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Saturday, 16 February 2019


Gawin Kirkham - The Open Air Evangelist

Gawin Kirkham - The Open-Air Evangelist
After 11 years away from the UK - It was a wonderful blessing to return again - Josi, Dorothy
 and myself were able to travel back last December and stayed till February the 4th. What a 
joy it was to spend Christmas and the New Year in London and then travel up to North 
Shropshire in January. During our stay in London and seeing well known sights and places - 
I decided to go and visit the grave of the esteemed Open-Air Evangelist - Gawin Kirkham....
Some of you may be wondering why on earth would you want to do this!? Before I write 
further may I just mention a little about who Gawin Kirkham was:

Gawin Kirkham, along with being Secretary of the Open-Air Mission was an Open-Air 
evangelist. and would use a picture called the Broad and Narrow Way as the theme for 
his message........ The designer a Mrs Charlotte Reihlen from Stuttgart.

Before visiting the cemetery where Gawin Kirkham was buried. I asked cemetery staff where his grave was and if they could help.  Which they kindly did and located his grave and took a couple of photos. They had to remove a lot of ivy which had overgrown it over the years and it was located in one of the oldest parts of the cemetery which didn't have many visitors. 
When I finally visited the cemetery on a rather chilly December day....I didn't know what I would find or what I needed to do, but I managed to find the grave and decided to clean it up the best I could.  If one reads the biography "Gawin Kirkham Open-Air Evangelist," by Frank Cockrem. It is interesting to note the last Chapter, the very last words Gawin Kirkham spoke before going to his heavenly reward recorded, and also written on his headstone :


It was such a blessing to see! - Right to the very end Gawin Kirkham was proclaiming 
the Everlasting Gospel...even his headstone is preaching the good news, how sinners can 
find salvation in Jesus Christ!

(I still need to clean the headstone more - the ivy has left marks and probably needs 
professional help - I only had a few hours to do what you see here)

To explain more about who Gawin Kirkham was. In many ways he was the Apostle of 
Street preaching - A Gospel Pioneer of his age and saw it his calling and mission to preach
 in the Open-Air and helped raise up an army of street preachers. Along with this, he also saw 
it his calling to preach the message of the picture "The Broad and Narrow Way". He had 
various sizes of pictures painted - until the final picture 12ft x 9ft was made. He spent years preaching with this, travelling the length and breadth of the UK and also visited Europe and 
beyond with the picture. Making use of the latest printing technology he had printed
attractive colour lithographs of the picture for the public to purchase. It sold in thousands 
and took the picture to the 4 corners of the earth, even though Gawin Kirkham passed
away 1892 - many of those prints still make their presence felt around the world..
adorning homes and arresting the attention of young and old alike.  
My Great Auntie - Florence E Swindells, had an old copy hanging in her home, and 
would sometimes share about the picture and its effect. To help us understand the
 value of the picture we need to share something which is from the Gawin Kirkham's 
biography written by Frank Cockrem. It will give some idea of the impact this 
visual aid had during the Victorian age:

” These tours in country districts, day by day, exhibiting and explaining his pictorial 
treasure, yielded rich harvests of interest and blessing. Many received the truth 
through eye-gate, whose ears had long been deaf to the message of the Gospel. 
They saw themselves in “the way that leadeth to destruction,” and, trembling, 
prayed, repented, and were saved. Thus a marvelous  link of affection bound 
Mr. Kirkham to his picture, and the cumbrous luggage lost its burdensomeness
in the sure conviction of its usefulness." 
 Gawin Kirkham - The Open-Air Evangelist

Remembrance today....
The photo above gives some idea how overgrown the area is around the grave....there really are grave stones in there....but buried under ivy and overgrown........time passes and also it would seem the families and loved ones connected with them. It is a shame many in the Church today probably don't know someone so esteemed..... Someone who in his lifetime did so much to raise up an army of street preachers, and under whose leadership the Open-Air Mission reached a membership over a thousand. In those days throughout Britain - it was a very common sight to see street preaching - bringing the message of the Gospel to the lost. Sadly in Britain today - it may not be quite so common a sight as it once was.

But in a quiet corner of a cemetery in North London - Gawin Kirkham is still preaching....