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The Wesley Connection

Wroot has a long, fascinating history and was likely of Saxon origin. It’s very early name was Wroe and it evolved through Wroyt, Wrot, Wrotte and Wroote to its spelling of today. Wroot, in the early days of Methodism, had three Methodist Chapels but by the 1850s just two were in use. Today one Methodist Chapel and St Pancras Church remain places of worship in the village.

The Rector of Epworth, Rev Samuel Wesley, was asked to take on the Rectorship of Wroot which he undertook in the early 1720s, and thus became the 23rd Incumbent at St Pancras Church, Wroot. He was in post for several years. The present day Rectory at Wroot stands on the site of two earlier ones, the first of which was occupied by the Wesley family. It was a somewhat humble, damp and dilapidated, thatched roof affair. The Rector persuaded his son John Wesley to help him out and the Oxford scholar served as Curate at Wroot from 1727 to 1729. A visible recognition of this is a marker stone by the Cemetery gates of St Pancras Church.

John WesleyJohn Wesley worked hard whilst at Wroot, his daily routine being to work in his study in the morning and visit his parishioners in the afternoon. He took exercise by swimming in the local waterways, playing tennis, and hunting, as well as dancing with his sisters and his then lady friend, Kitty Hargreaves.

The Wesleys were a large family with six of the seven daughters living in The Rectory at one time or another. Hetty eloped from Wroot thus bringing disgrace and shame on the family. Her father never forgave her, in spite of John Wesley preaching a poignant sermon at Wroot seeking a reconciliation between Hetty and her father. Anne Wesley was married from Wroot.

Another Wesley connection is the Wroot youth, Johnny Whitelamb, a thin, gangly young fellow, whom the Wesleys rescued from Wroot Charity School to raise in the Epworth Rectory. He was well treated, educated, and sent to Oxford and eventually succeeded Samuel as Rector at Wroot. The family never imagined that their crippled daughter Mary would ever marry but Mary fell in love with her beloved Johnny and they spent just one blissfully happy year in the Wroot Rectory after Whitelamb was appointed Rector. Mary died in childbirth and was buried in Wroot Church, likely, along with her infant. A brass plate in St Pancras Church records the interment of Samuel Smyth, a former Rector of Panton in Lincolnshire. Interestingly, below this inscription, it continues with the words, 'Also Mary Whitelamb, wife of the late Rector of Wroot.’ As her husband did not die until 1769, this inscription was clearly added long after Mary's death in 1734. The somewhat crude headstone of Johnny Whitelamb can be seen in the church cemetery.

A further Wesley connection concerns John Romley who served as the Superintendent of Wroot Charity School. Later he became the Rector at St Andrew's Church in Epworth. He was the parson who refused to allow John Wesley to preach in Epworth Church, causing the Epworth Methodist Leader to famously preach from his father's gravestone.

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