The Wesley Family
The Old Rectory
Video Footage of the Old Rectory
Charles (1707 - 1788) Charles was born in Epworth on 18th December 1707,
... the younger brother of Samuel and John. He was educated at Westminster School and Oxford University where, at the latter, he established a fellowship group for his fellow Christians called 'The Holy Club' – nicknamed 'The Methodists' by others. After university and ordination into the Anglican Church he was persuaded by his brother John, somewhat against his will, to travel with him to Savannah, Georgia but he did not stay as long as John and was relieved to return to England.
In 1739 he married Sarah [Sally] Gwynne, the daughter of a wealthy Welsh squire, and thus began the happiest of all the Wesley family's marriages. They had eight children, but only three survived infancy – Charles Junior, Samuel (named after his grandfather) and Sarah. Both Charles Junior and Samuel became notable organists and composers, and Samuel's son Samuel Sebastian Wesley became one of the foremost composers of the 19th century.
Charles had a conversion experience in London three days before that of his brother John, and he too began a travelling ministry, often accompanied by his wife Sally. This continued until 1765 when Charles ceased to travel, settling back at their home in Bristol until they moved to London in 1771 where Charles often preached at the City Road Chapel. He was also much involved in ministering to the prisoners in Newgate Prison, often accompanying condemned criminals to the gallows at Tyburn.
Although close to his brother John, Charles did not always agree with him, and was especially disturbed by John's tendency to sit loose to the disciplines of the Church of England. He strongly opposed the growing desire of many Methodists to separate from the Anglican Church, and remained a loyal member of the Church of England to his dying day.
It is as the most gifted and prolific of all British hymn writers that Charles is best remembered – he wrote over 6,000 hymns many of which are still regularly sung today. Although not all were of a high standard, a great many reached great heights of poetic composition. He published 64 collections of hymns during his lifetime, writing in no less than 45 different metres and quoting all but four of the books of the Bible. Charles' hymns played a huge part in the development of the Evangelical Revival, providing what his brother John called 'a little body of divinity' and enabling people to sing the great truths of their faith.
Charles Wesley died in London on 29 March 1788 and is buried in Marylebone Parish churchyard.