The Wesley Family
The Old Rectory
Video Footage of the Old Rectory
Samuel Wesley Born on 17th December 1662,
Samuel was the son of the Rev John Westley (as the name was then spelt), the rector of Winterbourne Whitechurch in Dorset but was orphaned in infancy. Brought up in the puritan dissenting tradition, he was at school with Daniel Defoe (author of Robinson Crusoe). After taking his degree at Exeter College, Oxford he was ordained in 1688, in that same year marrying Susanna, the daughter of Dr. Samuel Annesley, a leading Nonconformist divine. Wesley first became a naval chaplain, then in 1690 the rector of South Ormsby in Lincolnshire before moving to Epworth in 1695 where he served as the rector of the Parish of St. Andrew for almost forty years. It was he who dropped the 't' from his father's name to become 'Wesley'.
The people of Epworth did not warm to their new rector and he did not get on well with them. He was rigid and moralistic, and his rather academic approach did not suit this simple rural community. Strained marital relationships fuelled by political disagreements with his wife led to a period of separation from Susanna and on his return, because of his ineptitude with money, he spent two periods of time in a debtor's prison in Lincoln before returning to his parish duties.
Samuel wrote a good deal of poetry but it was not notable or well written, his best known publication in 1685 being entitled On Maggots: Or Poems On Several Subjects Never Before Handled. Unsurprisingly none of his poems became popular, and most of his work was destroyed in the rectory fire at Epworth. One hymn that survived, however – 'Behold the saviour of mankind' – still appears in some hymn books. His major work was Dissertations On The Book of Job on which he worked at Epworth for many years, eventually publishing it only shortly before he died. He died in 1735, and was buried in a prominent place in the churchyard in Epworth.