From M[rs] [Edward] Smyth to Mary Fletcher at Madeley. She understands from a letter received 3 weeks ago from Lady Mary Fitzgerald that [Melville] Horne has embarked from Bristol [on his way to join the Sierra Leone colony] and that Fletcher is having no luck with finding a suitable replacement for Horne as curate of Madeley. In conversation with Mrs [Henrietta Maria] Shirley [the wife of Walter Shirley (1726-86), a well-known Anglican evangelical and friend of the Wesley brothers] some time ago, Smyth mentioned that Fletcher was experiencing difficulties and Shirley replied that she wished that her son [Walter Shirley junior] was fit to go to Madeley to fill the place until a more permanent replacement could be found ‘and it gives her real pleasure to reflect that though your dear husband and hers [Walter Shirley] disagreed about things not worth half the time that was lost in reading them, they now are united in singing praises to him, who loved them and brought them to his heavenly kingdom…’ Shirley is apprehensive that her son is not capable of ‘giving satisfaction to a people used for a course of years to great and deeply experienced ministers’, but if Fletcher and the people of Madeley think that he could be of some value, then he is willing to visit. He is not long ordained as a priest and ‘at present reads his sermons. He is a moderate Calvinist, but loves all that loves the Lord and does not see why real Christians should disagree about non-essentials, and is grieved that such an enmity should subsist, seems determined to set his face against controversy…’ She knows that he would accept an invitation from Fletcher to visit.
Smyth would be grateful if Fletcher could let her know if Mrs Micklewright charges extra for tuition in French at the school that she runs – Mr Norton, who is considering sending his daughter, has asked specifically about this.
Has Mrs Horne and their child accompanied [Melville] Horne to Africa?
Smyth has not heard anything from dear [Elizabeth] Ritchie, although he wrote to her via Lady Belvidere [Dorothy Rochfort] directing the letter to he passed to one of the preachers in Bath for forwarding to her wherever she may be.
The last charity sermon raised about £180, which means that they can now increase the number of children in the school from 20 to 24.
They have not yet been able to get a minister and are thinking of making another approach to [Thomas Tregenna] Biddulph, and likewise, on Fletcher’s recommendation, to Mr [William] Tandy, although she does not know whether either or both are still at Bristol. She knows that they are both in delicate health and for that reason, would probably not be fit to take on the parochial duties of Madeley, but as the burden would not be as heavy at Bethesda [Chapel] and it is so convenient here for bathing (good for Mr Biddulph and his wife), he may be attracted to come to Dublin.
[Edward] Smyth sends his love. Her own particular regards should be passed to Sally [Sarah Lawrance] and Matty.
In a postscript, she adds that she hopes that Fletcher received the letter that she sent about 6 weeks ago with Lady Belvidere [Dorothy Rochfort] to be put into the [post?] office at Shrewsbury for Fletcher to collect. ‘If Mr [Walter] Shirley should go to you, both his wish and his mother is that you should just consider him in the light of a child. Advising him in every thing. He is fearful you might ask him about his experience, and he says he has none to tell you.
