Anthony Ashley-Cooper Blesses the Helpless

Anthony Ashley-Cooper, Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, was born in London on April 28, 1801. He was to become the “outstanding Christian layman of the 19th century,” writes JC Pollock in his magnificent biography of this man of God.

Born into aristocracy, young Lord Ashley had his course in life moulded by a godly housekeeper, Maria Mills. When he entered parliament in 1826 he brought his strong evangelical convictions to bear on a variety of social evils.  Child labour … cruelty to workers … “in the mines and the factories, in the prisons and asylums, among the waifs of the cities and the toilers on the rural farms, he effected reforms by which life was simply transfigured. Existence for countless thousands was scarcely tolerable until he came to their relief. He revolutionised the whole industrial world” (Dr FW Boreham).

Lord Shaftesbury became president of the British and Foreign Bible Society and worked alongside such other evangelical bodies as the London Missionary Society and the Church Missionary Society.

At his death, on 1 October, 1885, thousands lined the streets to pay their final respects as the funeral cortege made its way to St Giles’ Church.

The Temperance Society Band played Safe in the Arms of Jesus, and in that vast crowd there were none that doubted that was true of “the poor man’s Earl” – the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury.

A more complete history of Lord Shaftesbury can be found at:

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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:

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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:

Lord Shaftesbury Stands Up for the Abused

This is the day that …Anthony Ashley-Cooper died in 1885 at the age of 84.

Better known as Lord Shaftesbury, he has been described as “the outstanding Christian layman of the 19th century.”

He was born on 28 April 1801 at 24 Grosvenor Square, London, the oldest son of the sixth earl of Shaftesbury. With strong family connections and good academics at Oxford he was well set for a political career. He became Lord of the Admiralty in 1834, but he chose not to run for prominence in any party, in order to more effectively help people in need.

A committed Christian he was active in support of organizations which took the gospel and the Bible to ordinary people, such as the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Church Missionary Society, YMCA and the London City Mission.

His first social cause was the plight of lunatics who were treated most inhumanely. He stuck with that cause and changed the relevant legislation through his life.

His next cause was to limit the working day in mills to 10 hours per day. This was vehemently opposed but he eventually won out. He was a man of action and he strengthened his case on many issues by first-hand investigation of the conditions. He visited hospitals and met many who were maimed and deformed through their working conditions.

He then campaigned against women and children being used in mines. Children as young as four spent 12 hours a day on all fours, pulling carts in the dark. He freed women and any child under 13 years from working in mines.

Then he took on the cause of boys apprenticed to chimney sweeps. Then came education of the neglected poor, leading to the setting up of “ragged schools” through which 10,000 children were assisted in his lifetime.

Then he turned his attention to providing quality housing for underprivileged, creating model villages and establishing thousands of well-equipped homes that were affordable to the working class.

Always the aristocrat he was keen to promote evangelical endeavour where he found it. However he objected to the Salvation Army due to its equal treatment of women in leadership, to which he disagreed. He labelled William Booth as the “antichrist”.

It was he who led the fight against child labour … five year-olds ankle deep in water working pumps in rat-infested mines … children forced to climb and clean chimneys by unscrupulous masters … and the cruelty often inflicted upon small children who worked 12 or 14 hours a day in the mills.

He was chairman of the Ragged Schools Union for 39 years … he supported the newly formed British and Foreign Bible Society … and the Protestant Alliance … and the Church Missionary Society … and the Young Men’s Christian Association (which was Christian in those days!) And more!

On his deathbed he asked for Psalm 23 to be read to him each morning, and “frequently those present heard him murmur his favourite prayer, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus’.”

Don Prout recommends: If you can get hold of a copy of John Pollock’s biography of this great man called Shaftesbury, the Poor Man’s Earl, read it! Or Grace Irwin’s The Seventh Earl is equally fascinating. Or, I Stand Alone by Jenny Robertson.

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 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.