Biography of John Wesley

Portrait of John Wesley

John Wesley was the eighteenth century founder of Methodism, a non conformist church.

When and Where was he Born?

17th June 1703, Epworth, Lincolnshire, England.

Family Background:

John Wesley was the son of a Church or England Rector.

Wesley Memorial
Memorial to his Mother Susannah which stands near the Methodist Chapel.  Her body is buried in Bunhill Fields Cemetery across the road
 (copyright Anthony Blagg)

Education:

Charterhouse, London. Christchurch College, Oxford.

Timeline of John Wesley:

1725: Wesley is ordained as a Deacon.

1726: He becomes a Fellow of Lincoln College and a lecturer in Greek.

1728: John Wesley is ordained as a priest. At Oxford the group which he leads, which had grown up round his brother Charles Wesley were given the nickname the Oxford Methodists.

1730: James Hervey and George Whirefield join the Methodist group.

1735: Death of their father. John and Charles go on a missionary journey to Georgia, USA, but they are not made welcome by the Colonists and eventually returned to England in 1738.

1738: John meets Peter Bohler of the Moravians who became a big influence on him and he attended Moravian meetings in Aldersgate Street, London. At one of these he became convinced of salvation whilst listening to Martin Luther’s preface to the Epistle of the Romans. His new energy to bring the idea of salvation to others caused consternation amongst the local population and in particular the clergy who closed their pulpits to him.

1739: Wesley founds his first Methodist Chapel at Bristol and he buys a foundry in Moorfields, London where he also set up a chapel. This building became his headquarters. Up to 30,000 people would wait to hear him preach here and he became particularly important to, and loved by, the labouring classes. He begins to travel widely, (He covered over 250,00 miles and preached over 40,000 sermons in his lifetime).

Wesley Chapel, Bristol
Statue of Wesley outside his first Chapel in Bristol (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1742: Wesley is recorded as preaching morning and evening at St Peter’s Church, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland, one of several days he preached there up until 1768. (See Venerable Bede for photograph of church)

1743: John Nelson and John Downes, two of his advance agents go to Trewint in Cornwall and take refreshment at the house of Digory Isbell a stonemason. Digory was not in at the time but the strangers antics and prayers caused Elizabeth to relate the story to Digory.

1744: John himself is entertained in the house at Trewint by Digory who set up a Prophet’s Chamber in his honour. Trewint becomes a flourishing Methodist Society.

1745: Wesley breaks with the Moravians as he is determined that his movement should remain within the Church of England which it did for the rest of his life.

1751: He marries Mary Vazeille, a widow.

1761: On Sunday May 31st Wesley is recorded as preaching morning and evening at St Peter’s Church, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland. He was always received enthusiastically there unlike in other parts of the country.

1776: His wife Mary leaves him.

Wesley’s House in City Road, London, which is situated right next to the Methodist Chapel
 (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1778: Wesley founds the Methodist Magazine and is responsible for writing many other works such as histories, biographies and collections of psalms and hymns. These works were all very popular and the money made in royalties all went to charity. He also founded charitable institutions in Newcastle and London and the Kingswood School in Bristol.

When and Where did he Die?

2nd March 1791, London, England.

Age at Death:

87.

Written Works:

1739: “Hymns and Sacred Poems”.
1744: “A Collection of Psalms and Hymns”.
1771: “Collected Prose Work”.
1788: “A Collection of Psalms and Hymns”. (Updated).

Marriage:

1751 to Mary Vazeille, a widow.

Site of Grave:

John Wesley Chapel, City Road, Finsbury, London, England.

Wesley Chapel, London
Wesley’s Chapel in London (copyright Anthony Blagg)

Places of Interest:

AVON:

Lodged at 2 Broad Street when visiting Bath. Laid foundation stone of Methodist Chapel in New King Street in 1777.

John Wesley’s Chapel, Broadmead, Bristol.

CORNWALL:

John Wesley Museum and Prayer Rooms, Trewint, Bodmin.

COUNTY DURHAM:

Weardale Museum, High Street Chapel, Weardale.

LONDON:

John Wesley Chapel, City Road, Finsbury.