Reece, Richard
1765-1850; e.m. 1787

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WM minister, born on 1 December 1765 at Brereton Park, near Tarporley and educated in Chester. In 1787 he met John Wesley in Manchester and was sent to the Oxford Circuit. While stationed in Guernsey in 1793-94 he learned French and became acquainted with Pierre de Pontavice. In 1796 he rescued a few Wesley manuscripts from destruction by John Pawson. While at Macclesfield, in 1799 he preached at the funeral service of the Rev. David Simpson.

His wife Hannah was the daughter of William Marsden of Manchester and sister of George Marsden, President of the Conference in 1821 and 1831.

Considered to be the most influential figure in the connexion after Jabez Bunting, he was elected President of the Conference in 1816 and again in 1835. In 1824 he represented British Methodism at the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He retired in 1846 after 59 years in the ministry and died at his son's home at St. John's Wood on 27 April 1850. His portrait at the age of 32 appeared in the WM Magazine in 1797 and that at the age of 60 by John Jackson in 1825. Some of his diaries have survived and are preserved in the Methodist Archives at the John Rylands Library, Manchester.

His son, Richard Marsden Reece, married the sister of W.H. Smith, MP.


'Tall, bony, rather lank, - ruddy complexion… a lovely picture of patriarchal beauty, authority, and courtesy… A little frenchified, not in his manners, but in his pronunciation… dignified in his mien, but not haughty… A high sense of honour and ministerial bearing.'

Wesleyan Takings (1840), p.309

'Perhaps some clear perception of him may be gained on looking at the portrait by John Jackson RA. In those features one may see a judicious mind, a clear judgment, a strong sense of duty and resoluteness in its discharge.'

R. Denny Urlin, Father Reece (1899) p.45

'Everywhere he was welcomed, for people were impressed by by his simple dignity, and were interested in his old-fashioned manners and pronunciation and costume. "The last of Wesley's own preachers" was often whispered. Possibly there were two or three others living who, like him, had been "called out" and sent to preach by the patriarch; but it was always said in my younger days that Father Reece was the very latest of Wesley's own preachers to continue at work. And at work he did continue until 1846 - fifty-five and a half years after Wesley's death. In that year he was placed on the supernumerary or retired list.'

Ibid, p.70

'Alike in physique, in countenance, and character, he would have added dignity to any line of monarchs… He would have made a noble figure on the floor of the House, addressing the Imperial Parliament with his commanding voice and his strong, apt, manly English. He had a richly florid English complexion, and an imposing stateliness of figure and demeanour, which arrested attention and commanded admiration as he strode along the streets.'

Benjamin Gregory, quoted in Urlin, op. cit., p.54

  • Robert A. West, Sketches of Wesleyan Preachers (1849) pp. 66-70
  • R. Denny Urlin, Father Reece, the old Methodist Minister, twice President of the Conference (1899)
  • Richard Reece, A season highly profitable: the travels of an itinerant Methodist preacher in Norfolk and Suffolk 1788-89 , ed. Norma Virgoe (Wesley Historical Society, East Anglia Branch, 2007)