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John Fennel (1762-1841)

John Fennel was born at Madeley in Shropshire. He was raised a Methodist and was a godson of the famous evangelist John Fletcher. Fennel became a school teacher and moved to Penzance in Cornwall where he was a local preacher and class leader. He also contributed articles to the Methodist Magazine.

In 1790 Fennel married Jane Branwell and later became headmaster of Wellington School in Shropshire. He came under the influence of John Fletcher's widow Mary and also made the acquaintance of two Anglican curates Patrick Bronte and William Morgan.

In 1811 Fennel was appointed the first headmaster of the Methodist Woodhouse Grove School in Yorkshire, for which post Fletcher's widow Mary had written him a testimonial.

His connection with Woodhouse Grove is notable mainly for the fact that his Cornish neice Maria Branwell during the course of an extended visit to her uncle, met and later married Patrick Bronte, who at one time conducted examinations at the Grove. Their daughters were the famous Bronte sisters of Haworth.

In 1813 Fennel gave notice to the Methodists that he was to seek Anglican ordination and his employment as headmaster was thereupon terminated. He was ordained deacon in 1815 and succeeded his friend William Morgan (who had married Fennel's daughter Jane) as curate of Bradford Parish Church. Later that year he baptized Elizabeth Bronte and in 1817 became incumbent of Cross Stone near Todmorden, where he was to remain for the rest of his life. That same year he baptized Patrick Bronte and later acted as godfather to Emily Bronte.

Source: The Story of Woodhouse Grove School by F. C. Pritchard (1978), 14-23 and Fletcher-Tooth collection.

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