It is well known that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was born at Epworth in Lincolnshire. What is not so well known is that his Samuel his father, John his grandfather and great-grandfather, Bartholomew all came from Dorset.

It is well known that John Benjamin Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was born at Epworth in Lincolnshire. What is not so well known is that his Samuel his father, John his grandfather and great-grandfather, Bartholomew all came from Dorset. When we learn of the lives of these men it would seem that John Wesley was simply carrying on the family business.

Bartholomew Westley

It is not known where John Wesley's great-grandfather was born. Indeed very little is known of the early life of Bartholomew Westley. All we do know that that he attended university where he was diligent in his studies, which included physics and divinity.

Bartholomew Westley lived for some time at Bridport, and is known to have preached in the town's western suburb of Allington, (The pulpit which he used there is still preserved in the Wesleyan school-room at Bridport.) after which he held the livings of Charmouth and Catherston, from which he was ejected, even before the passing of the Act of Uniformity, in 1662.

He resided for some time at Charmouth where he practiced medicine, for which he was fitted by his university training, and continued as an itinerant preacher in the West Dorset area. He was eventually forced to leave Charmouth by the Five Mile Act.

The last years of his life were spent in seclusion at Lyme Regis where at about the age of eighty-five he died in 1670, and was buried there on February 15 of that year.

John Westley

Bartholomew's son, John Westley, was born about 1636 probably at Bridport, although some authorities claim he was born in Devon. His early education was gained at Dorchester Grammar School and afterwards at New Hall, Oxford.

On leaving Oxford, he joined an Ďassociated' church, and was appointed an evangelist, and preached at Melcombe Regis, Radipole, and other places in Dorset. John  was never episcopally ordained but in 1658, approved by Cromwell's 'triers,' and appointed to the living by the trustees, he became Vicar of Winterbourne Whitchurch.

It was not long after before he married the daughter of John White the celebrated Puritan who a notable figure in the Westminster Assembly of Divines and known as the Patriarch of Dorchester. Like has father and father-in-law,  John Westley laid aside the Liturgy', and introduced the Presbyterian or Independent form of worship.

These were difficult times for the nonconforming clergy and it was not long before frivolous articles were drawn up against him, and he was imprisoned for more than five months. Early in 1662 he was seized when coming out of church and again cast into prison, and after a time once more set free. This was within a month of August 24, when he and two thousand more were ejected from their churches and their homes.

Soon afterwards his son Samuel was born and early in the following year he moved to Melcombe Regis but was driven from the town, and a fine of £20 was imposed on his landlady, and five shillings a week upon himself. By the generosity of an unknown friend, a home was provided for himself and family at Preston, where he moved in 1663 and several of his children were born.

When he had opportunity John continued to preach at Weymouth and places in the vicinity, though after 1664 he was prevented from preaching by the passing of the Conventicle Act. However he could not be silenced, and began to preach in private at Preston and elsewhere. He afterwards became pastor to a small company of people at Poole, with whom he continued until his death at the early age of thirty-three or thirty-four, about the year 1670.

Samuel Wesley

Samuel Wesley, the son of John Wesley, was baptized December 17, 1662 at Winterbourne Whitchurch. He received his education at the Dorchester Free School, where he remained until he was fifteen years of age. His widowed mother being at this time very poor, he was sent, through the kindness of Dissenting friends, to an academy at Stepney, in the hope that he would enter the Dissenting Ministry.

Encouraged by the offer of an exhibition of £10, he decided to go to Oxford. Entering himself as a servitor of Exeter College, he supported himself for five years, took his degree, and moved to London, where he was ordained deacon on August 7, 1688.

Samuel obtained a curacy, with an income of £28, and afterwards a then a chaplaincy on board a man-of-war. He then obtained another curacy, and soon after married Susanna the daughter of Dr. Annesley, a leading Nonconformist divine.

In 1691, he was appointed to the parish of South Ormesby, with an income of £50 and a house. Here he spent nearly six of the best years of his life, and wrote some of his most able works. Five of his children were born were born here. It was about 1696 or 1697 he moved with his wife and family to Epworth.

It was into this family, on the seventeenth day of June, 1703, that the eleventh child, and fourth son, of the nineteen children of Samuel and Susanna Wesley, was born at Epworth parsonage, a few hours after his birth, being weakly, he was baptized by his father. The baby was named John Benjamin

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