Huntingdon, Selina Hastings, Countess of

Born Selina Shirley, on 13 August 1707 (OS), daughter of the first Earl Ferrers. She married Theophilus, Earl of Huntingdon in 1728 and lived at his Leicestershire seat, Donington Park and in London. They came under Moravian influence through Benjamin Ingham, were converted in 1739 and from 1741 were associated with the Wesleys. The Earl's religious convictions were less deeply rooted than those of his wife, who was drawn to the Wesleys' teaching on Christian perfection.

After his early death in 1746, she successfully managed the extensive family estates, including Donington Park, and dedicated much of her life to supporting the evangelical cause, initially from her Leicestershire base and among her aristocratic acquaintances. Becoming increasingly associated with George Whitefield, Howell Harris and the Calvinistic Methodists, she opened chapels in many places, including such fashionable resorts as Bath and Brighton (1765) and Tunbridge Wells (1769). Evangelical clergy, William Romaine and Martin Madan, were appointed as her 'chaplains'. Failing to get the support she needed from the Anglican hierarchy, she sponsored a number of Evangelicals seeking ordination, appointing some of them as chaplains.

In 1768, following the expulsion of six evangelical students from St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, she founded a college at Trevecka to train young men for the ministry. Whitefield bequeathed her the 'Orphan House' at Bethesda, Georgia, which she ran after his death, but lost after the Revolutionary War. Her proprietorial attitude to the college at Trevecka annoyed John Wesley and she was increasingly influenced by the ultra-Calvinism of Augustus Toplady. Though she did not actively participate in the Calvinistic controversy of the 1770s, she used her influence to oppose the Arminians. Legal action over her Spa Fields chapel and her controversial appointment of an increasing number of 'chaplains' led to the formation of the Connexion which bears her name. She died on 17 June 1791.

See also Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion.

  • Helen Cross Knight, Lady Huntingdon and her Friends... (New York, 1853)
  • Alfred H. New, The Coronet and the Cross; or Memorials of the Right Hon. Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, compiled from authentic documents (1857)
  • S. Tytler, The Countess of Huntingdon and her Circle (1907)
  • Francis F. Bretherton, The Countess of Huntingdon (1940)
  • Neil Caplan, 'The Calvinist Methodists and the Work of the Countess of Huntingdon in Sussex', in The Sussex Genealogist and Local Historian, vol.1, no.1, June 1979
  • Earl Kent Brown, Women of Mr. Wesley's Methodism (New York, 1983) pp.


  • Gilbert W. Kirby, The Elect Lady (1990)
  • Elizabeth Catherwood, Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon: an English Deborah (1991)
  • Alan Harding, The Countess of Huntingdon and her Connexion in the eighteenth century (Oxford, 1992)
  • E. Welch, Spiritual Pilgrim: a reassessment of the life of the Countess of Huntingdon (Cardiff, 1995)
  • John R. Tyson, 'Lady Huntingdon's Reformation', in Church History, vol.64 (1995) pp.580-93
  • Boyd Stanley Schlenther, Queen of the Methodists:the Countess of Huntingdon and the Eighteenth Century Crisis of Faith and Society (Durham, 1997)
  • John R. Tyson, '"A poor, vile sinner": Lady Huntingdon's vocabulary of weakness and deference', in Methodist History, 37:2 (January 1999) pp. 107-18
  • John R. Tyson, 'Lady Huntingdon and the Church of England', in Evangelical Quarterly vol. 72 (2000) pp.23-34
  • F. Cook, Selina, Countess of Huntingdon: her pivotal role in the 18th century Evangelical Awakening (2001)
  • Alan Harding, Selina, Countess of Huntingdon (Peterborough, 2007)
  • Oxford DNB