The Wesley Family
The Old Rectory
Video Footage of the Old Rectory
Susanna Wesley. Born on 20th January 1669,
Susanna Annesley was the twenty-fourth child of a well known London dissenting clergyman, the Rev Dr Samuel Annesley. She met Samuel Wesley when he was a student and visited her father, and they were married in 1688 when she was 19 years of age. They had nineteen children (including two sets of twins), though only three sons and seven daughters survived into adulthood. The three sons (Samuel Junior, John and Charles) all gained Oxford M.A.s and became Anglican clergymen. When a fire destroyed the Epworth rectory in February 1709 Susanna was forced to house her children with other families, two with their uncle (a prosperous physician in London) and others nearer home, but once the rectory was rebuilt (the present house) the family was happily reunited.
Susanna established a strict routine with her children, getting them up at 5.00am, ensuring that they always had things to do and methodically spending set times with each of them each week. She had a great love of learning and encouraged her family in their education, frequently reading to them. As the children grew and left home she maintained her concern for them and wrote letters to them regularly. She also found time to write meditations and commentaries, some of which were published and still survive, though others were lost in the rectory fire. These include commentaries on the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles Creed.
Susanna was a woman of strong political convictions. Both she and Samuel were Tories, but while Samuel accepted William of Orange as King William III, Susanna believed James II to be the true king, and once refused to say 'Amen' when Samuel prayed for King William! The tensions between them eased when in 1702 Queen Anne came to the throne, a monarch they both acknowledged as their legitimate sovereign.
Samuel spent much time away from Epworth on church business and his curate, Inman, was left to look after the church in Epworth. He was neither learned nor open-hearted, however, and his parishioners found his sermons uninspiring. Soon people began coming to the rectory to listen to Susanna read more inspiring sermons, and her 'congregations' grew to two hundred - more than the house could easily hold, and more than went to the curate's services. Inman complained to Samuel who wrote to his wife asking her to get someone else to read the sermons. She refused to stop these meetings unless he commanded her to do so, reminding him that he would ultimately be accountable to God if the souls of these people were not nurtured in this way.
After Samuel Wesley died in 1735, Susanna lived with various of her children, spending her final year with John. She died on July 23, 1742 and was buried in Bunhill Fields in London, fittingly opposite Wesley's Chapel, alongside other great non-conformists including William Blake, John Bunyan, Isaac Watts and Daniel Defoe.