Woolford, Jane (Mrs Harvey) (1815-1891)

Obituary in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by L.J. Harvey

MRS. JANE HARVEY was born at Childrey, Berks, March 26th 1815. Little is known of her antecedents or parentage, but while a child the cultivation of her moral and religious nature was neglected, her guardians being strangers to the covenant of grace. In the year 1831 Primitive Methodist missionaries zealously laboured in the White Horse Vale of Berkshire, and visited the place of her nativity. Many young people became converts and among them Miss Woolford; she wrote and spoke of this as being her spiritual birth, and never ceased to praise God for drawing her to Himself in her girlhood. She used every available means for the nurture of her religious life, making the Bible and hymn-book her constant companions, and diligently attending the services which were held in the neighbourhood. It was then the custom for all connected with our church to be active members, employing their gifts and graces in strengthening and extending the kingdom of Christ. This fine-grown, bright-spirited young person soon became a powerful public speaker, and for three years she did duty as a lay preacheress, receiving much opposition from her own kith and kin. She was wounded in the house of her friends, but, nothing daunted, when twenty years of age she acceded to the request of Messrs. John Ride and E. Bishop to enter the ministry, and henceforth she was an itinerant messenger of peace; in this capacity she toiled most heroically and successfully until the Conference of 1838, when she was married to the Rev. William Harvey, and went with him to Bristol. After this, for forty-two years in the full ministry and eleven in the position of a superannuate she did much in many ways to further the interests of the church. Until increased infirmities forbade she preached on ordinary and special occasions to the pleasure and profit of multitudes; she led society classes in various towns where she resided and was much beloved for the visits she paid to the distressed, the sick and troubled, and many whom she blessed are now the crown of her rejoicing.

Mrs. Harvey was no ordinary or commonplace woman, and deserves more than a passing notice in this magazine; she was one of nature’s gentlewomen, such as may be classed among the heroines of her time.

Her nature was intensely spiritual. She was acutely sensitive to everything divine and heavenly. God was not a mere abstraction or force to her, but a real, true, blessed personality — One whose presence flooded her being, and in whose conscious favour she delighted to live. She knew Him by constant and intimate communion. His indwelling she thoroughly understood and realised. “Christ in you,” was a fact to her. Heaven was “about her not merely in infancy,” but in maturity and age; she lived largely in the “other world,” often thinking of those who had passed out of sight as being near her. This doubtless was chiefly the outcome of her devotional habit; part of each day she spent in private “talk with God;” her custom of kneeling long in closet worship was not attended to as a penance, a task, or even a duty, but it was her time of spiritual recreation, when she bathed in the light and breathed in the atmosphere of heaven, and thence she would come forth recuperated in soul, and braced to do, and dare, and suffer for God.

The public means of grace were most highly appreciated by her; whenever possible her place in the assembly of the righteous was occupied, and no careless, listless worshipper was she. Every preacher was helped by her eager, breathless attention, and the truths uttered she treasured in her memory as a precious possession. The Lord’s Supper and meetings for testimony and prayer were never neglected, for she knew their worth, and many persons living, and still more in heaven, have been greatly helped and blessed by her fervent supplications, and fresh, living experiences. She received many striking, well-nigh miraculous answers to her prayers.

Religion with her was not mere emotion, feeling, or sentiment, but it was a life and force practically exemplified in her whole conduct and deportment. It permeated her entire being and was ever manifest. She recoiled from the thought of doing anything or acting any part that would be dishonouring to Christ, or unbecoming the dignity of a minister’s wife; though dependent on the very slender stipend which was paid to the travelling preachers many years ago, she could say with commendable independence and pardonable pride, “I never pleaded poverty, nor begged second-hand clothes for my children.” God knows the privations, self-denial and hardships she endured for His sake and honour, and now recompenses her for all.

Strict integrity and uprightness together with most rigid economy were characteristic of her. She never sought by any kind of duplicity or equivocation to obtain more than value for her money, and never contracted debts she could not soon discharge. How she managed to keep her house, and her large family respectably as she always did, is a mystery to all who knew them, and is good evidence that she was a remarkable personality.

Generosity was a prominent trait in her character; while just and noble she was also tender, sympathetic and benevolent. Meanness she could not away with, and nothing more stirred her righteous indignation than the manifestation of meanness to the poor and the funds of the church. Money she never loved for its own sake as does the miser, but regarded it as God’s gift to be used for the legitimate purposes of life, and for the good of others. Her gifts to the needy and to the funds of her own church and other charitable institutions were, considering her means, very bountiful; for a long series of years they averaged over ten per cent. of her income.

She knew it was more blessed to give than to receive, and was even happier when bestowing than when receiving favours.

Her independence and determination of spirit were very marked. Patronage she could not endure. She never knew how to fawn, cringe, or pander to any one; always kind and respectful, but never a sycophant. A bribe she never took, and none who knew her would have dared offer her one. She had a strong mind and will, and would not yield up her rights or womanhood on any account.

Her native talents were above the average, and had she been thoroughly cultured she would have shone in literary circles, but her time in this life was otherwise employed; now she is being perfected. She read extensively, and not light trashy books; she had no taste for the sensational novel, the Bible she many times read from beginning to end, and in connection therewith she read every sentence in the Commentaries of M. Henry and A. Clarke, besides which she perused numberless sermons, biographies, and works on religious, social, and political subjects. She was an ardent admirer and follower of W.E. Gladstone, and often prayed God to spare his life.

Very much could be written in her praise as a wife, a mother, and a friend; for in every walk, condition, and relationship of life she was solicitous and active for the welfare of her fellows and the glory of God.

For several years prior to her decease, her health was feeble; bronchitis, sluggish action of the heart, and general debility often quite prostrated her, and the last few weeks of her life were spent in bed. This period was spent in the borderland; sometimes she would be on the Delectable Mountains, and would speak of seeing angels, and having beheld some who had gone on before. When referring to her physical state, she would tell the doctor he could do her no good except by praying for her, and several times she said, “The Lord will do His own work in His own way.”

After a day’s unconsciousness she breathed out her spirit into the bosom of her God, on Sunday, July 5th, 1891, leaving a husband to whom she had proved a noble and faithful wife for fifty-three years, and four sons and one daughter to mourn her departure, but to cherish the memory of her pure and beautiful life.

Family

Jane was baptised on 20 April 1815 at St Mary, Childrey, Berkshire. The record only names her mother, Mary, described as a labourer.

Jane married William Harvey (1811-1902), a PM Minister, in the spring of 1838 at Wallingford, Berkshire. Census returns identify seven children.

  • Tryphena (1840-1876)
  • Thomas Fletcher (1843-1932) – civil engineer
  • William Francis (1845-1933) – a draper shopkeeper
  • Asarelah (1849-1918) – a draughtsman in iron works
  • Lucas Jason (1851-1828) – a PM Minister
  • Augustus Butler (1855-1876) – a clerk at blast furnace
  • Lois Claudia (1856-1939) – married Alfred William Houlson, an accountant

Circuits

  • 1835 Shefford
  • 1837 Wallingford
  • 1838 disappears

References

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1894/469

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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