Eyre, John (DNB00)

EYRE, JOHN (1754–1803), evangelical clergyman, son of John Eyre of Bodmin, was born there in January 1754, and baptised on 25 Feb. He was educated in classics by the Rev. John Fisher, master of Bodmin grammar school, and in mathematics by the Rev. Joseph Thorpe, rector of Forrabury and Trevalga, Cornwall, in his private school at Forrabury. When fifteen years old he was apprenticed to Mr. Oliver, a clothier of Tavistock, and soon afterwards began preaching in that town. At the expiration of his term of apprenticeship he returned to his father's business at Bodmin, and preached in his leisure hours in its town hall, at which the father was so much incensed that he drove his son from home without supplying him with the means of living. Through a friend's sympathy Eyre was enabled to enter Lady Huntingdon's college at Trevecca, and under her patronage he ministered at Tregony, Cornwall, Lincoln, and Mulberry Gardens Chapel, London. Though officiating among the dissenters, he desired to take orders in the church of England, and he matriculated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1778. On 30 May 1779 he was ordained deacon by Bishop Lowth, and on 19 Dec. 1779 he was advanced to the priesthood by Bishop Thurlow. He was curate at Weston in 1779, to Cecil at Lewes until 1781, then at St. Giles, Reading, and at St. Luke's, Chelsea, serving in both places under Cadogan until 1785. About Christmas in that year Eyre was appointed minister of Homerton, or, as it was often called after its founder, Ram's Chapel, and he opened a school at Well Street, Hackney. Robert Aspland [q. v.] was one of his pupils, and spoke in high terms of the school, and Daniel Wilson, bishop of Calcutta, was another of the boys taught by him. Eyre was very active in his ministerial duties, and he aided in establishing many of the chief evangelical institutions. The plan of the ‘Evangelical Magazine,’ a joint adventure of church of England and dissenting ministers, the first number of which appeared in July 1793, was matured by him, and he edited and contributed largely to its volumes until 1802. He was one of the founders of the London Missionary Society (1794–5), and he encouraged Edward Hanson in establishing an academy at Idle, Yorkshire, about 1800. A scheme was originated in 1796 by Eyre and others for sending out evangelical preachers to labour in the counties south of London, and from this sprang the Hackney Theological College, opened in 1803. He sometimes admitted lay preachers to his pulpit, and sometimes shortened the liturgy, and Jay says, in his autobiography (p. 173): ‘I remember how it was wondered at, when Mr. Eyre of Homerton, of Calvinistic sentiments, was asked to preach at Mr. Wesley's chapel in Moorfields, and preached without giving offence.’ After a long illness he died on 28 or 29 March 1803, and was buried in a vault on the south side of the communion-table in Homerton Chapel, 5 April, his funeral sermon being preached by Rowland Hill. In November 1785 he married Miss Mary Keene, from near Reading, who died at Well Street, Hackney, 20 June 1827, aged 69, and was buried by her husband's side on 29 June. A memoir of Eyre by the Rev. George Collison, president of Hackney Theological Seminary, appeared in the ‘Evangelical Magazine’ for June and July 1803, and a narrative by the same minister of the foundation, mainly by Eyre, of that institution appeared in the same magazine for 1838. His sermon ‘at the opening of the Countess of Huntingdon's college at Cheshunt’ was published, with other documents relating thereto, in 1792, and in 1808 he was vindicated in a letter to the Bishop of London from ‘some unkind reflection’ passed upon his character and conduct by his successor at Ram's Chapel.

[Robinson's Hackney, ii. 267–9; Evangelical Mag. for 1803, 1805, 1829, 1838, 1848, and 1861; John Morison's London Missionary Society (1844 ed.), pp. 9–46; John Campbell's Maritime Discovery and Missions, pp. 171, 181–200, 536–8; Bennett's Hist. of Dissenters, 1808–38, pp. 136–8; Waddington's Congregational Hist. to 1850, pp. 30, 62–78; Aspland's Robert Aspland, pp. 10–16; Gent. Mag. 1803, pt. i. p. 386; Christian Guardian, xii. 401–2 (1820); Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. iii. 1177–8.]

W. P. C.