Early family, of Witney

The family has been involved with blanket making since 1669 and with Methodism since John Wesley preached in the streets of Witney in the 1770s. John Early (1783-1862) did much to build up the local WM society and was the prime mover in the building of High Street WM church (1849-50). His son Charles Early (1824-1912), born at Witney on 29 December 1824, was largely responsible for moving the local blanket-making from a cottage industry to a factory process. A local preacher from 1848, a teetotaler and temperence reformer, he held many offices in WM and in 1878 was a member of the first WM Conference which included lay representatives. During a period in London he married Sarah Vanner of the prominent WM Huguenot family. He died at Witney on 17 May 1912. His sister Maria married J.E. Vanner.

Charles' daughter Sarah Vanner Early (1849-1941) married Sir G.H. Chubb. His sons, Charles William Early (1850-1943) and James Vanner Early (1853-1920) ran the family business while being much involved in WM connexionally - the former in Home Missions and social issues, the latter in overseas missions.

J,V. Early married into the Cole family of Sheffield. Two of his sons became missionaries. Dr Philip Vanner Early (1886-1939) was a medical missionary at Fatshan, China1913-37 and Charles Gordon Early (1889-1975; e.m. 1914) went to Burma, now (Myanmar) in 1914, then joined C.W. Posnett in Medak 1916-54. His retirement was devoted to animal welfare in India. Their two brothers continued in the family business, displaying a progressive approach to the welfare of their employees. James Harold Early (1881-1958) was on the MMS Committee and President of the Methodist Laymen's Missionary Movement (later known as Methodists for World Mission) in 1939 and was much involved with the Boys' Brigade. Edward Cole Early (1883-1940) was a local preacher who served on the editorial committee for the Methodist Hymn Book (1933). He married Margaret Lyth Foster (1889-1964), daughter of Henry Joseph Foster (1845-1910; e.m. 1871), granddaughter of R.B. Lyth and sister-in-law of W.F. Lofthouse. She was a treasurer of the Methodist Missionary Society.

  • A. Plummer & R.E. Early, The Blanket Makers (1969)
  • Keith Early Crawford, Praise, People and Pipes (Witney, 1996)
  • Methodist Recorder, 20 May 1943, 22 May 1975
  • Oxford DNB