Eaglen, Robert (1815-1893)
Robert was born on 15 November 1815 at Saham Toney, Norfolk, to parents John Eaglen and Esther Boreham. He had the benefit of a basic education at a local school. By God’s providence, Robert’s attention was awakened by the conversion of his sister, Mary Ann Eaglen, under Robert Key’s ministry in 1832. Such was the change in her, that it caused her brother to attend many of the evangelistic meetings, too, as an earnest seeker. His moment of awakening began through the kindness of a recently converted farmer, who saw the anxiety on this young man’s face. He invited him to his home for tea, and during the meal he explained to him the way of salvation. It is not uncommon for the newly-saved to want to share their faith with others, and it is a fact that many a conversion began with a meal.
Robert first became a prayer leader, and was then invited by Robert Key to the September 1832 Preachers’ Quarterly Meeting, where he was introduced as follows: “There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes. He will now address you.” By then, he was but seventeen years old; and yet his preaching proved itself by a number of converts, which led in due course to his becoming an itinerant minister.
Robert was preaching in Colchester on 6 January 1850. In the congregation was Charles Haddon Spurgeon, aged 16, who was converted that day. Spurgeon went on to become a renowned Baptist preacher.
Danzy Sheen, who wrote his obituary, described Robert as “below average stature, and until about forty years of age, remarkably thin, pale and hollow-looking”. His health was never particularly good, so much so that it was said in his obituary that there were occasions when his physical sufferings made him unable even to stand in the pulpit. In due course the strain brought about his reluctant superannuation in 1872. He became active again some three years later.
The net increase of souls brought to the Lord under his ministry was 1,072.
Robert married Maria de Redder (1815-1893) in 1844 in the Swaffham Registration District, Norfolk. Records identify five children.
- Martha Maria (1846-1909) – married Nathan Playle Rickard, a shoemaker and book agent
- Mary Elizabeth (1846-1928) – married Danzy Sheen, a PM Minister
- Abigail de Redder (1848-1934) – married Frederick Broughton Paston, a PM Minister
- Frederick William de Redder (1850-1862)
- Elizabeth de Redder (1852-1854)
Robert died on 24 September 1893 at Manchester.
- 1837 Rockland (6 mths)
- 1837 Swaffham (12 mths)
- 1838 N Walsham (18 mths)
- 1840 Peterborough
- 1842 Rockland
- 1843 Upwell
- 1844 Saffron Walden
- 1846 Brentwood
- 1848 Maidstone
- 1850 Ipswich
- 1851 Swaffham
- 1853 Thetford
- 1855 Stowmarket
- 1857 Yarmouth
- 1861 Ely
- 1864 Wisbech
- 1866 Cambridge
- 1868 Fakenham
- 1871 Aylsham
- 1872 Yarmouth (S)
- 1875 Hull lV (Ac)
- 1878 Leeds lll
- 1881 Leicester lll
- 1886 Fakenham
- 1888 Scarborough
- 1891 Middleton (S)
- 1893 Manchester lV
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1863 (portrait); 1895/225
PM Minutes 1894/13
H B Kendall, Origin and History of the PM Church, vol 2, p239
B A Barber, A Methodist Pageant, 1932, p78
W Leary,Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits , 1990
Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers