John Newton
Author of Amazing Grace

John Newton was born in Wapping, London, in 1725, the son of John Newton Sr, a shipmaster in the Mediterranean service, and Elizabeth Scatliff. In 1734, he went to live in Aveley, the home of his father's second wife.

He was press-ganged into the Royal Navy for a period, and later served on a slave ship. He underwent a religious conversion on a voyage back to England from the West Indies. Despite this, he continued to sail on slave ships for a number of years afterwards.

Following a stroke in 1754, he gave up seafaring, but remained involved in the slave trade. He began to seek a post as a priest and in 1764, he was ordained as a Church of England minister, initially serving at Olney. In later life, he came to regret his part in the slave trade and became an ally of William Wilberforce in campaigning to abolish slavery.

From 1767 onwards, he collaborated with William Cowper in writing many hymns including Amazing Grace, the hymn for which he is best known.

In 2012, a Thurrock heritage plaque to the Reverend John Newton, was unveiled by the then mayor, Charlie Curtis, at the Purfleet Children’s Centre.