Ball, Hannah (DNB00)

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BALL, HANNAH (1734–1792), Wesleyan methodist, was born on 13 March 1733-4. When Wesley and other methodist preachers visited High Wycombe, where she was resident for the greater part of her life, she was attracted by their teaching. In 1766 she began to keep a diary, some extracts of which have been published. Several of the letters that passed between her and Wesley have also been printed. By Wesley's advice she broke off an engagement to be married to one who, in the language of the sect, was 'an ungodly man.' This Wesley termed, and not without reason, 'a very uncommon instance of resolution.' She was a mystic, and Wesley warns her that 'a clear revelation of several persons in the ever blessed Trinity was by no means a sure trial to christian perfection.' In 1769 she began a Sunday school. The germ of the modern Sunday school may be traced in the methods of instruction established by Luther, Knox, and St. Charles Borromeo. There are traces of them in France in the seventeenth century. The Rev. Joseph Alleine was in the habit of drawing young pupils together for instruction on the Sunday. Bishop Wilson instituted such schools in the Isle of Man in 1703. The Seventh Day baptists had one between 1740 and 1747 at Euphrata, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In 1763 Mrs. Catharine Cappe and the Rev. Theophilus Lindsey had such a gathering of the young at Catterick. Dr. Kennedy, about 1770, established one in Bright parish, co. Down. In 1778 the Rev. David Simpson opened one at Macclesfield. There was another at Little Lever, taught by 'Owd Jemmy o' th' Hey,' whose services were paid for by a wealthy piper-maker, Adam Crompton. These and others preceded the experiment made at Gloucester in 1783 by Robert Raikes, who is usually described as the founder of Sunday schools.

Hannah Ball died on 16 Aug. 1792. The school was continued by her sister Anne. At this time the Wesleyans, whilst having their own separate meetings, were still attenders at the parish churches, and both Hannah Ball and her sister were in the habit of taking the school children with them. At the funeral of Mrs. Ball, a relative, the Rev. W. B. Williams observed that 'if any Arminian entered heaven the angels would cease to sing.' Anne Ball arose in her place and, gathering her little flock around her, marched out of the church, which she never re-entered. The little Sunday school was reorganised in 1801, and is still in existence.

[Memoir of Miss Hannah Ball, with extracts from her Diary and Correspondence, originally compiled by the Rev. Joseph Cole, and published at York in 1796 ; it was revised and enlarged by John Parker, with a preface by tho Rev. Thomas Jackson, London, 1839; Rules of the Wesleyan Sabbath School at High Wycombe; information supplied by Mr. John Parker and others.]

W. E. A. A.