Wesley family

The Wesley brothers had Puritan and Nonconformist ancestry on both sides of their family, but their parents had both returned to the CofE. John Wesley's paternal great-grandfather Bartholomew Westley (c. 1596-1671) of Lyme Regis and grandfather, John Westley (c. 1636-70) of Winterborne Whitchurch, Dorset, and his maternal grandfather Samuel Annesley (c. 1620-96) were all ejected from their livings after the Restoration.

Samuel Wesley senr (1662-1735) graduated from Exeter College, Oxford, was ordained priest in 1689 and after a brief interlude as a naval chaplain became rector of South Ormsby, Lincs, in 1691 and of Epworth in 1695, to which he added the nearby Wroote in 1722. Of considerable scholarly and literary ability, he produced a 'heroic poem' on The Life of Christ (1693) and a massive Dissertations on the Book of Job in Latin (1735). Despite this he failed to gain preferment, was unpopular with his rank-and-file parishioners and through poor financial management was imprisoned for debt at Lincoln.

His wife Susanna (née Annesley, 1669-1742) inherited her father's independence of character and intellectual ability. She educated each of her children from an early age and had a lasting influence on their lives, not least that of her middle son John; though it has been argued that what they gained intellectually they lost in warmth of affection.

Ten of their 19 children survived into adulthood. The oldest of the three sons, Samuel Wesley junr (1690-1739), was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, was employed as an Usher at Westminster 1713-1733 (during which his brother Charles was a pupil there) and became headmaster of Blundell's School, Tiverton in 1733. Like his father and brothers he had some poetic ability.

All but one (the youngest, Kezzia, 1710-1741) of the seven daughters married, mostly unhappily. Most disastrous were the marriages of the gifted Mehetabel ('Hetty', 1697-1750), forced by her father into marrying a plumber and glazier, William Wright, after an ignominious seduction by a young lawyer, and that of Martha ('Patty', 1706-1791) to the flagrantly unfaithful Westley Hall. She survived him, became a Methodist and a friend of Dr Johnson and remained close to her brother John, whom she is said to have resembled.

The family's claim to a coat of arms has been dismissed by the College of Heralds.

  • Adam Clarke, Memoirs of the Wesley Family (1823)
  • George J. Stevenson, Memorials of the Wesley Family (1876)
  • T.F. Lockyer in WHS Proceedings, 1 pp.67-69
  • A.M. Broadley in WHS Proceedings, 6 pp.1-4
  • Maldwyn L. Edwards, Family Circle (1949)
  • Robert Walmsley, 'John Wesley's Parents: quarrel and reconciliation', in WHS Proceedings, 29 pp.50-57
  • M. Pinhorn in Blackmansbury, Dec 1964/Feb 1965 pp.36-51
  • Frank Baker, 'Susanna Wesley, Apologist for Methodism', in WHS Proceedings, 35 pp.68-71
  • John A. Newton, 'Susanna Wesley : a bibliographical survey', in in WHS Proceedings, 37 pp.37-40
  • Frederick E. Maser, The Story of John Wesley's Sisters (Rutland, VT, 1988)
  • Frederick E. Maser, The Wesley Sisters (Peterborough, 1990)
  • Elizabeth Hart, 'Susanna Wesley and her Editors', in WHS Proceedings, 48 pp.202-9; 49 pp.1-10
  • David Butler, 'Look for the Mother to Find the Son', in Epworth Review, October 1998 pp.90-100
  • Claire Wolfteich, 'A Difficult Love: Mother as spiritual guide in the writings of Susanna Wesley', in Methodist History, 38:1 (October 1999) pp.53-62
  • Sheila Himsworth, 'Samuel Wesley and St. Botolph-without-Aldersgate', in WHS Proceedings, 54 pp.45-52
  • Martin Wellings, 'Susanna Wesley (1669-1742)' in Andrew Atherstone (ed.), The Heart of Faith: following Christ in the Church of England (Cambridge, 2008)
  • William Gibson, 'Samuel Wesley's Conformity Reconsidered', in Methodist History XLVII, January 2009, pp.68-83
  • Arthur A. Torpy, The Prevenient Piety of Samuel Wesley, Sr. (Lanham, 2009)
  • William Gibson, 'None but Presbyterian Baptism': Samuel and Susanna Wesley, monarchy and marriage', in WHS Proceedings, 61 pp.179-86
  • Oxford DNB