The outstanding exhibition celebrating the life of John Newton (1725-1807) will be on at Thurrock Museum in the Grays Library-Thameside Theatre complex from Saturday 18 February to Saturday 10 March.
The exhibition is coming to Thurrock having been on display at the Salvation Army International Headquarters in London for the past few weeks (see poster).
John Newton was not the eccentric sackcloth-and-ashes character as depicted in the film which bears the name of the song we all know him for, Amazing Grace, which is actually about the life of his great parliamentary contemporary William Wilberforce, as this thoroughly researched exhibition shows.
But his name is nevertheless associated first and foremost with the struggle to abolish slavery, and Newton’s conversion to Christianity (he rediscovered his childhood faith through a series of incidents) opened his eyes to the trade he was involved in. It was Newton who gave Wilberforce the advice not to go into the church but to be the church’s voice of conscience in Parliament. The struggle was to last their entire lives.
Of particular interest to us here in Thurrock is Newton’s early life in the Parish of Aveley, living down near the River Thames’s Long Reach on the site of what is now the RSPB Centre on Rainham Marshes. He lived there with his step-mother while his father was away at sea.
On 10 March, a plaque will be unveiled at the RSPB Centre in recognition of that fact. There will be a short service and speeches. All are invited!
Relatives of the Newton’s stepmother are buried at and have memorials on the floor of St Micheal’s Parish Church in Aveley Village. The name of John Newton also has links with Stratford, now host to the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games.
The exhibition has been put together by Marylynn Rouse of The John Newton Project. For more information on Newton’s life, please see this excellent website:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.