Stewart Headlam, the son of an Evangelical Christian, was born at Wavertree near Liverpool. After Eton, Headlam went to Cambridge University where he influenced by the ideas of the Christian Socialist, Frederick Denison Maurice. Headlam agreed with Maurice, who taught him moral philosophy at Cambridge, that God's Kingdom on earth would replace a "competitive, unjust society with a co-operative and egalitarian social order."

Headlam was ordained and appointed curate of St. John's Church in Drury Lane. He was shocked by the poverty he witnessed in London and was determined to do all he could to reduce this suffering. In 1873 he moved to St. Matthew's Church, Bethnal Green, where the conditions were even worse than in Drury Lane. The vicar at the church, Septimus Hansard, was another Christian Socialist who influenced the ideas of Headlam.

In his sermons, Headlam attacked the wide gap between rich and poor and warned the working class that they should distrust middle-class reformers. Headlam presented Jesus Christ as a revolutionary and when the Bishop of London, heard about this, he threatened him with dismissal. Headlam refused to change and in 1878 he was sacked.

Headlam now became a vicar without a parish. He established the Guild of St Matthew which soon had 400 members


Stewart Headlam Primary School
Tapp Street, London.