John Dennis (1689-1728): 6th great grandfather
The baptism records Johannis and parents Thoma and Maria. Presumably, being ordinary English folk, their names were John, Thomas and Mary. The date, 30 March 1689, was almost at the end of an era when James II had tried to reinstate Catholicism as the established church. He had also replaced many senior public roles with his own Catholic supporters, including vicars and other clerics. Parliament had voted in January 1688 that the throne was vacant. William of Orange was invited to invade. Following a largely unopposed and popular invasion in November 1688 the crown was offered to Mary, Protestant, daughter and heir to James II, and her husband William of Orange. They would jointly rule a Protestant state in which Catholicism was outlawed.
The Church Guide for Measham St Laurence records that the vicar was replaced in 1690. This may have been pure coincidence, but could also have been political. Most Measham baptisms in 1689 and some in 1690 show Latinised names, but none in 1691.
The events of 1688-89 became known as the Glorious Revolution.
This chain of events, which, perhaps, began with the English Reformation in the reign of Henry VIII, continued to evolve and in May 1689 and Act of Toleration allowed Dissenters to build, under license, meeting houses and by 1700 there were over three thousand. This threw into stark relief the schism with the Church of England, which was increasingly marginalised.
Wesleyans and Methodists
From John Wesley’s first recorded visit to Leicestershire, at Markfield in 1741, Leicestershire (and the rest of the country) saw a steady growth in Methodist congregations.
It would be interesting to know who was the first to be swept up by the non-conformist Wesleyan movement, but unlikely to be found out. The first of young adult years who might have heard Wesley preach would have been Henry 1718 (age 21 when Wesley began his nationwide travels). His father, John (1689) would have been 50: would he by that stage have been relatively resistant to change or already non-conformist? I suggest the likelihood is that a group of family members joined the throngs at Wesley’s preaching.
I know from correspondence with another distant relative that Henry’s father William Dennis (1784-1847) was a Methodist, but he would still have been a child when Wesley visited Markfield, albeit probably employed at the pit. There were Methodist and Primitive Methodist churches or chapels in Donisthorpe, Oakthorpe and Ashby Woulds in the late 1820s, and at Whitwick and Coleorton in the 1840s. More pertinent, perhaps, was Bosworth Road Methodist Church in Measham, which I gather was established before 1800, and the architecture seems to fit. It is now Measham Youth Centre.
Roy Strong, 1996, The Story of Britain: A People’s History, Pimlico, London
Methodist Central Hall
Joan Stevenson & Robin Stevenson, 1988, John Wesley in Leicestershire
The Directory of the County of Derby, by Stephen Glover, 1827-29
Church Guide for Measham St Laurence
Findmypast – newspaper records