The Early Years

Charles Thompson was born in London on 20th May 1841 to Christian parents who strove to observe the precept "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." His father worked for H M Customs & Excise, and at a very early age the family moved to Liverpool where they stayed for a while and then on to Knutsford and Stafford where he received a good education at Stafford Grammar School.

After leaving school he worked for two years at a grocery store in Hanley. However, because of concern over his health it was considered that a change of air would prove beneficial, and accordingly he chose Birkenhead as the place where he could "inhale the balmy ozone and health-giving breeze!" It was his intention to come to Birkenhead for one month only and then return to Hanley, but he decided to stay and make this his home and he entered employment with a certain Mr Cole, in whose employment he remained for the next 20 years. Initially he worshipped at the Presbyterian Church in Conway Street, Birkenhead where Rev. Lundie was the minister (biographer of that great Liverpool Philanthropist, Alexander Balfour, whose statue is in the gardens behind St George's Hall). From there he settled in Oxton Congregational Church, in Balls Road, Oxton, which is now the home of Wirral Christian Centre.

Former Oxton Congregations Church (now Wirral Christian Centre)


It was at this church that his work for the children may be said to have practically commenced when he undertook to teach a number of lads, who very much appreciated his interest in them.

In 1867 at the age of 25 years he married Esther Shelley, a member of a well-known family in Staffordshire, and a direct descendent of the famous poet Percy Shelley. They had eight children, of which six of them survived. Over the following years of their married life she proved to be an excellent co-worker in the work to which he became involved and very much shaped his love for the poor and oppressed people of Birkenhead.