The national charity with a Rushden HQ which gives children hope

Charles Spurgeon
Charles Spurgeon

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Spurgeons, a charity based in Rushden which has supported thousands of vulnerable and disadvantaged children in England.

It is one of the UK’s leading children’s charities, and in the past year has delivered more than 80 services, coming into contact with more than 37,000 children and 64,000 parents or carers.

A girls' netball team

A girls' netball team

As the charity marks its 150th anniversary, it is holding its inaugural Every Child Week from September 24 to 30.

The theme of the week is hope and people are being urged to make a pledge and give vulnerable children in the UK the chance of a better future.

Ross Hendry, CEO for the charity which has its base in Wellingborough Road, Rushden, said: “We are asking the public to make a pledge to help a child, and that doesn’t have to be monetary. They could pledge to support their local youth group or pledge to spend more time with their grandchildren, we are just asking people to think about what impact they could have with children and make a pledge on it.

“This is our first awareness week.

A classroom in Stockwell in 1929

A classroom in Stockwell in 1929

“It’s about reiterating that Spurgeons is just as relevant now as it was 150 years ago, and perhaps even more so.

“And if people don’t know who we are, we would love for them to find out more, whether it is coming into the office, going on the website or ringing us.”

In 1867 Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon, pictured left, driven by a desire to tackle poverty and injustice, founded his first orphanage in Stockwell.

He wanted to provide vulnerable children with shelter, education and the hope of a better future.

Boys hard at work in lessons in 1926

Boys hard at work in lessons in 1926

He asked God to ‘send some new work and if we need money to carry it on, let us pray that the means also be sent,’ and a few days later, he had a letter from Anne Hillyard offering to give £20,000 to ‘train and educate a few orphan boys.’

Those few orphan boys turned into more than 7,000 boys and girls who were cared for in orphanages in Stockwell, Reigate and Birchington.

But it wasn’t just orphans who were taken in, families and organisations such as churches could apply for a child to be taken in if they felt their care would be better there than at home with their parents for various reasons.

Birchington continued to run as a home until 1977 when the children were moved into foster style homes at several locations.

Christmas carols

Christmas carols

Spurgeons has records dating all the way back to 1867, including admissions, medical records and applications which are stored at the Rushden office.

And while the face of the charity’s work has changed since it was founded, the need is just as great today as it was then.

Last year, the charity ran more than 80 projects across England to support children and parents, including young carers, family support, children’s centres and girls in gangs.

In Northamptonshire, the charity’s Together for Families initiative supports young parents living in isolation to form their own community groups.

And even after 150 years, Mr Hendry believes Mr Spurgeon’s vision is still at the heart of what they do.

She said: “We try to follow what he did, he wanted to make a difference.

“And I think he would be very pleased with what we are doing today.

“There is a lot of pride for what we have achieved so far, but there is also a lot of ambition for what is still to be done.”

The forthcoming Every Child Week is a great opportunity for people to get involved with Spurgeons, including fundraising and volunteering.

Mr Hendry said: “We have seen some great support from the local community and local businesses, but I don’t think enough people are aware of us.

“We would like them to know about us because some of the work we do makes a difference to people that live locally, but also because we think the work we do nationally is hugely important.”

Figures show more than 3.9 million children are living in poverty in the UK today, with about 400,000 classed by child protection services as being in need.

For more information about Spurgeons, call 01933 417388, visit www.spurgeons.org or search for @spurgeons on Facebook or @spurgeonsUK on Twitter.

To find out more about being a fundraising or public speaker volunteer call Sue on 01933 417397 or 07976 811814 or sdennis@spurgeons.org.