Salvation Army History

By Major David Radford

‘East London Christian Mission’ to ‘The Salvation Army’

The Salvation Army evolved from an earlier organisation called The Christian Mission. This itself had begun life as The East London Christian Mission.

In 1865 William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army, linked up with a group of Christians who were holding Christian meetings in a large tent they had set up on a Quaker Burial Ground in the east end of London. William Booth noticed them while they were having an outdoor service beside the Blind Beggar public house in Whitechapel. He was as impressed by them as they were with him. Soon he was their main preacher but after the tent blew down in a storm the group were left without anywhere to meet. The problem, however, was soon resolved. The East London Christian Mission, as they called themselves, hired a small dance hall and held its meetings there. Before long the mission was holding its meetings in other parts of Britain and more people join it. Eventually, the ‘East London’ was dropped from its name. They met anywhere they could including rooms in houses, a pigeon loft, old theatres, music halls, even meeting in a room created under a railway arch.

In 1878 following a chance remark by William Booth in conversation with his son Bramwell and the Christian Mission Secretary George Scott Railton, The Salvation Army was adopted as the new name for The Christian Mission. And that year, the first ‘officer’ arrived in Boston. His name was Job Clare and the first meetings took place in a rag warehouse in Cheney Street. Within a year they were meeting in the Corn Exchange (site of Mark’s and Spencer, Market Place, Boston) before, in 1890 moving into its own Citadel in the High Street, formerly the High Street Mill.

Boston Corps and the Corn Exchange

The Corn Exchange was home to the Salvation Army in Boston for many years. It was here in May 1880 that General William Booth presented to the corps its first flag. The Boston Guardian, in its report, said that the hall was a little over half full. Alderman Wiggleswade took the chair on this occasion. The officer at the time, Captain Josiah Parsons Taylor, who had been imprisoned just a few months earlier for obstructing the Market Place while holding an open-air public meeting, accompanied the singing with his ‘Hallelujah concertina’ helped by Mr Sheard, who played a cornet. The vocal soloist was Mrs Wilson of Grimsby. The collection, said the Boston Guardian, was most satisfactory.

Mr Pishey Thompson wrote that the Corn Exchange consisted of a spacious hall, 93 feet long by 49 feet 6 inches wide and 28 feet high to the eaves and 43 feet to the crown of the roof. It also contained a committee room, two waiting rooms and offices. The roof of the hall was glazed with strong plate-glass with a rough surface. The ornamental groins, pediment sand cornices of the western front were of fine Ancaster stone, and it was entered by a flight of nine steps of superior Yorkshire stone. The hall was well warmed and ventilated. It was said to be well adapted for musical entertainments, giving full effect to both the voice and the instruments of the orchestra. On such occasions gas lamps brilliantly illuminated the hall.

The Boston Athenaeum, home of the Public Library and Mechanics Institution, was built in front of the Corn Exchange. On the ground floor were a shop and the gateway both to it and the Corn Exchange. The first floor contained a reading room and library with a lecture room and a room for apparatus and instruments on the second floor. When the Salvation Army started to use the building it was about 25 years old. Today the site of the Athenaeum and the Corn Exchange is occupied by the Marks & Spencer store.

The Captain and the Unfriendly Angel

When Captain Josiah Parsons Taylor attempted to hold an outdoor religious service on Fish Hill, Boston, right outside the Angel public house (now Martha’s Vineyard), the publican objected. The police were called and the Captain was arrested. He was tried and the magistrates found him guilty. Because Captain Taylor refused to pay the fine imposed, he was sentenced to do time in Spalding prison. The Salvation Army’s new weekly paper, The War Cry, carried the story it its very first editions. After his released the Captain returned to Fish Hill where he and his lieutenant continued to hold outdoor services. The Salvation Army continued to hold such services each Sunday evening until the High Street was pedestrianised over a hundred years later!

The War Cry: 27 December 1879 – lead story in first edition ‘Boston – Prosecution and Acquittal of Captain Taylor’

Boston is a pretty quiet town. It does not like to be disturbed. Especially some of it. Captain Taylor has disturbed it all. They wish him and his corps far enough away from Cheney Street, where our barracks stand; and he went far enough, even into the Market Place, where, generally speaking people tolerate even herds of cattle. But it seems that even in the Market Place of Boston The Salvation Army is intolerable.

