THE recent anniversary of a major date in north Essex History has prompted a historian to set the record straight.

Henry Spyvee, also a former Mayor of Colchester, says it is absolutely right the event which saw the Rev Charles Haddon Spurgeon become a hugely influential preacher should be remembered.

But he says while it was right the Rev Spurgeon was born in Kelvedon - he was very much a Colcestrian.

“He may have been born in Kelvedon but his family moved to Colchester when he was ten months old.

“They lived on Hythe Hill in a house since demolished,” says Henry, the Historian for Colchester Baptist Church who has thoroughly researched Spurgeon’s life as well as the history of Eld Lane Baptist Church on its 300th anniversary in 1989.

He adds :”At 15 years old he took a teaching job in Newmarket and at the time of his conversion he was home on his first Christmas holiday.”

‘It was said to have snowed that day so Spurgeon turned aside to the then Primitive Methodist Church in Artillery Street where the rostered preacher had not arrived because of the snow.

“The sermon was one of the shortest and worst of the 19th century but it was sufficient to bring about Spurgeon’s conversion.

“Over the years various people claimed to have delivered that appalling sermon. All of them were refuted by Spurgeon.”

“In the evening, the snow having abated, Spurgeon made it to Eld Lane where we believe he was bound in the morning.

“Spurgeon testified that he, as a new Christian, felt himself blessed by the words of the preacher then.

The preacher at Eld Lane at the time was Robert Langford, who was amongst the best in the town at the time.

He explains Spurgeon then went on to become minister at Waterbeach Baptist Church in Cambridgeshire while he was still a teenager, packing the church out and revolutionising the village.

“He was then asked to preach as a trial at New Park Street Baptist Church in London.

“This was a church with a great past and a poor present.

“Spurgeon filled it quickly and the Metropolitan Tabernacle was built to replace it. This too became packed.”

By the time he was only still in his mid twenties, the Rev Spurgeon was the most famous Christian in the country.

But back in Colchester, says Henry, Robert Langford’s health was failing and the church could afford a pension for him or two ministers.

“Langford then wrote to Spurgeon asking for help.

“Spurgeon sent Edward Spurrier, one of the pupils at his new Theological College to see if he would fit.

“He did and took over the church immediately. In his early years Spurgeon came to preach twice a year and the collection at these services paid for Spurrier’s stipend.”

Henry says Spurgeon was the leader of a movement which changed Citorian England and continued to have an effect today including by way of Spurgeon’s College, the largest Baptist college in Britain and through the orphanages he started, the charity Spurgeon’s Child Care.

The first was opened in Stockwell, London, for 250 boys in 1869 and one for girls soon followed.

These homes closed in 1970 but Spurgeon’s Child Care still supports children in need, focussing now on fostering and supporting families.

Spurgeon continues to be a significant name in Colchester, not least in the road, behind Hythe Hill, named after him in the 1920s - it was changed having previously been called Back Lane.

“I have not checked recently but at its Hythe Quay end there was a Colchester white on black sign that said Back Lane,” adds Henry.

But he says while the date, mentioned in the blue plaque he helped get installed, is marked as January 6 when Spurgeon was converted, he suspects this might not be the right date.

“My only regret about the plaque was the date on it, January 6, 1850.

“This is taken from Spurgeon’s own writings about that day.

“While the other details were engraved on his memory, he may have got the date wrong.

“The Essex County Standard at that era does not record snow in Colchester on January 6 but does so on the following Sunday, 13.

“The plaque should have just said ‘January 1850’.

“That certainly would have been right. It was unveiled jointly by the Mayor, John Bouckley, and Susie Spurgeon, his great, great grand daughter.”

Henry believes Spurgeon, along with William Gilberd who was a physician of Queen Elizabeth 1, are candidates for the Colcestrian who has had the most impact on world events.