The Wesley Family
The Old Rectory
Video Footage of the Old Rectory
Emilia Wesley, or Emily as she was generally called, was born in the last days of 1692 and was baptised on 13th January 1693 by her father, Samuel. She was a happy, contented person. She was quick to learn and became a good classical scholar. She developed an appreciative ear for music and poetry and, according to her brother, John, her reading of Milton was a sheer delight to hear.
She married Robert Harper, a local apothecary in August 1735, a ceremony carried out by her brother John, but it was not a happy marriage. She worked as a governess, even running her own school for a while, though she had to return home to help with the running of the house at Epworth.
Emily eventually became a Methodist although it was not the result of a sudden decision.
Susanna Wesley, or Sukey was a good-natured, happy, vivacious girl who loved life and had a delightful sense of humour. She married Richard Ellison, a wealthy landowner, in around 1719 and bore four children. He as a wife-beater and she subsequently left him. Her brother, John, in writing of her death to his brother, Charles, in 1764 said: "Sister Sukey was in agonies for five days, and then died in full assurance of faith". Some of her last words were, "Jesus is come! Heaven is here!".
Mary Wesley was a crippled from birth and was not expected to marry. However to the surprise of all she became close to her father's curate, Johnny Whitelamb, and they were married in 1733. On 14th January 1734, Samuel Wesley wrote to the Lord Chancellor requesting him to transfer the living at Wroot from himself to Johnny Whitelamb. They settled in happily to the parsonage at Wroot but Mary died a year later in childbirth.
When Mary's sister Hetty eloped and was disgraced in the eyes of the family, it was Mary who gave her the comfort and support she needed. Hetty later remembered this in a poem published in The Gentleman's Magazine.
By the time Mehetabel or Hetty was eight years old, she could read St. Mark's Gospel in Greek. She was regarded as the liveliest of the Wesley sisters. She fell in love with a lawyer but her father was resolutely opposed to the relationship. As a result she eloped to London and soon discovered that her lover was not intent on marriage. She returned home pregnant and was regarded as a disgrace to the family. Her father rapidly found a husband for Hetty, and she married William Wright a local plumber in 1725. She bore several children but none survived into adulthood.
Anne, together with a twin brother, was born on May 17th 1701. Seven months later, her twin brother died. We hear of her in the accounts of the haunting of the Rectory in 1716, when she blew loudly on a horn in the attic rooms to scare off the ghost 'Old Jeffrey'. It does not seem that this was particularly effective. Anne married John Lambert, a local surveyor, on December 2nd 1725. Theirs was a happy marriage.
Martha was the longest lived of the sisters, dying at the age of eighty four or eighty five. She was the last link between the Wesley family and succeeding generations, sharing her recollections of life with Sarah, daughter of brother, Charles, who forwarded them to Adam Clarke, one of the first biographers of the Wesley family. It was John Wesley who taught Martha to write in their mother's home-school, since she was the next youngest to him.
Martha had many suitors but the one who made the deepest impressions was Westley Hall, one of John Wesley's students at Lincoln College and a member of the Holy Club. They married but he was unfaithful and she subsequently left him. She was admired for her intellect, lived in London and became a close friend of Samuel Johnson.
Kezia was Susanna's last child, born when Susanna was forty years old. She suffered from poor health and once wrote to her brother John of her fear of death. On another occasion she wrote to John saying "you know that our sex have naturally weaker minds than yours".
Kezia carried the full responsibility for managing the Wesley household. She was lonely and very vulnerable when Westley Hall arrived on the scene in the company of John Wesley. Westley Hall seems to have been impressed by Kezia's serious nature. A romance started as Westley Hall temporarily forgot his promise to marry Martha.