It so happened that the Boston Market Place is commanded, shall we say, by an Angel; not to be sure, the sort of Angel that rejoices over one repenting sinner; but the sort of Angel that is supported by sinners who have not repented. Now the landlord of the Angel has a mother-in-law, and, according to his evidence on oath, this mother-in-law lives in the Angel, and has been very ill. Under these circumstances it would appear, on the same evidence, that the noise of The Salvation Army produced such an effect upon her, that her affectionate son-in-law, and his family, “could scarcely keep her in bed”. Who could wonder that on such distressing circumstances “all the neighbours round” the Angel should have “been to” the landlord to get him “to get a petition up,” even though not one of them might be enterprising enough to get up such a petition themselves? Well, the petition was got up; but someone had the curiosity to go round the Market Place and enquire what the wishes of the residents there were, with the result that 12 were in favour of the services being continues; 7 could not say a word against them and 8 considered them a nuisance. No wonder that the upon the unfortunate landlord of the Angel fell the burden of getting up a petition and a prosecution.

But, strange to relate, this affectionate son-in-law not only allowed persons to drink and smoke on his premises whilst his mother-in-law was very ill, but actually has “singing and dancing” there! Now really, this was rather inconsiderate of him. But the gentle, kitten-like tone and demeanour of all who came under the influence of the Angel, with the exception of the mother-in-law who could scarcely be kept in bed, may be judged from the fact that when The Salvation Army were holding service outside, the landlord says “we could scarcely hear each other speak in my house”. To such gentle customers, who could be surprised that our “singing or praying or whatever you might call it, is a nuisance.” Whether it was the struggles of the mother-in-law, or the protests of his customers, whose voices he scarcely could hear, that most moved the landlord, we are not told; but, at any rate, [it] induced [this] landlord to appeal to the Bench (magistrates), and the Bench to ordered The Salvation Army to cease firing (stop holding services) in the Market Place. But The Salvation Army did not cease firing, and Captain Taylor was summoned for causing an obstruction. This brought up one Mr Hirst, a Methodist Free Church minister, to stand by Captain Taylor, and he too was summoned.

When the cases were heard there was a most interesting discussion amongst the magistrates as to the way in which the order to stop preaching in the Market Place had been issued. Only think, what would become of our country and of all our mother-in-law, if there should ever come a time when Benches of Magistrates would not grant any Order that might be desired by a publican! Boston has not come to that yet. Let Boston drink, and dance, and sing, while the precious opportunity lasts, for the day may come when the Bench of Boston will make no Order, even to oblige a publican’s mother-in-law whom, “one of the gentlemen on the bench has been attending.”

Well the Order was issued, and, in spite of the Order, Captain Taylor went and held his service just as if he had been an Apostle. But when it came to punishing him for his disobedience, “the magistrates, after carefully weighing the evidence, have come to this conclusion; that in this particular instance, as you have stated, there was no preaching, and you were there for a very short time for the purpose of giving out a hymn, and were about to retire when the constable spoke to you; the case is dismissed. But for the future we cannot allow an obstruction to take place either in the Market Place or elsewhere”.

Now, we have greatest pleasure in supporting the decision of the Boston Magistrates. Let Captain Taylor beware never to preach again, either outdoors or in. We only wish all our officers simply to pray, and sing, and make announcements, “or whatever you call it” loud enough, and long enough, to prevent people who go to public houses from hearing each other speak in the house; and let the announcements be such as, under the mighty power of God, will be a nuisance to everybody who wants to continue in sin.

It may be possible, according to the letter of some bye-law, to obstruct a market place; though any child’s knowledge of facts can scarcely be conceived of. It may be possible still to find magistrates who will enforce such bye-laws against us as the request of a publican. But it is impossible to find a population of Englishmen who will allow such persecutions long to prevail against us if we bravely endure and bravely advance. To many a good open-air [service] stand there is only one road, which lies though the prison cell. The Salvation Army is marching along [it]! We trust Captain Taylor will manage, as he says to avoid obstruction “as much as possible.” We know he will use the 61st [Boston Corps] in such a way as to be a nuisance to every publican in Boston. May, rather may the Lord so bless their efforts that the 61st may have the joy of leading the landlord of the Angel, with his mother-in-law, and many another to glory [Heaven]; for we wish no publican any worse fate than to go into that kingdom from which so many of its own children shall be shut out.

The War Cry: 24 January 1880

The Magistrates all met together, and told Josiah not to go out to hold open services any more in any part of the town. But Josiah says, “We went yesterday. We were not very well. Neither Brother Jackson nor myself. Three open-airs not interfered with by the police, but some man threatened to summons us. Good congregations.”

God bless, guide, and protect Josiah and his lieutenant.

