From 8 City Road, London to Mary Fletcher. This paper will not hold half of what she wishes to write. She has often felt in great need of the assistance of Christian friends and would have been truly thankful if Fletcher had been able to visit London. Spiritual matters are discussed in detail.
‘I believe I am at this place in my Lord’s will and though it seems to require more simplicity to be child-like among this people than among any other I was ever with, yet I bless the Lord “as my day, so is my strength.” Here are many precious souls as experience the whole truth as it is in Jesus and walk in blessed liberty, but here are many more who either do not see the privilege of being wholly the Lord’s or are very easy about the present experience of the deep things of God. I have felt much freedom at the classes and the people are very kind to me for my master’s sake…the Lord has been taking very great pains with this people lately. From the conversations of many they seem determined to take Mr [Henry] Moore’s advice which he gave us last Sunday namely “To seek for a particular revival in their own souls in order to secure a general one.” I long for one in my own soul…’
A very ‘precious’ old woman died lately by the name of Caldicott. She had been a class leader for many years and had been a founder member of the society. For some time before she died she had been like a ‘worn out veteran unfit for activity in her master’s service but suffering His will which she did with such patience and resignation as brought glory to our gracious Lord.’ A short time before she died, she dreamed that Fletcher’s husband John came and held his hand out to her from which she concluded that she would soon be in glory. It was either a vision or a dream, Ritchie cannot recall which.
Ritchie was very thankful for the sweet account that Fletcher sent Nurse Peters of Mary Mathews. The blessed soul did not stay long after the departure of her dear minister [John Fletcher]. Ritchie does not think that it will be long before Peters is joining them – she is now virtually helpless and has seemed at death’s door for the last week. ‘She is truly happy and all her language is resignation and praise…I think she will be in heaven long before Christmas. Her complaint is dropsical and rises so upwards as to oppress her stomach and lungs very much.’
Brother [George] Clark has also been unwell but has now recovered. He is indeed a blessed man, but is so nervous as to dampen his joy.
There are two very old members of the society here and it does Ritchie good to see and hear them. One is called Mrs Gaskins who is almost 90 years old and was one of the first to meet in a Methodist class. She has all the life, zeal and love that one would expect in a ‘Mother in Israel.’ For many years Gaskins has enjoyed the ‘pure love of God’ and has often warmed Ritchie’s heart with her talk of the Lord’s dealings with her. The other is [Robert] Windsor who went to live at Leytonstone some time ago but returned to London a few weeks ago in order to, as he expresses it, to die in Jerusalem. Both these people are virtually house-bound but are ‘all praise, all meekness and all love.’
Betty Swain sends her love. She is at present staying in a room at this address – Miss Owen previous to Mr Ford’s death had taken the whole house to keep her goods in. She is in a poor way although somewhat better than previously. Her old disorder sometimes returns. Miss Owen allows her a shilling a week and the Quakers who she lives with are very kind. She is able to struggle by but really she needs more confidence in God than she can muster.
Some weeks ago Ritchie spent a day or two at Mr [Josiah] Dornford’s with [Peard and Elizabeth] Dickinson. He read to them a sweet account of the opening of ‘your consecrated Barn’. Her regards should be passed to any of the Madeley people who ask after her.
Some time ago Ritchie sent Fletcher a letter from [Joseph] Benson. How did she answer it? And is the Book coming out? Also does Mr Gilpin continue with ‘St Paul’s character’?
[John] Atlay left them last week and has gone to settle in Dewsbury. [George] Whitfield has taken his place at the Book Room. Many here are very sorry at this turn of events and wish that Atlay had left the Book Room to become a local preacher not a dissenting minister ‘to a people who had once been teachable and obedient.’ [See biographical note for John Atlay below.]
Their ‘dear father’ [John Wesley] has returned from his tour of Wales and Bristol after travelling all night on Monday last. After preaching yesterday evening he set off again in the mail coach and expects to be in Norwich today. [‘Sunday September 28 (1788). I set out in the mail coach. Tuesday 30, having for the present settled my business in London, in the evening I took coach for (King’s) Lynn and came thither about noon on Wednesday, October 1…On Friday 3, I set out for Norwich…’ (John Wesley’s Journal)] He is expected back in London next week where he will stay for all the Sundays over the winter. [Wesley was in the habit of using London as a seasonal base from which to visit outlying towns but returning to the capital for Sunday worship.] Wesley seems in better health now than he has appeared for some considerable time ‘and in a sweet spirit’.
