Isaac and Abraham ORCHARD: Friends of John Wesley!

In the weeks since the last blog, I have been searching everywhere for more information on Isaac and Abraham, hypothetical sons of Jacob ORCHARD. The following is what I have found so far…

It was apparent that, from Isaac’s obituary in the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine, he was an upstanding member of the church and had served as district treasurer of their Missionary Society for many years. However, Isaac’s association with Methodism was far more interesting than that. The book ‘At Satan’s Throne: the story of Methodism in Bath over 250 years’ (Ed: Bruce Crofts. 1990) describes John Wesley’s connections with Bath and its inhabitants as the church was slowly established there. More than that, men and women who were friends with Wesley at this time were named: “As hosts, leaders or correspondents, his own records name them: John Giles, Joseph Symes, Abraham and Isaac Orchard, John Baker and Edward Hadden all met him in the intimacy of their own homes, or had close association with him.” Also “…Isaac Orchard is named for a second term in 1800 as Society Steward.” Incidentally, John Baker was Isaac’s brother-in-law, marrying Lydia ORCHARD in 1789.

To find that Isaac had been an intimate of John Wesley was exciting stuff indeed. I went to Bath Record Office to see if they had any material on Methodism and found to my delight that Bruce Crofts had deposited his research notes in their archives! For hours I pored through various collections and found several pieces of interest.

The Chapel at New King Street

As non-conformism became more popular, demand for seats exceeded the capacity of meeting houses, chapels and churches. The Wesleyans had made their base at the New King Street Chapel in 1779 after having held meetings in smaller establishments for forty years or so. In ‘The Street Lore of Bath’ (1893) Robert E M Peach states: “… a piece of ground having been secured on the north side of New King Street, the foundation stone of a new chapel was laid by John Wesley himself on the 16th December 1776. This Chapel was opened by him on the 11th March 1779… The efforts of many zealous Methodists in the establishment of adult and Sunday schools, appear to have given a stimulus to the cause of the Society in Bath, and a proposal was made to erect an additional Chapel for the convenience of members residing in remote parts of the city this proposal at first met with great opposition but by the zeal and energy of several leading members, the sum of £1400 was raised and the chapel erected opposite Walcot Parade, which was opened for Divine Worship, 30th May 1816.

Isaac was one of nine members forming an Acting Committee at New King Street in order to raise funds and build the new Chapel which still stands at London Street, Walcot. Every detail of the building’s development, particularly the accounts, from the chapel’s inception to attendance at the new Sunday school was recorded in a big brown ledger (now at Bath Record Office). From this, I could see that, for his part, Isaac was charged with the task of writing to a London architect and ordering up the survey and plans. He also paid £53 10s 6d subscription toward the cost of the building, the second largest donation in the record. It appears that Isaac was also responsible for checking the builder’s accounts and for raising funds from members towards the day to day running. He also provided some of the furniture (for which he was paid).

Isaac Orchard, the furniture supplier

Even the opening of the chapel involved Isaac’s son: “…the stone was laid under the South corner of the Chapel amidst an immense concourse of Spectators. The Stone was provided & made a present of by Mr George Biggs Orchard & on it a brass plate was fixed, on which was engraved the following inscription ‘The foundation of the Methodist Chapel at Walcot was laid March 31st 1815. JEHOVAH Jireh’. Under the plate several pieces of English Coin were deposited.”

So, Isaac was one of a small group of men that were the driving force behind bringing John Wesley’s teachings and philosophy to Bath, as well as being his personal acquaintance. His obituary, therefore, had been a little understated!

Incidentally, the Bath (Wesleyan) Society accounts of the 16th July 1793 records: “Stewards changed from J Symes, Ed Haddon, Fred Shum, Henry Newton to Henry Newton, William White, Henry Pedlar, Isaac Orchard. These were chosen by the committee.” This then was the first record of stewardship for Isaac, the second having been in 1800 as noted in ‘At Satan’s Throne’. A steward’s position was only held for one year it seems.

Regarding Abraham the solicitor, I have searched many records exhaustively (and exhaustedly!) but still failed to bury the poor man or even kill him off. Although the Law Journal Report of 1864 mentioned Abraham Orchard’s death in 1800, I have been unable to confirm this. Nor is the Methodist collection of papers tremendously forthcoming, even though I am led to believe that Abraham was a friend of Wesley.

The Bath Society accounts for 1st January 1793 record: “Resolved by stewards and leaders that henceforth Isaac Challenger shall be given the sum of six guineas per annum for services to New King Street Chapel. Signed John Giles, Joseph Symes and Abraham Orchard.” So it seems that like Isaac, Abraham was serving on at least one church committee but there it ends.

Interestingly, Abraham made a surprise appearance elsewhere. A chance sighting in the 1923 edition of ‘Notes and Queries’ led to a hunt for the will of a gentleman named Philip DITCHER, a surgeon who died in Bath in 1781. Although the content of the will was of no particular relevance, what had caught the attention were the signatories to the will: John JEFFERYS, John JEFFERYS Jun and Abraham ORCHARD, clerk to Mr JEFFERYS ‘S’ (?senior).

Signatories to the will of Philip DITCHER of Bath

Who were the John Jefferys? The older man was an attorney, born in ~1753, who became Town Clerk of Bath. He was a ‘lapsed’ Quaker whose very brief obituary was published in part two of the Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle 1800. John Jefferys the younger appears to have also been a man of law and, when his father died, took up residence at the family home in the very prestigious Royal Crescent, at number 19.