The War Cry: Editorial Comment: 24 January 1880

It is a curious fact that the very paper which announced the Boston magistrates decision entirely to stop our open-air work [outdoor services] in their town (if they can) reproduced the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire’s report on Crime &c, for 1879, showing an increase of more than 11 per cent in the convictions of the year over 1978. We should very much like to know by what means (if any) the magistrates propose to reverse this advancing tide of criminality. Will the treatment of our officers as felons assist? If in a year, when slackness of trade, failing harvests and low wages combined to lessen the possibilities of drunkenness and crime there was, nevertheless, an increase of 11 per cent, were is the country going to in ordinary or in prosperous times? Is it not time for somebody to do something? We think it is, and we mean to, and God means to help us.

327 strikes in 1879 – being 50 more than in 1878, and 135 more than in 1877. We all thought 1879 was a very poor year, work scarce, money scarce, corn scarce, everything scarce; but there were more strikes than ever. It seems, the less the work, the more strikes. So it is, at any rate in the religious world. If you don’t want people to get gossiping and disputing keep them hard at work. If you don’t want your own soul to get listening to the devil, and doubting, questioning, and disputing with the Heavenly Master, keep it always following hard after him. He’ll keep the fire blazing at its hottest, and pay you on an every rising scale; if you will only be a constant hand to Him.

The War Cry: 31 January 1880
‘Boston
Sympathy In The Town
Captain Taylor’s Welcome From Prison
Great Meeting In The Market Place’

Much sympathy was manifested with Captain Taylor as soon as the arbitrary action of the magistrates became known. Prayer was offered in the pulpits of the various chapels on the Sabbath, and two of the denominations passed resolutions at their official meetings condemnatory of the action of the magistrates and in sympathy with the Captain. Those resolutions have been published in the local paper, which has the fullest description of the whole affair. We would like to make extracts, but we have not space. We must give, however, the last letter we have from the captain himself which will show, we think, that the matter is tending to the furtherance of the Gospel:-

“As the train ran into the station, I found a large crowd waiting for me, and so I stepped out of the carriage amidst shouts of Hallelujah, Praise the Lord, and Glory be to God, and away we went marching through the streets singing songs of salvation. Hundreds followed and preceded us; the people rushed to their doors to see what was the matter; everywhere the cry rang, “Taylor is released from jail and will conduct a meeting in the Corn Exchange this evening.” At night we had a large audience.

On Saturday night, as we were not permitted to preach in the Market Place, we hired a stand and bringing up a supply of The War Cry, we started to sell and preach salvation at the same time.

We had a great time. Hundreds of people flocked around our trade and us was good that we felt bound to keep on for two hours and sold about 300 papers. We took our persecutors by surprise. Hallelujah; a meeting was carried on in the hall at the same time! Brother Jackson and myself would take it in turns. I would publish the paper to talk about Jesus and while I was resting and taking breath he would go in, and for two hours we held the greatest crowd to be found in the Market Place. Hallelujah!

Yesterday was a grand day. Corn Exchange full last night: five souls, £1.0s.2d offering. The night I was charged with causing an obstruction we had three souls. The night I was tried and convicted and taken to the lock-up, three more decided for Christ in our hall; and while I was in the lock-up I heard our people singing through the streets and with much earnestness that stirred my soul. In the past week God has blessed us: Wednesday one soul, Thursday two souls, Friday one soul. Glory be to God. Yesterday we marched all about the town and around the place. People rushed to their doors and to the street corners to see and hear us.

Last night I related my experiences of three days in Spalding Gaol; and told them that before I went to gaol I had to be tried, and that I had witnesses to appear for me; and I told them at Judgement Day, if unsaved, no witnesses would appear for them. I told them of the sentence: which was to pay or go to prison; but I told them if unsaved, they would have no chance of paying nor anyone to sympathise with them at last, but the sentence would be, “Depart.” &c. Then I reminded them that Spalding Goal reminded me of that eternal prison, because there was equality of punishment; we were treated alike.

I was deprived of communication with friends. I asked the governor if I could write a letter and he said, “No, you have the money to pay, and you cannot write.” But other parts of my treatment were a great contrast. I was deprived of every luxury for the body. I had to sleep on the boards with a wooden pillow, which caused me pain in the back. I could not eat the skillet [food from a metal cooking pot], so that I had to subsist on the dark (nearly black) bread and water. My employment was to wash out and keep my cell and utensils clean, and to pick oakum [recycling of old rope], but I told them if they did not repent they would not only be deprived of every luxury; but cast into the pit of fire and brimstone &c.

