Rev. Charles Spurgeon
Were there to be any competition to determine the most famous or industrious Essex Man ever, my candidate would be Charles Spurgeon. Although you may not have heard of him, his 100 books sold an incredible 150 million copies altogether.
Spurgeon's mother, Eliza Jarvis, was born at Belchamp Otten on May 3, 1815, so that she was little more than nineteen years of age at the time of her son's birth. His father was born at Clare on July 15, 1810 and was about twenty-four, and outlived his famous son. Charles’s branch of the Spurgeon family came from Stambourne, where his grandfather was the pastor of the congregational church for fifty-four years. Charles was born in Kelvedon in 1834 but his childhood was mostly spent with his grandfather in Stambourne.
He always remembered the manse with its brick hall floor sprinkled with sand; its windows in part plastered up to escape the window tax; its attic, full of books. He had many hiding places, such as a horse block in front of the Meeting House or an altar-like erection over a tomb where one of the slabs of stone at the side moved easily, so that the boy could enter, pull it back again into its place, and shut himself off, "Dreaming of days to come befell me every now and then as a child, and to be quite alone was my boyish heaven."
Charles was a bright boy and did well in his studies, becoming a teacher in Cambridge, where he started to become active in the Baptist Church. He turned out to be a brilliant preacher; filling whatever church he practiced his art. When appointed to be pastor of New Park Street church in Southwark, he filled not only the1200 seats of the church, but also the road outside.. He moved to Exeter hall in the Strand, but the 500 seats proved too few and the overflow congregation blocked the Strand to traffic. Even the Metropolitan Tabernacle proved to small and so by 1857, Charles Spurgeon had to preach to his congregation of 25,000 in the open air. However, he preached regularly at the Metropolitan Tabernacle to a ticket-only congregation that included William Gladstone, Lord Shaftsbury, and John Ruskin.
Spurgeon published his sermons from 1855 onwards, and he continued to publish them for the next thirty-seven years. Copies were sold around the world and his sermons had colossal influence in the development of the moral ethos behind the British Empire. He also published magazines. Altogether, his published output that eclipsed that of any other British author.
Spurgeon’s writing earned him a fortune that he used to promote the training of Baptist ministers, provide almshouses, and to fund the building of Baptist churches.
Spurgeon loved his native Essex:
Essex is not a suburban county; it is a characteristic and individualised country which wins the heart. Between dear Essex and the centre of things lie two great barriers, the East End of London, and Epping Forest. Before a train could get to any villadom with a cargo of season-ticket holders, it would have to circle around the rescued woodland and travel for twenty unprofitable miles; and so once you are away from the main Great Eastern lines, Essex still lives in the peace of the eighteenth century, and London, the modern Babylon, is, like the stars, just a light in the nocturnal sky.