- Lady Mary Fitzgerald (1725-1815) was the daughter of John, Lord Hervey and a granddaughter of the Earl of Bristol. As a young woman she had served as Lady of the Bedchamber to Princess Amelia Sophia. Her family circumstances appear to have been extremely unhappy; Three of her brothers inherited the Earldom of Bristol and were characterised by scandalous behaviour. One, Frederick was a particularly notorious Bishop of Derry for thirty years. In 1745 she married George Fitzgerald of Turlough. The marriage was unhappy and the couple separated. Her oldest son George Robert Fitzgerald was known as "Fighting Fitzerald" and enjoyed a considerable reputation for violent behaviour and general recklessness. He was convicted of an assault against his own father and was ultimately executed for shooting his coachman. Fitzgerald joined the Methodists and was a close friend of John and Mary Fletcher. Her character was described as 'marked by great meekness and humility, joined with a quiet firmness which enabled her to abide faithfully by the principles she once embraced'. At the age of ninety, she was burned to death when her clothes caught fire accidentally. She was buried in City Road Chapel, London. Source: Eminent Methodist Women by Annie E. Keeling (London 1893), 83-92
- Walter Shirley (1768-c.1830) was born at Loughrea in Ireland, the second son of the evangelical Anglican Walter Shirley (1726-86) and his wife Henrietta Maria. He was educated at Trinity College Dublin, graduating in 1791. After his ordination into the Anglican Church, Shirley found it difficult to obtain a living, partly because of his families financial troubles. He moved often between England and Ireland and occupied short-term curacies in Westport, Ireland, and Liverpool. Shirley was eventually appointed Vicar of Woodford in Northamptonshire and moved later to Shirley in Derbyshire, a living that was under the patronage of his cousin Earl Ferrers. Shirley was an evangelical and, like his father, leaned towards Calvinism. Shirley was married to Alicia, daughter of Sir Edward Newenham of Dublin. Their son Walter Augustus Shirley (1797-1847) was also a well-known evangelical and served as Bishop of Sodor and Man. Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995)
- Walter Shirley (1726-1786) was born at Staunton Harold in Leicestershire, the grandson of Robert, first Earl Ferrers. He was first cousin to the Countess of Huntingdon and brother to the notorious Earl Ferrers, who was hanged at Tyburn in 1760 for murder. He was educated at Oxford and after his ordination was presented to the Irish living of Loughrea. Shirley was converted by Henry Venn and exercised an evangelical ministry despite the opposition of his bishop. Shirley played a major role in the controversy of 1770 over the relationship of the Methodist Church to the doctrines of Calvinism. Source:Encyclopedia of World Methodism(1974) and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995)
- Thomas Tregenna Biddulph (1763-1838) was born in Worcestershire, the son of the Anglican clergyman and writer Thomas Biddulph (1735-1790). He was educated at Truro and at Queen’s College Oxford. After ordination, Biddulph served several curacies including one to his father at Padstow. From 1793 to 1803 he was incumbent at Bengeworth and in 1799 was appointed Perpetual Curate of Bristol St James. Biddulph was prominent in evangelical circles. He set up a Sunday School, introduced a Visiting Society, and was a pioneer of both the Bristol Female Penitentiary Society and the Church of England Tract Society. He was also an early member of the Church Missionary Society, a founder of the Bristol Church Missionary Association and the first treasurer and secretary of the Bristol Clerical Education Society. Biddulph was a prolific writer and played a leading role in the 1815 baptismal controversy. He was a strong churchman and was opposed to Catholic emancipation and parliamentary reform. Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995)
- William Tandey (1750-1832) was born in Bristol and spent his childhood at the nearby village of Brislington. He was educated at St Edmund Hall Oxford and was ordained deacon in 1773 and as a priest a year later. He served as Curate of St Mary-le-Port in Bristol between 1784 and 1799 and then as Rector of St Werburgh, Bristol until 1803. Tandey's ministry was strongly evangelical and was very popular. He appears to have been a particular favorite of the strong Church-Methodist party within Bristol Methodism. Source: MAM/FL/5/2/4-5 (MARC) and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995).
- Sarah Lawrance (1756-1800) was the niece of John Wesley's housekeeper Sarah Ryan, one of a circle of female Methodists that included Mary Bosanquet-Fletcher and Sarah Crosby. Lawrance was raised from a very early age in the orphanage established by Bosanquet-Fletcher, a women with whom she enjoyed virtually a mother-daughter relationship. She was effectively converted by the age of ten and was accepted into the Leeds Methodist Society at the age of eighteen. A year later she was confirmed into the Church of England. Lawrance spent much of her life within the Bosanquet-Fletcher household where she played a very active role in the work of the Methodist Societies. She had a particular gift for working with children and was accustomed to exhort and pray in public. Lawrance enjoyed a considerable reputation for saintliness of character. Source: Methodist Magazine 1803, 160-167, and unpublished Account of Sarah Lawrance by Mary Bosanquet-Fletcher in the Fletcher-Tooth collection (MCA)