Though baptised in St. Mathias (Church of England) shortly after I was born (...Early Life), following a family argument, my parents moved from Cressington Road (N.16) where I was born to Ashwin St. (E.8).
My father was C of E and my mother a Baptist but both non-practicing, but for my religious education I was sent to Sunday School at Dalston Junction Baptist Church in Ashwin St. immediately opposite to where we now lived.
The chief influence on my life here was Fred Hayes, who was an insurance executive who despite affluence lived in Stoke Newington and was a deacon and Sunday School teacher. At the age of twelve he exorted us grammar school boys to use our education and read St John's Gospel. I expounded chapter 1:1-18 to his satisfaction and to my enlightenment. Karl Marx only managed this at the age of 16. Fred was theologically a liberal but of deep spirituality that conveyed a very firm but reflective faith in the world to come.
As a result, I was re-baptised as an adult (1953), knowing nothing of a Catholic theology of baptism at that time. Dalston Baptist Church has long closed, but I thank God that a Pentecostalist community has now continued Christian worship there, with a great and committed Christian congregation, the children of immigrants originally from the (British) West Indies.
About one year later, Brian Peek arrived back at the Church returning from National Service (in Singapore) and declared his evangelical conversion (remember that Fred Hayes had been a liberal), and at the age of 13-14 I became an ardent Fundamentalist under his influence. Fred remonstrated with me on the morality of defending the massacre of the Canaanites recorded in the book of Joshua, and the obvious challenge to a too simplistic view of divine inspiration. With Brian I joined the Plymouth Brethren, urging the rest of his youth group to do the same.
Thus Brian joined me (I left the Baptists first) at Maberly Hall (Crossway N.16), which was to close in 1986.
The attraction I suppose derived in part from the general social and political atmosphere of a world under the shadow a mushroom cloud.
John Nelson Darby
The future of the world seemed apocalyptic and so did psychologically the fundamentalist remedy: Christ's Second Coming must be immanent as the great Brethren proponent of the Rapture had taught.
But the influence on both myself and Brian had come from his work colleague, Reg Smith, when both had worked as clerks for paints. Saturdays and Sunday afternoons were taken up with trips to Enfield and the suburbs, where I experienced the opposite of poverty of the East End of London: here was a semi detached house with a bathroom and country walks around the part at Forty Hall etc. Reg had fascinating stories of his experiences as a Japanese prisoner of war. He also instilled middle class values: respectable job, mortgage through saving for a deposit. This I suppose was my experience of one version of a liberation theology!
But never underestimate the power of a classical education, beginning with Latin and Greek and going on to philosophy and history, to produce an individual renaiscence in a young mind! (See Life: Cambridge and Plymouth Brethren Experience).
Allen Brent left Holy Trinity Church of England Primary School (Beechwood Road, Dalston E.8) in 1952. It had been a period of recovery in which the Second World War was still remembered. The Election of 1950 saw Labour's landslide of 1945 dramatically reversed (with an ungovernable majority of only 5). In a soon to-follow-Election (1951) Churchill was returned to power with an overall majority of 17.
The first effect felt by a boy of 11 was the removal of rationing by the Conservative Government with the result that sweets became generally available.
But it was also the era of an escallating Cold War with an iron curtain descending upon Europe and the development of nuclear weapons that initiated a three decades whose mood was set by an environment of CND protests.
This was the period of that great British educational success, the Grammar School, that was to have proven to have been the sure route of social mobility for working class children in the deprivation of London's East End.
Central Foundation was the creation (1865) of Revd William Rodgers, Rector of St Botolph's Bishopsgate, for the sons of skilled workmen to prepare them for entry to business, the professions and university.
It was an opportunity to which the young Brent failed spectacularly to take up with any enthusiasm. The problem might have been his obsession with Christian fundamentalism during his teens, as described in the right hand (blue) column.
Brent left Grammar School at the age of 16, in 1957, with only three '0' levels in English Language, English Literature, and Religious Knowledge.
As a result, he began as a clerk, first with the Bank of India, Moorgate, London E.C.2 (1957-1959) and then with the Legal and General Assurance Society in the Aldwych, London W.C.4 (1959-1960).
During this period, he became interested in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Religious Knowledge, pursuing these initially through evening classes and a correspondence college (Wolsey Hall, Oxford), and then full time (for Latin and Greek) at the Northwestern Polytechnic then in Prince of Wales Road, Kentish Town (1960-1961). It was in 1959 that he applied to Emmanuel College, Cambridge and was given a place for 1961 when he matriculated.
Coronation Golden Coach
Suez Aerial Photograph
U2 Spy Plane
Those years had been marked by three memorable events, the Coronation of Elizabeth II, the Suez Crisis, and the crisis over the shooting down of the American U2 reconiscence (spy) plane over the Soviet Union, that threatened a Third World War with an inevitable nuclear exchange.