Fletcher Biographical Index IntroductionThe people (both individuals and groups) connected with the Fletchers were at the heart of their respective and joint ministries. The network of connexions the Fletchers made was far reaching. Mary Bosanquet's family was of Huguenot extraction and had important religious, economic, and political connexions in London. Her relationship with early Methodism extended her network substantially, as did her charitable and philanthropic efforts at her respective residences. And, of course, the endorsements she received from John Wesley himself only served to make her name known amongst the Methodists more generally.
John Fletcher, as a Swiss émigré, had family connexions on the Continent where his travels in the late 1770s formed a key context for his ministry. His employment as tutor to the sons of Susanna Maria Hill (née Noel, d. 1760) and Thomas Hill, Esq. (1693-1782), not only provided a network of relationships which would be central to Fletcher's developing understanding of his call to ministry in the Church of England, but also created connexions of both spiritual friendship and theological rivalry. Hill as his patron was instrumental in securing offers of several ecclesiastical livings before Fletcher finally accepted Madeley, and Fletcher's theological controversy with the Calvinists in the early 1770s brought him into dispute with Thomas Hill's nephew and great nephew, Rowland Hill (later, Sir Rowland HIll, Bart., 1705-1783) and Richard Hill (1733-1809).
Madeley and its environs formed for John Fletcher, and arguably for Mary Bosanquet Fletcher as well, the most extensive single geographical and religious context for developing a network of ministry connexions. Both of the Fletchers lived longer in Madeley than in any other single place. He lived in the parish for twenty-five years (excepting his recovery from illness on the Continent), and she for thirty-three years, both of them dying in the parish vicarage. Du e to its industrializing character which included considerable population growth over the course of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the parish provided a considerable 'sphere of action' all its own, not to mention the broader contexts both regional (e.g. Shropshire) and religious (e.g. Church of England, Methodism). Madeley was also a centre of Shropshire Quakerism and from his first arrival in the parish John Fletcher had dealings with the Quaker minister and evangelist Abiah Darby (née Sinclair, 1716-1794) whose husband, Abraham Darby II (1711-1763) and relations (notably the Reynolds family) were industrial leaders and iron masters of the Coalbrookdale iron works (i.e. the Coalbrookdale Company, etc.). The Darby's son, Abraham III (1750-1789), built the first bridge of iron in 1779 (opened in 1781). The ironbridge drew visitors from all over England, America, and the European Continent, extending the Fletcher and Madeley connexions even further.
Methodist itinerants began visiting Madeley in 1764 and William Ley, a lay preacher sent by John Wesley to be tutored under Fletcher's ministry preached in the parish two years previous. John Wesley, himself, did not visit the parish until 1764 who was followed a couple of months later by Alexander Mather as part of the Chester Circuit. At the Methodist Conference in August 1765, Madeley was included in the newly formed 'Salop Circuit'. Even with this early Methodist activity, Wesley's itinerants were not the first guest preachers to the parish. Indeed, Fletcher had invited some of his clerical colleagues to preach to his flock as early as 1762, the first of whom appears to have been the Rev. Thomas Lear (alt. Leir, c. 1738-1812). Lear was followed by Rev. Jacob Mould and Rev. John Riland in 1763. Numerous other clergy as well as lay preachers preached in Madeley over the course of Fletcher's incumbency and after his death at the invitation of his widow, who herself preached to an audience of Anglican clergy and Madeley parishioners with some frequency.
The Fletchers' commitment to serve the whole parish meant that all those within the geographical boundary (and beyond) of Madeley were with in the purview of their ministry whether conformist or dissenter. This included a programme of outreach to or strategic proselytization of Catholics in the parish. John Fletcher faced several conflicts with the Catholics of his parish, the bastion of Madeley's recusant history, while Mary Fletcher's interactions with the local Catholic priest, John Austin Reeve, were more irenic. Indeed, she carried on an correspondence with him as they attempted to convince one onother of the truths of their respective faiths.
John Fletcher was kept apprised of the religious and political developments in America, and there is some evidence to suggest he was at one point considered as a candidate for an American bishopric, though it never came to pass, and Fletcher reputedly responded to the suggestion that he wanted 'nothing more but grace'. Mary Fletcher's correspondence far-exceeded that of her husband, and hundreds of her letters (both sent and received) survive in the Methodist Archives and other repositories recording her contact not only with relatives on the Continent, but with missionaries to New Foundland and Africa, the latter in reference to letters between her and the erstwhile curate of Madeley, Melvill Horne. She maintained regular contact with many of her friends from her previous residences in Essex and Yorkshire. The scope of her correspondence is impressive and includes letters to friends, family, MPs, clergymen, Methodist preachers, parishioners, and even persons known to her only by name to whom she wrote with advice and spiritual encouragement.
These and other factors ensured that the Fletchers had an ever-broadening network of connexions reaching around their locality, region, county, country, and into Europe and America. The biogaphical index here is under development and will continue to develop over time as it aims to map these connexions and to offer some interpretation of their significance. Our current database contains over 1,000 names of individuals or families directly connected with the Fletchers, and is growing every month. Entries are provided here simply alphebatized by name rather than categorized by geography or theme. Indeed, there are many, like the Rev. John Crosse, who had connexions with the Fletchers via Yorkshire and Madeley or like Sarah Crosby whose Methodism first brought her into contact with Mary Bosanquet in Essex, but whose friendship spanned most more than two-thirds of Mary's life and whose relationship met with Mary's as a Methodist woman preacher, as a co-leader of an orphanage and community of women, and as a spiritual mentor and sounding board for discussing religious issues of the day. However, because it pertains to both the interest of this site and offers important insight into the cooperation between Methodism and Anglicanism, a simple list of Anglican clergy and Methodist preachers connected with the Fletchers, and particularly with Madeley, will be posted along the way, eventually to be found here.
The entries here are taken from a broad research base. The bulk of this research began with the Fletcher-Tooth Collection at MARC and the Madeley Parish records at the Shropshire Archives, but now includes records from the Arminian Magazine / Methodist Magazine and other periodicals, the Natioanal Archives, the Bosanquet Family Papers, Papers of the Earl of Dartmouth, Methodist manuscripts and printed materials at numerous archives and Methodist repositories (e.g. Duke University, Bridwell Library, GCAH, and others), Catholic archives and printed indexes, printed biographies, parish and county histories, and theses, and an array of other sources in the UK, America, Astralia, Switzerland, and beyond. Of course, there will still be important persons who are missed here, and suggestions are welcome and invited. If you have a suggestion, please let us know using our Feedback Form!
This biographical index has been created and is copyrighted ©2005-2011 by David R. Wilson with the exception of several biographies contributed by other Fletcher scholars whose contributions are acknowledged at the bottom of their respective entries. The biographical index here was inapired in part by the work of Gareth Lloyd who has created the Methodist Archives Biographical Index on the JRULM website, and several of the entries here rely upon his earlier work there as noted in the index. The index has benefitted immensely from the author's coversations wtih Peter Forsaith, and his footnotes in Unexampled Labours. Likewise, Foster, Alumni Oxoniensis, Venn and Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses, Donald M. Lewis, ed. Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and the Dictionary of Methodism in Britain and Ireland have been very useful and are recommended in some instances for fuller biographies than might be found on the Fletcher Page. Many of the biographies here, however, are unique to the Fletcher Page, and will, we hope, aide in further research.
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