WESLEY (FAMILY). The Wesley family sprang from Welswe, near Wells in Somerset. Their pedigree has been traced back to Guy, whom Athelstan made a thane about 938. One branch of the family settled in Ireland. Sir Herbert Westley of Westleigh, Devon, married Elizabeth Wellesley of Dangan in Ireland. Their third son, Bartholomew, studied both medicine and theology at Oxford, and, in 1619, married the daughter of Sir Henry Colley of Kildare. In 1660 he held the rectories of Catherston and Charmouth in Dorset valued at 35, ros. per annum. He was ejected in 1662 and gained his living as a doctor. He was buried at Lyme Regis on February isth, 1670. .
His son, JOHN WESTLEY, grandfather of the founder of Methodism, was born in 1636 and studied at New Inn Hall, Oxford, where he became proficient in Oriental languages and won the special regard of John Owen, then vice-chancellor. Cromwell's Triers approved him as minister of WinterbornWhitchurch, Dorset, in 1658. The following year he married the daughter of John White, the patriarch of Dorchester. In 1 66 1 he was committed to prison for refusing to use the Book of Common Prayer. His candour and zeal made a deep impression on Gilbert Ironside the elder, Bishop of Bristol, with whom he had an interview. He was ejected in 1662 and became a Nonconformist pastor at Poole. He died in 1678; his widow survived him for 32 years. One of his sons, Matthew, became a surgeon in London, where he died in 1737.
Another son, SAMUEL, was trained in London for the Nonconformist ministry, but changed his views, and, in August 1683, entered Exeter College, Oxford, as a sizar. He dropped the " t " in his name and returned to what he said was the original spelling, Wesley. In 1689 he was ordained and nlarried Susanna, youngest daughter of Dr Samuel Annesley, vicar of St Giles, Cripplegate, and nephew of the 1st earl of Anglesea. Annesley gave up his living in 1662 and formed a congregation in Little St Helen's, Bishopsgate, where he was honoured as the St Paul of the Nonconformists. Samuel Wesley was appointed rector of South Ormsby in 1691, and moved to Epworth in 1697. He had nineteen children, of whom eight died in infancy. His lawless parishioners could not endure his faithful preaching, and in 1 705 he was confined in Lincoln Castle for a small debt. Two-thirds of his parsonage was destroyed by fire in 1702 and in 1709 it was burnt to the ground. He managed to rebuild the rectory, but his resources were so heavily strained that thirteen years later it was only half furnished. Samuel Wesley was a busy author. At Oxford in 1685 he wrote a volume of poems bearing the strange title Maggots. He wrote a Life of Christ in verse (1693), The History of the Old and New Testament in Verse (1701?), a noble Letter to a Curate, full of strong sense and ripe experience, and Dissertations on the Book of Job (1735). He died at Epworth in 1735. Susanna Wesley died at the Foundery, London, in 1742 and was buried in Bunhill Fields.
Their eldest son, SAMUEL WESLEY (1690-1739), was born in London, entered Westminster School in 1704, became a Queen's scholar in 1707 and in 1711 went up to Christ Church, Oxford. He returned to Westminster as head usher, took orders and enjoyed the intimate friendship of Bishop Atterbury, Harley earl of Oxford, Addison, Swift and Prior. He became headmaster of Blundell's School at Tiverton in 1732 and died there on the 6th of November 1739. He was a finished, classical scholar, a poet and a devout man, but he was never reconciled to the Methodism of his brothers. His poems, published in 1736, reached a second edition in 1743, and were reprinted with new poems, notes and a Life by W. Nichols, in 1862.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)