The Salvation Army
Persecution Years - Southend-on-Sea The Salvation Army, was founded in 1878, when William Booth changed their name from The Christian Mission and the organisation adopted a military structure and the wearing of uniforms we are so familiar with today. Their doctrine of practical Christianity "soup, soap and salvation" was to be the foundation of their organisation. Having first established themselves nearby at Shoeburyness and Wakering, under the command of a Captain Zeally, the decision was taken in 1883 to include Southend-on-Sea. Their first meetings were held in a laundry in Queens Road. The arrival of this working class evangelical religion was far from welcome. All denominations in the town joined forces to encourage demonstrations against them. During this period, worship was often linked to an individuals social standing. The more educated and affluent citizens of our town, belonged to the established church, those lower down the social scale attended the Congregational church, Cliff Town, in Nelson Road. The labouring classes, if they bothered at all, supported the Methodists or the Peculiar People. Although the Salvation Army held some of their meetings for members inside, they were well known for going into public houses to preach abstinence from alcoholic beverages, and for holding open air meetings. Much to the annoyance of members of the public. In the autumn of 1894, traders had become indignant and voiced their displeasure at their regular meetings held at the High Street end of York Road, every Monday evening. A Mr Cummings took matters further by borrowing a horse and trap and by way of practical protest, commenced to drive through and disrupt the service. His passage back and forth did little to deter the assembled Salvationists. This would not be the last time they would have a form of transport driven through their ranks. As late as 1923, a motorist, one James Weedon, was driving his car up the High Street, when he found his way his way blocked by one of their processions. In a attempt to clear a passage, he, drove his vehicle at the Salvationists, scattering them in all directions. The crowd became hostile, mounted the footboard of the car and dragged out, not the driver, but his passenger, Frederick Sampson, (Weedons employer) who had been heard urging him to drive through the ongoing march. Both men were arrested, Weedon charged with dangerous driving and later fined £3, Samson however, was fined £10. A notably change was the watching crowd attacked the passengers in the their car, rather than the Salvation Army. Some years prior, the following report appeared in the local paper: Guarded by police, the Salvationists - joined by others from outlying areas and London - marched down Southend High Street, accompanied by their band and the singing of hymns, to the Public Hall in Alexander Street. The crowd that gathered to watch, were hostile and many threw rotten eggs, flour and soot at the passing procession. Police were forced to make arrests when members of the Army were physically assaulted. Reaching the Public Hall their way was blocked by some 500 people belonging to the "Skeleton Army" of whom among their number were so called respectable citizens. Once inside the Hall, the mob continued with their heckling, shouting and verbal abuse, in order to disrupt the meeting. Many of the protesters were charged with "wilfully obstructing the free passage of the highway, Southend" At the end of their gathering, police had to protect the army, by marching them to a field near Lukers Brewery where they were able to disperse. A truly shocking and no doubt frightening experience for the Salvationists. One very busy Bank Holiday in the early 1900s, the Salvation Army found themselves on the wrong side of the law, when they positioned themselves across the bottom of Pier Hill. This was to prevent the hordes of trippers coming off the trains from London, making their way to the seafront and the many drinking establishments on Marine Parade. As numbers increased and the queue became longer the huge numbers of people tried to push forward. Tempers became frayed and in order to stop a riot, the Police were called. The Salvation Army were charged with obstruction and ordered to disperse. The Citadel we see today, on the corner of Clarence Street and Clarence Road, was built on land purchased for £575 with a stone laying ceremony held in 1888. Visitors came from far and wide, including the founders son Chief of Staff, Bramwell Booth.
By Carol Edwards
Salvation Army corner of Clarence Street and Clarence Road Southend

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