I enjoyed peace with God while there, but still they still would not. My memory gave me joy; in hell it would cause sorrow. I was only there three days but hell would be for ever.

Hallelujah. God came down and I liberated dear souls from the prison house of sin.”

Captain Josiah Parsons Taylor

Commanding Officer of Boston Corps 1879-1880.

Arrested for causing people to ‘congest the Market Place’, Boston during an open-air service and confrontation with the publican of the Angel, Fish Hill. Imprisoned for refusing to pay the fine imposed by the local magistrates. The incident was headlines news in the first edition of the new Salvation Army weekly paper, The War Cry.

He married Kate Watts, one of several women officers working in the north of England. After leaving Boston, was promoted to Major and appointed as one of The Salvation Army’s first seven divisional commanders, with responsibility for the Lancashire Division.

He later moved to New Zealand where he helped pioneer the work of The Salvation Army among the Maori Tribes.

Boston Corps and the Local Press

A view of The Salvation Army as reported in the Boston Guardian, November 1893

When William Booth visited Boston in November 1893, he preached in the Wesleyan Reform Chapel in Pump Square as the guest of Alderman Lammie. He took as his subject the Bible character of Zaccheaus. The Boston Guardian, who sent a reporter to the service, quoted part of the address. William Booth, the report goes, said that people lived two lives, one a secular, worldly business life, and the other a religious life. Sometimes they were in the parlour and sometimes in the kitchen. They went into the religious world on Sunday morning if it was fine, but if wet or they thought they had a cold, they kept in bed. They seem to look on ‘salvation’ as a suit of clothes.

However, the readers of the Guardian were not to be treated to the rest of the talk. This quote was enough to provide the Guardian reporter with an angle for a story. With great journalistic skill he took the idea of the contradictory way of life William Booth was describing and applied it directly to Booth and the Salvationist.

“There is a good deal of mist and fog nowadays about what the Salvationist mean”, he wrote. What William Booth was saying was, “characteristic nonsense”. The Salvationists were on their best religious behaviour one minute and the next moment they were exactly the opposite. Referring to William Booth’s wish that the Salvation Army only want people who possessed religion, he observed that some of “the biggest rascals that every disgraced the earth” go to their meetings. And as for William Booth “wanting to see downright happy people”, this was not supported by the evidence. But what was the alternative?

There was none. This kind of contradictory behaviour was the only kind of behaviour to be expected from such people, he concluded. “What, otherwise, was to become of the Salvation Army, who didn’t go to the theatre, or smoke, or dance, or act charades, or any other sort of Christmas tomfoolery, [except] to be seized with a sort of melancholy monomania… They liked to laugh in religion and, of course, are on their best behaviour in such a respectable place” as the Wesleyan Chapel in Pump Square, he continued. But his readers should really see them when they were “loose” – the “theatre has nothing on it!”.

Boston Salvation Army and Some Local Residents

At the beginning of August 1884, a certain John Gask and 57 others delivered a petition to the local magistrates asking them to take action against The Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army were “singing and playing noisy instruments” in the streets on Sundays. This was causing an annoyance and the petitioners were demanding that it be stopped immediately.

After considering the matter, the magistrates instructed the police superintendent to visit the new “salvation captain” and remind him of some earlier arrangements. If he did not comply, and musical instruments continued to be played in the streets on Sundays, then a summons would be issued and proceedings taken “to ensure a conviction”.

A Salvation Army Funeral, Spalding 1922

The Salvation Army refers to a Salvationist who has died, as being ‘promoted to Glory’. The funeral service is seen as a time of thanksgiving to God for the life of the person and instead of draping their flag in black, a white ribbon attached to its top. The following is an account of a funeral service that took place in Spalding in October 1922.

Her name was Envoy Starling although she was better known as Hallelujah Nancy. She died on 18 October 1922 of cancer. A Lieut-Colonel Cheadle and five Salvation Army officers assisted at her funeral service, including the divisional commander. The service was held outside the house where she had died and she was carried, at her request, on the White Hart Hotel’s travellers hand cart to the cemetery. The cart was draped in purple and white muslin. Music was provided by Farcet Corps band.

However this was not the end. Farcet Band stayed on for the weekend that included a public tea on the Saturday, and afternoon festival of music on the Sunday chaired by C.A. Banks, chairman of the local council. The corps hired the Co-op hall for the Sunday evening memorial service that was attended by more than 300 people. This service was preceded by a slow march through the town. Just a week after her passing, the War Cry was carrying a full report of the funeral and the memorial weekend with a photograph of the Envoy. An extra 120 copies were sold in Spalding and Holbeach public houses.