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Jane Sansom (1742-1824)

Jane Sansom was born at Burbage near Hinckley in Leicestershire, the younger of two daughters. Her father William Sansom was one of an ancient and prominent family of that area, 'but though possessed of considerable property, he soon consumed it, by a course of prodigality'.

Jane's mother died when she was an infant, and her baby was, at the dying mother's request, passed over to the care of a family friend Mrs Jane Wilmott.

At about this time, the family moved to the village of Shepshed where Jane's father 'led an abandoned and dissolute life'. On one occasion, he sold Jane to a family of gypsies, but she was rescued before she could be carried away. After this, her father refused to accept any further responsibility for his daughter and Jane was raised by Wilmott as her own child along with her own daughter Mary Wilmott to whom Jane was particularly close.

Jane and Mary were raised to attend Anglican worship. Mary Wilmott joined the Methodists before Jane and was a member of the society for sixty-seven years.

The first Methodist itinerant to visit the village was John Brandon in 1757 and Jane attended the preaching although with little initial effect.

Later that same summer, she went with Mary to the wake [fair] in the nearby village of Hathorn and heard a second Methodist preacher, Thomas Johnson, address a congregation in the house of one John Langdale.

On that occasion, Jane was deeply convinced of sin and seriously began to seek conversion. This was effected a short time later when she heard John Fletcher preach in Revd. Walter Sellon's parish church of Breedon.

Soon after her conversion, Jane founded the first Methodist society in Shepshead with Mary Wilmott and the class leader William Garner of Long Whatton. Jane and Mary frequently provided hospitality for visiting itinerants.

Mary Wilmott married in 1780 to a Mr Dodd and Jane thereafter lived successively in Loughborough, Leicester and Ashby.

In 1799 after the death of Mary Dodd, Jane was invited to return to Shepshead as housekeeper to the widower who himself died not long after. Before his death, he gave his house to the trustees of Shepshead Chapel (erected 1780) on condition that he and Jane could live in it for the rest of their lives and that a room and bed should always be reserved for the use of Methodist preachers.

Jane remained in the Dodd house for the rest of her life and took great delight in being able to look after visiting itinerants. In her latter years, she was prevented by infirmity from attending chapel but a class met in her home and she was looked after by members of the Methodist society.

Dodd earned her living by keeping a school until poor health forced her to give it up one year before she died, by which time she was afflicted with blindness. She died on 29th June 1824.

Source: Wesleyan Methodist Magazine 1825, 582-587.

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