ARTILLERY Street Evangelical Church is the only building in Colchester’s New Town to bear a blue plaque.

And today marks the anniversary of how that came to be.

On a bitterly cold January 6 in 1850 the church played its part in history.

Built in 1839 after a piece of land which was formerly the Army barracks, was acquired at the time the road was almost non-existent until home for the workers at Paxmans and other factories began to be built.

Historians explain the origins of that land informed the name choices for the roads, such as Barrack Street, Canon Street and Artillery Street, where the church is.

This was initially a primitive Methodist Church, which was separate from other churches for many years.

Right up until the 1930s, the church was the main one in the area for Methodists and was often full up.

A gallery section was then added in order to fit everyone in and the roof had to be slightly raised with a false section which could be covered up when it was not in use.

There was also a manse, where the pastor lived.

By 1930, they had decided to merge with the general Methodist movement and the Wimpole Road church became the main one.

The church was used less and less and closed a couple of times during the 1950s and 1960s.

But in the late fifties and early sixties a congregation began to build again after a singing group called the Gospel-Aires began to practise and meet there.

This led to a rural ministry called the Datchet Fellowship buying the building back, but the Manse had been sold off separately by this point.

Something else was missing too – a marble engrave stone which marked the connection with the Rev Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

It was thought to have been taken to London where Spurgeon became famous for his preaching and set up the Metropolitan Tabernacle during the Victorian era.

He who lived in Kelvedon, where he also gave his first sermon aged 16, and was was on his way to a service at a town centre church when a blizzard forced him to change his plans.

He was just 15.

Speaking about the event the church’s Pastor Peter Millist has said it is thought the Rev Spurgeon heard singing and decided to go in.

“And it is said, as a result of hearing a certain passage from the Bible during the sermon, he was converted there and then, and that was the moment his work as a preacher began.”

The passage, from Isaiah, is still on the wall of the church and the stone plaque was returned to its rightful place when the Datchet Fellowship bought the building back with visitors regularly travelling far and wide to see it.

The Rev Spurgeon’s historic connection to the town has also been remembered with a road being named after him.

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