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Grace Murray (1715-1803)

Grace Murray was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, the daughter of Robert and Grace Norman. Grace was raised in a devoutly Anglican environment and claimed to have experienced her first religious impressions at the age of seven. At the age of eighteen, she moved to London where she found work as a serving maid and in 1736 married a Scottish sailor Alexander Murray. Grace began to attend evangelical preaching and was finally converted by a John Wesley sermon in 1740.

Grace exhibited sufficient spiritual gifts for John Wesley to appoint her a band leader at the Foundery. Grace's husband Alexander was very opposed to his wife's Methodist leanings and threatened to have her put away on the grounds of insanity. He quickly realised however that she would not be swayed and in any event he died at sea in 1742. After her husband's death, Grace moved back to Newcastle and in 1745 was appointed housekeeper at the Orphan House.

By virtue of her position, Grace was in regular contact with John Wesley and in 1748 he proposed marriage, which offer she accepted. At about the same time however, she became betrothed to the Wesleyan preacher John Bennet. After a confused and upsetting chain of events, she was married to Bennet in October 1749.

The controversial part played by Charles Wesley in destroying his brother's marital plans caused a severe rift between the two men. John Bennet also left the Methodists at the end of 1751 and while there were signs of a growing area of disagreement before his marriage, the controversy surrounding that event would not have helped.

John Bennet established himself as an independent minister in Cheshire. Grace assisted his ministry and the couple had five sons, one of whom became a congregational minister in London. After John's death in 1759, she moved to Chapel-en-le-frith in Derbyshire and became a regular worshipper at the Methodist chapel there.

She died on February 23 1803 and was buried with her husband at the Chinley Independent Chapel.

Source: Simon Ross Valentine, John Bennet and the Origins of Methodism and the Evangelical Revival in England (Scarecrow Press: London and Lanham, 1997).

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