An article in the Bath Chronicle said of the older man: “As one of the city’s leading citizens in the 18th century, town clerk John Jefferys was accused of exercising tyrannical powers over the Bath Corporation, which ran the city. But, according to letters which have surfaced at auction, it seems he was powerless to resist the charms of a pretty woman. Jefferys was reduced [in 1791] to offering an astonishing £40,000 bribe to Grace Norton in a desperate bid to persuade a woman to marry him.” Strangely enough, Miss Norton refused his offer.

This letter formed part of a large collection of documents pertaining to Jefferys which were sold at auction by Bonham’s in 2008. With the aid of a grant, the collection was purchased by none other than Bath Record Office! Unfortunately, a search of the now indexed contents has not revealed Abraham Orchard; hardly surprisingly since he was a lowly young clerk. I assume that Abraham worked for the older man, a position that was part of a career path towards being the solicitor that he would one day become and, like Jefferys, he would make a good living from selling property.

Walcot Methodist Chapel, 2009

Now I wait, with some anticipation, to see if a fellow genealogist in the US has managed to track down either of the Orchard men in a Dictionary of Biography of all those people who knew John or Charles Wesley. Fingers crossed!

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12 Responses to Isaac and Abraham ORCHARD: Friends of John Wesley!

  1. John Firth says:

    I stumbled upon your blog as I was just reading about a girl called Elizabeth Orchard in a little book called “Stories of Boys and Girls Who Loved the Saviour”, by John Wesley I thought this might be of interest if you had not come upon it before, espeocially as this piece of your blog was about the Wesley connection. (John Wesley) – The dates are a bit odd.

    • Prevaricat says:

      Hi John. Thanks for the link – I had a read; not exactly cheery stuff, poor girl. I found her baptism:
      Elizabeth Waterman Orchard, 6 Mar 1795 at Melksham, Wiltshire. Parents: Joseph & Abigail Orchard. Unfortunately, I do not know these Wiltshire Orchards and I don’t think they’re part of my family. It was very kind of you to bring this to my attention though – thanks 🙂 Cheers, Karen

  2. Walter Brueggeman says:

    Today I bought a Methodist hymnal printed in London in 1803. The first two blank pages says “this book belongs to Isaac Orchard 1811” and on the second page it says: Methodist Chapel Bath Seat N. 6 in the gallery. His signature is also above the title page A collection of Hymns, for the use of the people called Methodists by the Rev. John Wesley,A.M. late fellow of lincoln-college,Oxford

    • Prevaricat says:

      Wow! It isn’t often that a reader’s comment on my blog is quite so exciting; how marvellous that you have this book and that you know something of the previous owner. I would deem it a massive favour if you could perhaps scan that page and let me have a copy? I could add the illustration to the blog and the signature would also be very useful for comparative purposes amongst other family documents. Thank you so much for letting me know about your new purchase. What inspired you to buy it?

      Regards, Karen

      • Walter Brueggeman says:

        I will try to send you a copy of the signatures in the next few days but I am rather ignorant when it comes to computers. My daughter is very knowledgable and she will help me to respond to your request. It isn’t often that history comes alive 200 years later. What inspired me to purchase this hymnal? I will always be a student of history especially when I can hold it in my hands. Walt

      • Prevaricat says:

        Walter… I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment. Not surprisingly, given this blog, I too am interested in history and I particularly love old books, maps and photographs.

        I would have thought that the chance of you finding a written history of the owner of a fairly common hymn book (I too have one of these; it belonged to a family member) was pretty remote; there must have been many of these about at one time. I wonder where it has been since 1811?!

        Thank you for the offer of a copy of the page in question; my email address is Much appreciated.

        Regards, Karen

  3. Anne says:

    The Mayor’s Guides of Bath are celebrating their 80th Birthday with Plaque Walks, those funny things on building indicating that someone famous might have stayed there for a day or more! I am researching John Wesley and the Plaque on the Percy Boys’ Club for the New King Street Chapel. Thank you for the picture and information on your blog! the chapel is on the West Walk. The Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides
    The People Behind the Plaques
    A series of free walking tours celebrating 80 years of the Mayor’s Guides. Discover the secrets of some of Bath’s most famous former residents and why they deserved bronze wall plaques.
    Great Pulteney Street
    (including Jane Austen & Emperor Napoleon III)
    Mon 21 July 2.00pm and Fri 1 Aug 7.00pm
    Start: Laura Place
    The Parades
    (including Nelson & Wordsworth)
    Tues 22 July 7.00pm and Thurs 31 July 2.00pm
    Start: Outside Abbey Shop, West of Abbey
    Around Royal Crescent
    (including Dickens & John Wood the Younger)
    Wed 23 July 2.00pm and Wed 30 July 7.00pm
    Start: Outside No. 1 Royal Crescent
    The West Walk
    (including Sheridan & Horace Walpole)
    Thurs 24 July 7.00pm and Tues 29 July 2.00pm
    Start: By Rebecca Fountain, North of Abbey
    The Circus/Paragon
    (including Gainsborough & Livingstone)
    Fri 25 July 2.00pm and Mon 28 July 7.00pm
    Start: By Assembly Rooms in Alfred Street.

  4. Peter Cockerill says:

    The will is not the original but a copy of the original written out by a scribe so the signatures won’t be of help. I am descendent of Philip Ditcher and would welcome any information you may have on him. Thank you so much. Peter

  5. Prevaricat says:

    Hi Peter… I’m afraid that I know no more about Mr Philip DITCHER… it was the fact that my ancestor had clearly been working for Mr JEFFREYS that was of interest to me, just because it was a little snippet of unknown information about Abraham. I’m sorry not to be of any help to you now, but the post is also several years old and my memory is not that good. Kind Regards, Karen

  6. C E Hobbs says:

    I have Quakers , Methodists and evangelicals in my family due to a coal/stone mining tradition. Theophilus Riddle was a relative at Walcot Chapel. Challenger is a well known coal mining family.

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