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Thomas Holy (1752-1830)

Thomas Holy was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, the eldest son of a businessman Thomas Holy and his wife Sarah. His family had early connections with Sheffield Methodism. His maternal uncle John Wilson was closely involved with the erection of the town's second chapel in 1746 and Holy's mother Sarah was also a devout member of the society.

Holy was educated by Revd. John Ryland of Northampton and in 1766, just after leaving school, he joined the Wesleyan society. The well-known itinerant Matthew Mayer of Stockport, a close friend of the Holy family, was a particularly strong spiritual influence.

Holy's father died in 1760 and his mother passed away when the boy was sixteen, leaving him in charge of the family business and with care of his brothers and sisters. Despite his youth, Holy quickly proved himself an astute and principled businessman. During the course of his life he amassed a very large fortune.

Holy remained a staunch Methodist throughout his life, although the press of business prevented him from taking on lay offices.  John Wesley stayed with him during his visits to Sheffield and used to preach in front of Holy's house.

He was generous in his giving and was particularly concerned with the needs of Methodist ministers and their families. It was one of his customs for example, to present five guineas to preachers called into the itinerancy from the Sheffield circuit.

He was also a supporter of overseas missions and presided at one of the first public meetings of what became the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society. His greatest contribution was however the erection and maintenance of chapels.

It was stated in his obituary that 'there are few Methodist chapels&within twenty or thirty miles round Sheffield, to whose erection, or subsequent relief from debt, he did not contribute.' His generosity was not confined to Methodist causes but encompassed all the major Protestant denominations.

Holy died after a long decline on 9 November 1830 and was buried in a family vault close to Carver Street Chapel.

Source: Arminian Magazine 1832, 1 and Revd. T. Alexander Seed, History of Norfolk Street Chapel and Wesleyan Methodism in Sheffield (London, [1907]).

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