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closely packed nests, full to overflowing with dirt, misery, and rags … the inhabitants are chiefly dock-labourers. The other half of the residents are thieves, costermongers, stallkeepers, professional beggars, rag-dealers, brokers, and small tradesmen.”35


ancestors faced in London, their transportation to America was probably one of the luckiest breaks in their lives!


Considering the Church of St. Dunstan’s in the East (formerly known as St. Dunstan by the


Tower) in the parish of Stepney to be the parish church of the baptisms of James and William Spurgeon, the immigrant ancestors who came to America, I was able to uncover, through an antiquarian book seller, an old history of the church. From this book, The Church and Parish of St. Dunstan in the East, Great Tower Street, E.C., Some Account of Its Origin, History and Monuments, I have extracted the following comments and information.36


St. Dunstan’s has a long


history dating to the period of London’s history in the 13th century. Coming down to the 16th century, pew-rents are first introduced in 1567, prices ranging from 6d. to 12d. per quarter per person. Coming closer to the birth of James Spurgeon the effects of Presbyterian feeling (Puritanism) in the early 1600s was strong. St. Dunstan’s had been long known for its music, furniture, and religious plate. In the 1630s a puritan party in the congregation wanted to do away with the organ and any aesthetic side of worship. From 1630 to after the Great Fire of 1666, the organ was not used at St. Dunstan’s. Parish records from 1646 to the period of Restoration reflect the disturbed state of the country, with Cromwell and his Roundheads finally taking over the monarchy with the subsequent beheading of Charles I and the establishment of the Protectorate. 27 November 1655 came out the Protector’s Edict, prohibiting all ministers of the Church of England from preaching or teaching in any schools, and soon the pulpits were filled with untrained and uneducated “Independents and phanaticks.” In 1665, plague swept through London, and in 1666 the Great Fire struck the City. During the plague, infected parishioners were kept from attending public places as well as their churches. Deaths from the plague reached up to 7,000 weekly for three months during this period. From April to the end of June and from July to the end of November, there was not a single marriage in St. Dunstan’s Church, though marriages were numerous before. Ironically, it was the Great Fire that would drive the plague out by literally burning the disease out of the City. The fire broke out in Fish Street or Pudding Lane, within 100 yards of the church and just outside of the parish, on September 2nd. Eighty-five churches in the City and St. Paul’s Cathedral were laid in ashes. Old London disappeared for ever in the fire. In the fire, St. Dunstan’s historic church, with its shrines dating back to Plantaganet and Norman days, was gutted and wrecked. The lead of the steeple had run down in molten rivulets, through Idol Lane and Lower Thames Street, to the river. Every house in the parish was destroyed. Monuments and tablets in the Church were burnt. During the fire the “Grete Boke” of the Vestry, dating back four centuries was lost. In the rebuilding period, the old church was still usable with repairs. The great architect of London, Sir Christopher Wren, who would rebuild St. Paul’s, would draw up the plan for St. Dunstan’s new church. The new church as restored by Wren contained many relics of the old fabric—mullions, tracery, ribs, roses, and gravestones. The new part was the tower and spire built from the ground, now the sole remainder of Wren’s church. The church was completed in 1698, the year James Spurgeon was baptized at the church. In 1720, two years after James and William Spurgeon were transported to America, there was a plane-tree 41 feet high in the


35Ibid., p. 145. 36Arthur G. B. West, “The Church and Parish of St. Dunstan in the East, Great Tower Street, E.C., Some Account of Its Origin, History and Monuments,” (London, n.d.), Simpkin & Co., LTD. From the text I gather the date to be about 1922.


© 1993 Spurgeon Family History by Dr. Gary Alan Dickey, 1546 Devonshire Avenue, Westlake Village, CA 91361 • p. 17


Considering what our Spurgeon


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