Frederick Nicholas Charrington Abandons Brewing

Frederick Nicholas Charrington was born in London’s East End, on February 4, 1850. His father was a wealthy – make that very wealthy – brewing magnate.

It was at the age of 20, however, that a friend challenged Fred as to whether or not he was ‘saved’. We are told that the young brewery heir resented the question, but promised to read the third chapter of John’s Gospel.

“He read the chapter through and in the great mercy and love of God, when he reached the end he could say he was ‘saved’” (Twelve Marvellous Men, by E. Enoch, page 30). And he even started to attend a non-conformist chapel.

He commenced Christian service, working with slum children in a “ragged school”, a project set up by the Earl of Shaftesbury.

Charrington tells of the day, passing the “Rising Sun” Hotel, while on one his evangelistic walks through Whitechapel, when he saw a woman standing at the swinging doors of the hotel with two or three children dragging at her skirts, calling to her drunken husband inside, “O Tom, do give me some money, the children are crying for bread.”

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Frederick Charrington records what followed – “The man came through the doorway. He looked at her for a moment and then knocked her down into the gutter. Just then I looked up and saw my name, ‘Charrington’, in huge gilt letters on the top of the public house” (Biography, by G. Thorne, page 21). Fred Charrington went to help the woman and was also knocked to the ground.

That savage blow of the drunken fool not only knocked the wife into the gutter – “but”, wrote Charrington, “it knocked me out of the brewery business” (page 22).

He confronted his father … renounced his heirship of over a million pounds … and then threw himself into Christian work.

Charrington devoted his life to helping the down and outs in London’s East End. He opened a “ragged school” for underprivileged children, led a fight to clean up the Music Halls and became an ardent worker for the Temperance Movement (opposing alcohol) and a member of the London County Council for Mile End.

In 1883 the foundation stone of a permanent headquarters for Charrington’s charitable work was laid, by the Earl of Shaftesbury.

On Charrington’s 36th birthday he opened the Great Assembly Hall in Mile End, seating 5,000 people. From this huge structure, Charrington and his team of helpers engaged in “a continuous campaign against drunkenness and other vices … enforced by intensely earnest evangelical preaching.”

The hall was crowded each Sunday as the poor and destitute were given a meal, prior to the evening service. The first 700 people in line received the hot meal free: all they had to do was sign “the pledge”.

The Great Assembly Hall of 31 Mile End Road was also a hive of activity during the week with a Coffee Tavern, Bookshop, and multiple activities taking place.

Charrington also established The Tower Hamlets Mission, a Christian Charity, committed to working with those suffering from alcohol dependency, who are either homeless or in danger of becoming homeless.

During the 1888 strike by the Bryant and May Company ‘Match Girls’, who were little more than white slaves, Charrington used the Great Hall to provide for the needs of the striking women. Catharine and William Booth also assisted in this campaign to replace the dangerous yellow phosphorous with the relatively harmless red phosphorous, and to pay the women appropriate wages.

In 1912 Charrington provided the Great Hall for meetings of the Jewish Tailors during their strike against the sweating system. That same year Charrington provided food for families of the striking dock workers.

Shortly before his death in a London hospital on January 2, 1936, this remarkable man of God said, “I was born to a great inheritance worth nearly a million of money, but it was defiled. I was born again to a greater inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away….” (I Peter 1:4).

The Great Assembly Hall was destroyed by German incendiary bombs in 1941, but later restored. The work of The Tower Hamlets Mission continues to this day.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Louis Thompson Talbot Leaves Booze for the Pulpit

This is the day that Louis Thompson Talbot was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1889.

His father, an assistant manager for Tooth’s Brewery, had married Bessie on the very day she had arrived from England. In the early 1900s Louis’ older brother, Jim, was converted at a gospel meeting in Redfern, New South Wales. The preacher was Loyal L. Wirt, who had served as a missionary in Alaska, and was the father of Sherwood E. Wirt, who later became editor of Billy Graham’s Decision magazine.

Jim felt the call to Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, and the clash with his liquor-selling father was awful.

With the help of his mother’s prayers, Louis, now in his manhood and still unsaved, became restless, dissatisfied, disillusioned with the liquor business. He dreamed of America and a new life. His brother Jim was to be a preacher: “Why couldn’t there be two preachers in the family?” So “Louie” followed his brother Jim to Moody Bible Institute, ready for a fresh adventure.

Louis had some form of a conversion experience when Wilbur Chapman preached in Sydney Town Hall in 1909. The following year he travelled to the USA. He was far along in his studies at Moody when, under the preaching of John Harper of London, he was genuinely converted.

In the years that followed, Louis Talbot became a well-known name in the evangelical world. He went from pastorate to pastorate in the United States and Canada until he received a call to the great Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles, the very church the mighty R.A. Torrey had founded. Dr. Talbot was also president of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA). He had met and married Audrey Hogue while pastoring a Congregational church in Paris, Texas.

The story of Dr. Louis Talbot’s activities in Los Angeles is impressive. He came to a church of 1,200 discouraged members and left it with 3,500 and the future bright. He came to a debt of over a million dollars and left the church free from debt and with thousands of dollars raised on new promotional enterprises. He extended the missionary program to where literally hundreds of American missionaries and native workers circle the globe, supported by this great church. There were 300 students in the Bible Institute when he arrived but there were more than a thousand when he finished. His ministry over the air was phenomenal.

Billy Graham wrote in the Foreword to Talbot’s biography, “Dr Louis Talbot was one of the spiritual giants of this generation. As pastor, Bible teacher, author and educator he influenced not only me but thousands of theological students and pastors. His faithfulness to the infallibility of the Scriptures and the gospel has been an inspiration to me for many years” (For This I Was Born, by C. Talbot).

A Talbot quote which sums up his evangelical conviction says, “Whether or not one believes in its reality, the resurrection of Christ is of vital consequence to every person on earth. It is the “touchstone of destiny” for all mankind.”

After many years as president of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, Louis Talbot died on 22 January, 1976.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.