John Wesley (1703–91) and Charles Wesley (1707–88) were the sons of the rector of Epworth (Lincolnshire) and students at Oxford University, where they formed (in 1729) the small group nicknamed the Holy Club, or Methodists. They were joined by George Whitefield (1714–70) in their strict devotions and evangelism. The brothers spent some time as missionaries in Georgia (America) in the mid‐1730s. Upon their return, they found pulpits closed to them and so began open‐air preaching, at Bristol in 1739, where the first Methodist chapel was founded. The ruined Foundry at Moorfields, London, became their headquarters. The brothers spent the rest of their lives as indefatigable travellers and preachers, often in the face of great hostility. John travelled 250 000 miles and preached 40 000 sermons during his ministry. Charles wrote over 5 500 hymns, many of which remain popular. John's Journal was published in eight volumes between 1909 and 1916, edited by N. Curnock. Methodism remained a movement within the Anglican Church during the brothers’ lifetime, but broke away after their deaths.
The Wesleyan Methodist Metropolitan Registry recorded over 10 000 births and baptisms, 1818–38. This register is now kept at The National Archives in RG 4/4674679, with an index at RG 4/4680. See also Moravians.