‘It comforts me to have such frequent opportunities of observing what you mentioned to have seen about him when at Madeley namely “More of God”….’
Spiritual matters are discussed in detail.
Ritchie wishes it were in her power to repay Fletcher the money that she owes her but as yet she hears nothing more from Manchester other than that her money is safe and she will receive it some time.
Poor Mrs [Betty] Swain has just been to see her. She has asked that Ritchie inform Fletcher that she had a medical examination about a week ago because of the great pain. The doctor told her that there was a roughness on one side of the bladder that he could not explain except that the stone lying there had caused a tumour or that a cancer was developing. Only time will tell but in the meantime she continues in great pain.
Ritchie will try to call on Lady Mary [Fitzgerald] when she is informed of her return. Her love should be passed to Mrs Yates and Sally [Lawrance].
In a postscript Ritchie mentions that Miss Salmon has come to town and taken lodgings for the winter near by. She is in a good spirit. [Peard and Elizabeth] Dickinson send their love.
- Henry Moore (1751-1844) was born at Drumcondra near Dublin, the son of a farmer. Moore was apprenticed to a wood cutter and opened a school in Dublin after his conversion in 1777. He entered the itinerancy in 1779 and served first in Ireland and then England. Moore was well-regarded by John Wesley and in 1789 he became one of the first preachers to be ordained for the work in England. He was also appointed one of Wesley's literary executors, and was the author with Thomas Coke of one of the first biographies to be published after Wesley's death. Moore was a champion of conservative Wesleyanism in the early 19th century. He was twice President of Conference (1804 and 1823) and remained in the active ministry until 1833. He is buried at City Road Chapel in London. Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974) and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995)
- Mary Mathews (1713-1788) of Madeley in Shropshire was converted by the ministry of John Fletcher shortly after his arrival in the parish in 1760 and remained a fervent member of his congregation and member of the Methodist society for the rest of her life. She was fined on one occasion for allowing John Fletcher to preach in her house - locally called in derision ‘the rock church’. Mary was described as a widow at the time she was fined for allowing preaching in her home. She had at least one child William who survived her. Source: Methodist Magazine 1800, 219-222.
- Robert Windsor (1703-1790) was one of the earliest members of the Foundery Society and the first member of a family to be intimately connected with London Methodism for over a century. John Wesley refers to Windsor's death in the entry in his journal for February 7 1790. Windsor is buried at London’s City Road Chapel with several other family members. Source: George John Stevenson, City Road Chapel, London, and its Associations, Historical, Biographical, and Memorial(1872), 507-508 and MAM/FL/10/3 (MARC)
- Sir Josiah Dornford (1734-1810) of Deptford, Kent, was a member of the court of common council of the city of London and the author of several pamphlets on civic affairs and the reform of debtors prisons. He also served for many years as a Justice of the Peace for the County of Kent. His second wife Esther, whom he married in August 1791, was the widow of Thomas Thomason, whose son by her first marriage was the famous missionary Thomas Thomason. Both Dornford and his wife were friends of the female evangelist Mary Fletcher. Source: Gentleman’s Magazine 1810, vol.108, 389, International Geneological Index, Fletcher-Tooth collection (MARC), Dictionary of National Biography under Joseph and Josiah Dornford and Joseph Foster, Alumni Oxonienses (1891)
- John Atlay (1736-1805) was born at Sheriff Hutton in Yorkshire. He was converted at the age of 22 and entered the itinerancy in 1763. After serving circuits in Yorkshire and Scotland for ten years, he was appointed by John Wesley to the office of book steward in London. By 1785 Atlay was showing signs of disenchantment with Methodism, which included his attendance at Moravian worship. In 1788 he supported the Dewsbury Chapel trustees in their dispute with Wesley over the power to dismiss preachers. He severed his connection with the Methodists after the Conference of that year and became an independent minister at Dewsbury. Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974), Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995) and information provided by Mr John Lenton.
- George Whitfield (1753-1832) entered the Wesleyan itinerancy in 1785 and is recorded in his conference obituary as having travelled with John Wesley as well as being employed as the Connexional Book Steward. Under the terms of Wesley's will of 1789, Whitfield was appointed to membership of a committee to superintend Methodist publishing. Whitfield superannuated in 1812 and spent his retirement in Tottenham, London. Source: Minutes of Conference 1832 and Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974)