Let us take you on a journey through Charles Wesley's House, exploring how the history of this home can encourage you this Christmas. Listen to clips from The New Room's Collections Manager, Kate Rogers as she highlights objects, stories and offers points for reflection.
The Parlour - Friendship and Hospitality
Christmas in the 18th century was a totally different celebration. The Georgian Christmas season stretched from December 6th (St. Nicholas Day) to January 6th (Twelfth Night, Epiphany) and Christmas Day itself would have been a fairly low-key affair. Charles Wesley was a man made for friendship, so we can imagine that Christmas, whilst being a low-key affair would have included family and friends gathering together. In his journal for Christmas-day 1749 it reads, "The [new] room was full as it could contain. We rejoiced from four to six, that to us a Son is born, to us a Child is given". Many visitors would have been welcomed into the family home and the parlour is where they would have been greeted. For those without a prior appointment a calling card may have been left for the family.
Reflections on the importance of offering friendship this Christmas:
The Music Room - Music
We are fairly sure that this was the room where Sally taught her children to play music. The Wesleys were a very musical family. Charles played the flute, Sally could play the harpsichord and the guitar - her beautiful guitar is in Charles Wesley’s room in the museum at the New Room. She was sufficiently good on the guitar that she once performed for King George III. She was particularly noted as a fine singer, especially of songs by Handel. There is a story that she once was asked by a vicar to sing in his church and she agreed providing he was prepared to ask Charles to preach. The vicar declined! Her daughter Sarah (also called ‘Sally’) is said to have inherited her mother’s ability to sing. Charles was sure ‘the boys have music by the mother’s side’.
Reflections on how music can be so beneficial to our wellbeing:
The Kitchen - Food
For those working in service Christmas would have been a low-key, modest affair. Twelfth Night marked the end of the festive season and was the highlight of the Christmas celebrations in Georgian England. The popular custom of choosing a household king or queen on Twelfth Night involved baking a centrepiece Twelfth cake containing a dried bean and a dried pea. The man who found the bean in his slice was elected King for the night; the lady who found the pea, the Queen. The kitchen at Charles Wesley’s house would have been always fairly warm because of the fire for hot water and cooking. Servant help was cheap and it would have provided work for a young boy or girl from a local poor family.
Discover some Christmas recipes with a historic twist:
The Garden - Nature
The garden at Charles Wesley's House has been designed by a garden historian along the lines of a typical Georgian garden. It contains plants which were all in gardens before the 1790s. Charles does not specifically refer to this garden but it can be assumed he liked to spend time in it because there is a reference in his journal in 1749 to enjoying being able to sit in the garden of the first house he rented in Charles Street: "I passed the hour of retirement in my garden and was melted into tears by the divine goodness".
Reflections on how we can use this time to slow down and enjoy nature:
The Bedroom - Health and Hygiene
Never before has the health and hygiene of the nation been under such a spotlight as this year. The news of a possible vaccination for Covid-19 brings with it hope for the future. It was back in the eighteenth century when Gloucestershire born Physician, Edward Jenner first pioneered the concept of vaccines and created the first smallpox vaccine. Sally caught smallpox in December 1753 and almost died. Charles wrote, "From the sole of the foot, even unto the head, there is no soundness in her; but wounds and putrefying sores". It physically aged her and left her face very badly scarred and Charles was careful to reassure her that it made no difference to his love for her.
Listen to some of the triumphs and perils of health and hygiene in the 18th century:
The Study - Hymn Singing
Charles Wesley was a passionate and prolific hymnwriter, writing between 7,000 and 9,000 hymns. Half of these were published in his lifetime. What is remarkable is his clarity, his precision, his poetic language and his honesty in conveying doubt and darkness. Many of his hymns were written directly from his personal experience.
Listen to words from one of Charles Wesley's hymns about trusting in the power and faithfulness of Christ:
Children's Bedroom - Children
It is not known where the Wesley children slept but it may have been in the top room of the house. It was Samuel Wesley who was the most musically talented of the children, and ‘Sally Junior’, who was given a very good education but lived in the shadow of her father and brothers. For most of the 18th century, the word ‘toy’ meant small luxury goods for adults, not playthings for children. Childhood was not viewed as it is today and was not a time of freedom. Children were expected to dress and behave as ‘miniature adults’.
Reflections on childhood in the 18th century and on John and Charles Wesley's views on education:
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