From Ann Loxdale in Clarence Street, Liverpool to Mary Fletcher. They [Loxdale, her sister Sarah Hill and Hill’s husband Thomas] were very grateful to receive Fletcher’s letter, especially as it contained good news about Fletcher. They had been talking about her with a longing desire to hear from her. They had proposed visiting Shropshire last Summer – the day was fixed and everything prepared when the gentleman who had agreed to cover for [Thomas] Hill pulled out and forced them to abandon the journey.
A ‘providential opening’ was then made for Loxdale going to the Isle of Man where she spent three months with great profit. ‘The Lord honord me by calling me into full employ: & labouring for God he graciously prospered me in word & work, accepting my feeble efforts to glorify him. I had reason to hope he blest me to many…’.
Loxdale’s dear nephew William [Henry Loxdale] Eden has been converted – he is the only son of her dear sister [Mary] whose ‘happy death’ she is sure that Fletcher recalls. Eden was left an orphan in early life through the death of his father [Thomas Eden, Vicar of Ilmington in Gloucestershire] as well as his mother. He was then looked after by his mother’s family ‘yet too soon feeling himself his own master was near proving his ruin – everything was said and done…but without effect, he went on in a vortex of dissipation, extravagance & folly, till he run thro his patrimony which was considerable. He had been the subject of the prayers of my sister & self from his earliest years; but they had proved fruitless…He spent many months with us & then attending the means of grace at home & abroad, we had hope, but after many months thus spent, it seemed as if it was farther off than ever…Under a sermon from Mr [Valentine] Ward he was deeply awakened [Ward was stationed in Liverpool in the Connexional year 1808]…ended in sound conversion…I have seen many changed, but never saw one so striking…He then began to see the sin of squandering away his precious moments…He enquired & procured a situation in a counting house, to be instructed in the business…’
Two young ladies who were visiting the Hills and Loxdale were both very taken by Mr Hill’s preaching, and one of them ‘the most prejudiced and persecuting spirit you can conceive’. Spiritual matters are discussed.
[Thomas] Hill ‘has gone on urging his way, God giving him favour in the sight of the people, & some seals to his ministry, & blessing him to many…’. Hill has however been forced to give up his curacy in West Derby under the supervision of Revd. Mr [Richard] Black. God will not however allow such an instrument to lie idle for long.
Spiritual matters are further discussed in detail.
She was sorry to hear from London that Joseph Benson has lost his wife [Sarah] – she was an excellent partner, wife and mother. No doubt, a word from Fletcher would be valuable to him at this time.
Their love should be passed to [Mary] Tooth.
- Ann Loxdale (1755-1812) was the second daughter of Thomas Loxdale of Shrewsbury. Raised as an Anglican, she was converted in 1781 largely through the ministry of Revd. Richard De Courcy, Vicar of St Alkmund, Shrewsbury. Soon after her conversion she met John Wesley and they commenced a correspondence towards the end of March 1781. Towards the end of the 1790s she moved to Liverpool to live with her sister Sarah who was married to Thomas Hill, Vicar of Crosby. Loxdale became a prominent member of the Liverpool society and letters in the Fletcher-Tooth collection indicate that she was exhorting and may have been preaching. In December 1811 she was married to the prominent Methodist minister Dr Thomas Coke, despite the opposition of members of her family who feared that her delicate health was not suited to life with the energetic Coke. She died on 5th December 1812. Source: John Vickers, Thomas Coke: Apostle of Methodism (London, Epworth Press, 1969), 338-340, Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society, Vol. XXIV, 107-113 and Fletcher-Tooth collection
- Thomas Hill (fl.1800): Vicar of Crosby near Liverpool and brother-in-law of Ann Loxdale.
- William Henry Loxdale Eden (1782-1868) was born in Shrewsbury, the son of Thomas Eden, Vicar of Ilmington of Gloucestershire and Mary, daughter of Thomas Loxdale of Shropshire. Mary’s sisters were Ann Loxdale, correspondent of John Wesley and wife of Dr Thomas Coke, and Sarah Loxdale, a prominent Liverpool Methodist and wife of Thomas Hill, Vicar of Crosby. Eden’s parents died when he was a young child and he was left in the care of his aunt Sarah. Eden was educated privately by Dr Birnie of Greenwich in London. He then entered the army as an officer of the First Royal Dragoons. He was converted in 1809 under the influence of his aunts and was put forward for the Methodist ministry by the Prescot circuit in 1812. He commenced his circuit ministry at Preston but resigned from the itinerancy of his own accord in 1827 after falling into debt. Eden continued to be a member of the Connexion and served as a class leader until shortly before his death on December 14th 1868. Source: Fletcher-Tooth collection, Wesleyan Methodist Magazine 1870, 188-190, Hill's Arrangement 1827, Conference Journal 1827 and manuscript list of preachers on trial 1812
- Valentine Ward (1781-1835) was born at Madeley in Shropshire. He was converted at the age of nineteen under the influence of a sermon preached by the Wesleyan minister Samuel Taylor and he entered the ministry himself in 1801. His Circuit ministry was spent in England and Scotland until 1832 when he volunteered for the West Indies mission. He died on March 26 1835 at Montego Bay in Jamaica. Ward is described in his Conference obituary as imprudent in some of his chapel building plans. He was a staunch supporter of overseas missions and Negro emancipation. Source: Hill's Arrangement 1832 and Minutes of Conference 1835
- Revd. Richard Blacow: Curate in charge of West Derby [Anglican] Chapel, 1798-1846.
- Joseph Benson (1748-1821) was born of farming stock at Mamerby in Cumberland. Intended by his father for the Anglican ministry, Benson received a sound classical education and became a teacher at the age of sixteen. Converted under the influence of a Methodist cousin, he was introduced to John Wesley and was appointed classics master at Kingswood School. In 1769 Benson entered St Edmund Hall Oxford but was denied Anglican orders because of his Methodist sympathies. After serving for a short time as headmaster of the Countess of Huntingdon's ministerial training college at Trevecca, he joined the Methodist itinerancy in 1771. Benson was a great favorite of John Wesley and the two often corresponded. He went on to become President of Conference in 1798 and 1810 and served as its secretary in 1805 and 1809. In 1803 Benson was appointed connexional editor and in this capacity was a major influence on the development of the Methodist Magazine. Despite his own experiences, Benson was a staunch supporter of the link with the Church of England and two of his own sons entered the Anglican priesthood. Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974) and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739- 1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995)
- Sarah Benson (1758-1810) was the youngest daughter of Thomas Thompson, a corn-factor of Knottingley in Yorkshire. Her father died when she was a child and Sarah moved to Leeds with her mother, two sisters and a brother. Sarah began to experience religious feelings from about the age of seven. As a teenager, she was occasionally taken by her mother to the Methodist chapel in Leeds and she was converted there at the age of sixteen. Sarah joined the class led by Mrs Down and the band led by Mrs Clapham. Sarah married the prominent Wesleyan itinerant Joseph Benson in 1780 and she thereafter shared his circuit ministry. Sarah suffered from poor health and she found her frequent pregnancies to be a particular trial – between 1781 and 1799, she had eight children who survived their infancy and three that did not. Sarah died in London on January 3rd 1810 and was buried at City Road Chapel. Source: Arminian Magazine 1810, 453-461 and 492-498