Alfred Sturge : biography
He began to preach in the villages around Plymouth, and was eventually invited to become pastor of the church at Modbury. After some hesitation he accepted the call, and finally abandoned business for the life of a Christian minister. After several years at Modbury, a Mr. Page of Plymouth asked him to become the pastor of the Baptist Church at Madras in India. He worked there for four years, but found the climate too oppressive for his young growing family.
On returning to England, he resided for some time with his uncle, Thomas Sturge of Northfleet, and became known in the neighboring town of Dartford, where he assisted the pastor of the Congregational Church. After the death of that pastor, he established a Baptist church in that growing town on April 7, 1867 which met in the Working Men’s Institute. The work was so successful, that a more permanent chapel was constructed in Highfield Street and dedicated on April 20, 1868. The work continued to prosper under his charge, until his retirement in 1886.
His disposition, reputation and influence recommended him to many in the community. He was a member, and for a long time chairman, of the School Board, a member of the Board of Guardians, a governor of the Grammar School, and a helper in the local emigration society.
- Memoirs of Ministers - No 38 Alfred Sturge, pages 212-214 in The Baptist Hand-Book for 1902, edited by Rev. W.J. Avery, Council of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland, London 1901.
- Chronological List - No 426 Dartford Highfield Road, page 203 in The Baptists of London, 1612-1928: Their Fellowship, Their Expansion, with Notes on Their 850 Churches, by WT Whitley, Baptist Historical Society, London ca 1928.
- Minutes of the Members’ Meeting, Ipswich Baptist Church, Ipswich (Qld) 1874.
In his retirement, he was a valued friend and adviser to all the neighboring churches and pastors, becoming known as the “Bishop of West Kent”. He maintained his interest in national and denominational affairs, attending the regular meetings of the London Baptist ministers' fraternal.
The last year of his life was marked by a debilitating weakness, of which he died on January 25, 1901.
Ancestry and early life
Alfred Sturge was born at Bishopsgate in London in 1816.
Alfred came from a family among the Society of Friends from the days of George Fox. His grandfather, Thomas Sturge, was one of the founders of the British and Foreign Bible Society. George Sturge, one of his uncles, left £500,000 to charity, and another uncle, Thomas Sturge, was an intimate friend of Lord Macaulay. Both were active in the movement for the abolition of slavery, as was another of his paternal relatives Joseph Sturge. On his mother’s side, he was descended from a noble French family, and Count Emerie de St. Dalmas was his maternal grandfather, whose eldest son converted to the Protestant Christian faith, and was consequently prevented by the law of those times from inheriting his father’s title and estates.
Alfred was educated at a Quakers’ School, but found the long and sometimes silent meetings very trying, being only a small boy. The visit of some Quaker Missionaries from America seems to have been the chief factor in him committing his life to Christ. On leaving school, he sat under the ministry of Rev. George Clayton (1783–1862), and sometimes heard such men as John Leifchild (1780–1862), an independent minister, and Thomas Binney (1798–1874), a congregational minister. Subsequently he moved to Plymouth, where he sat under the ministry of Samuel Nicholson of the George Street Baptist Church (1845–1941), which he joined when he was about twenty-five years old.
In 1841, Alfred married Margaret Tait Stove, with several children following.
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