Collyer, William Bengo


(originally ‘Bengow’), b Deptford, Kent (SE London) 1782, d Chislehurst, Kent 1854. Educated at Homerton Coll. At the age of 18 he began preaching at the Congregational Chapel on the corner of Peckham High St and what is now Rye Lane. Founded in 1657 and giving its name to Meeting House Lane, the congregation moved to its new premises nearby in 1714, but by 1800 had declined to consist of some 10 members after an ‘unsound’ ministry. The following year Collyer became the pastor; two new galleries added in 1816 became insufficient, and the building was demolished to be replaced by a new one seating 1000. It became known as Hanover Chapel (another title preserved in street names) owing to its popularity with at least two dukes—of Kent and Sussex—of the royal House of Hanover. A further enlargement took place in 1846, by which time Collyer was known as one of London’s leading Free Church preachers; on one occasion he contributed to the Evangelical Magazine in defence of his rhetorical preaching style. He took a great interest in amateur medicine and wrote many doctrinal and other Christian books. He died at no.5 Rye Lane after more than 50 years as pastor. Collyer Place, a small turning off Peckham High St, preserves his name locally; so does a small plaque on the site, and several publications of the Peckham Society and its editor and historian, the Methodist John D Beasley. Dr F J Falding in Julian describes the considerable variety of Collyer’s hymns, and praises him as ‘a man of amiable disposition, polished manners, and Christian courtesy, popular with rich and poor alike’. His best-known lines have a long history in Baptist books such as John Stevens’ Selection, which also features his hymn ‘At the Choice of Deacons’; ‘To serve the table of the Lord,/ provide a portion for the poor,/ and to the preachers of the word/ their rightful maintenance insure’! see also the notes on no.886 (in EP1) and on its author H K White, below. Collyer’s 10 stzs on White, his junior by 3 years, were inscribed ‘Blackheath Hill, 24th June 1808’. No.962*.

Hymns and songs by Collyer, William Bengo

Number Hymn Name
962 Great God, what do I see and hear