endeavors. Samuel remained imprisoned for five months.

The Wesleys had three sons and seven daughters who lived into adulthood. The sons all graduated from universities at Oxford.

Samuel held his parish and family to strict standards. His public condemnation of church members contributed to the ill treatment of the family. He was at odds with his wife and left Epworth in protest for months. When his daughter Hetty ran away and returned home unmarried and pregnant, he was unforgiving. When John preached sermons in Epworth on the subject of mercy, Samuel did not mend his relationship with Hetty and took issue with the criticism.

Samuel was an author. He published articles that helped him pay his way through university. His life’s work was a study of the Book of Job written in Latin. His son John completed and published the work after Samuel’s death on April 5, 1735 He was buried at St. Andrews Anglican Church in Epworth.

 Life and Times of Rev. Samuel Wesley

Painting from Old Rectory, Epworth

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Photos of St Andrews Anglican Church, Epworth, UK

Samuel Wesley was rector of St. Andrews Anglican Church in Epworth, UK. When in Oxford, we made the short drive from the Old Rectory down the street to the parking area near the church. We took a number of photos as we walked around the 15th century Perpendicular-style Anglican parish church.You can find the photos on the JohnWesleyBlog flickr page.

The church website makes clear it continues to serve the community with regular worship services for its congregation while welcoming those interested in its history. Most notable is that Samuel Wesley is buried at the church and his grave was used as a site for his son’s preaching in Epworth when he was denied the church’s pulpit.

The church has many notable architectural features and interesting items of furniture, including a chair left by Susanna Wesley on her departure from Epworth. The font was used to baptize all the Wesley children, and the chalice, originally Samuel Wesley’s, was used by John for his first Holy Communion, when aged 9.

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Epworth discusses protecting Wesley headstone

The Scunthorpe Telegraph reports the Epworth Town Council has discussed safeguarding historic headstones.

The clerk has been asked to get quotes for insurance to cover damage by vandalism in the whole closed churchyard, after which the council will look at the next steps moving forward.

Brothers John and Charles Wesley are credited with founding the Methodist movement.  They were born in Epworth in the early 18th century.  Their father, Samuel Wesley, was the rector of Epworth from 1695 to 1735 and their childhood home, the Old Rectory, is now a tourist attraction.

Samuel Wesley’s grave to be insured against vandals

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Looking forward to Epworth, part 2

While the Old Rectory seems to hold center stage when it comes to John Wesley in Epworth, the town does offer a Wesley tour. Another one of the major sites on the tour is St Andrews Parish Church, the church Samuel Wesley served as rector from 1695 to 1735. Samuel Wesley is buried on the church grounds.

Here is a photo of John Wesley preaching while standing on top of his father’s grave.

John Wesley made his first preaching visit to his home town, Epworth in Lincolnshire, in June 1742. He had not been there for seven years, since the time of his father’s funeral. Because he was an ordained minister in the Church of England and because his father had been Rector in Epworth for forty years, he asked the Curate if he might assist him on the Sunday morning, either in reading prayers or preaching. But the Curate, knowing of Wesley’s itinerant ministry, had no intention of having a ‘rebel’ preacher in his pulpit. Following the service, Wesley’s travelling assistant, John Taylor, stood at the church gate and announced: ‘Mr Wesley, not being permitted to preach in the church, designs to preach here at six o’clock.’ The news spread like wildfire! ‘Old parson Wesley’s son be back and he be preaching in the churchyard!’ The whole area was packed with people as the be-gowned Oxford don and open-air revivalist took his stand on his father’s flat tombstone. While the church authorities could forbid John Wesley from preaching in the pulpit or the graveyard, they could not prevent his standing on his father’s grave, for it was Wesley family property.



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