Bolton family of Witney and Finstock

Ann ('Nancy') Bolton, born on 3 June 1743, was the eldest child of Edward Bolton, a Witney baker. She became a close friend and correspondent of John Wesley for nearly 30 years. Converted to Methodism at 19, she became a class leader in 1777 and kept a detailed spiritual journal. Wesley called her 'the sister of my choice' and 'the perfect pattern of womanhood'. He often stayed with her and her brother Edward. She was prone to ill health and Wesley plied her with much spiritual and medical advice. He published over 20 of her letters in the Arminian Magazine and left her £100 in his will. Having been dissuaded by Wesley from an earlier marriage, in 1792 she married George Conibeere of Gloucester, who died in 1799. She died at Witney in 1822, being buried in the parish churchyard on 4 June.

Her brother Edward Bolton (c.1747-1818) lived at Wood Green, Witney and Manor Farm, Finstock, the family home between 1774 and 1950. A lifelong devotee of Methodism and a local preacher, he accompanied Wesley on many of his journeys and was present at the 1771 Conference in Bristol which marked the formal division between Arminian and Calvinistic Methodism. In his closing years he was debilitated by poor health.


'Mr. Bolton loved Methodism; he had been long wedded to it; and as he possessed an inquiring mind, aided by a retentive memory, he was a complete chronicle of its history for half a century. During the last years of his life he was confined to his room, and generally to his bed, by a complication of acute disorders… I have oft-times sat at the foot of his bed, whilst, propped up by pillows, he has forgotten all his pain, in recounting the trials and the triumphs, the excellencies and the usefulness, of our revered founder.'

A.G. Jewitt, Harwich, November 1818

  • Wesleyan Methodist Magazine, 1819, pp.142-3
  • John Banks, Nancy, Nancy: the story of Ann Bolton (Leeds, 1984)
  • Maldwyn L. Edwards, My Dear Sister (n.d.) pp.100-114
  • Hindmarsh, Douglas Bruce, 'Spiritual Experience and early evangelical correspondence: the letters of John Wesley and Ann Bolton, 1768-91' in Huntingdon Library Quarterly, vol.79, no. 3, Autumn 2016, pp. 455-78