Charles Vince was born in 1823 in Farnham, Surrey. In his childhood he attended a local school and became an apprentice to Mason & Jackson, the firm for which his father worked as a carpenter and builder. After a Baptist conversion, Vince entered Stepney College (run by Particular Baptists in London’s East End) in 1848. On being inducted as a minister in 1852, he was assigned to Mount Zion Chapel in Graham Street, Birmingham.
Vince first came to public notice as a supporter of Birmingham’s Civic Gospel in 1866, when he delivered a speech at the mayor’s luncheon. During his speech, Vince expressed a desire – in line with the aspirations of individuals such as George Dawson or Robert Dale – for a new standard of business-
Vince was a strong advocate of public education, and he was a member of a number of bodies that supported this; he sat on the Free Libraries Committee, was a founding member of the Birmingham Education Society in 1867, and a founding executive committee member of the National Education League in 1869. He was a particularly staunch adhered to secular education.
According to the Birmingham Daily Post, Vince was ‘well known as an elegant, persuasive, and most earnest preacher.’ Robert Dale’s son wrote that Vince was a man of ‘genial humour, who always fought smiling’. Such descriptions indicate why Vince was so well respected throughout the country, and why he was not only an accomplished religious preacher but a political speaker, too. Although his vocation denied him a seat on the Town Council, he spoke publicly in support of Liberal party members including George Dawson and Joseph Chamberlain.
Even by the standards of the time, Vince’s death in his early fifties in 1874 was premature, and shocked his Liberal associates. His character and work were praised by a plethora of public figures and in a range of publications.