Monday, April 4, 2016

Disturbing the peace - the Salvation Army

As I've mentioned before, William Beales and his family were dedicated members of the Salvation Army in Colchester. Recently I've been reading more about the history of the Salvation Army. It's not only fascinating in its own right, but also includes some intriguing links with our family history, both in Australia and England.

Catherine and William Booth
William Booth, a Methodist minister, began what was to become the Salvation Army as a mission in the slums of the east end of London in 1865. His focus was on bringing the gospel to the vast numbers of working class and underprivileged people who had no connection with the established churches. His unconventional methods, which included allowing women to preach and holding open air meetings with bands playing catchy tunes, created controversy but proved very effective.

The Christian Revival Ministry, as it was then known, soon extended its work of gospel preaching and started providing education, food relief and "penny banks" for the poor and destitute. The name was changed to the Christian Mission and then in 1878 it became known as the Salvation Army. It adopted an army-style uniform for its workers and began using military terminology for many of it's activities. Ordained ministers became "officers", it's local congregations "corps", and its buildings "citadels" or "barracks". William Booth remained the General. His wife Catherine was actively involved in both ministering and preaching.

The organisation soon spread beyond London to other parts of what William Booth referred to as "Darkest England". The first meeting in Colchester was held towards the end of 1881 in the Assembly Rooms in Queen St. When the local skating rink was put up for sale in 1882 it was purchased by an agent on behalf of General Booth and soon became the local  meeting place. General Booth himself visited Colchester and preached to large audiences on several occasions.

Initially the Salvation Army faced a lot of opposition in Colchester as elsewhere. The uneducated heckled and threw rocks and bottles, while the better educated tossed off letters to the editor such as this one to the Essex Standard in July 1882:
Sir, -- A short space in your columns, if you please, for a few valueless remarks of a simpleton.
We have in Colchester sixteen Churches, besides a Roman Catholic Chapel, and Meeting Houses, I don't know how many; and I suppose to these buildings are attached between thirty and forty Clergymen and other Gospel ministers; nor am I the one to say, or even think, that any individual member of that staff is negligent or his duties toward either God or man. Each, I hope, is serving his Master and his fellow-men to the best of his ability. So that to me it seems, there was no need whatever for a Salvation Army to march into this town with trumpet and drum, and flying colours, as if we were destitute of religious instructors, and it lead me to think, sir, that if General Booth, who I take to be commander in chief of these quasi-military forces, had ordered his obedient regiment into such as town, for instance, as Northampton, where it seems the Gospel preachers much have been utterly neglectful of their duties, where infidelity and atheism is riding paramount, they would have been doing much more real service in the great cause which they profess to support, than by disturbing the peaceable inhabitant of this town by their disorderly, and certainly most irreverent behaviour.
Perhaps the residents of Northampton had a different view. In any case, the Salvation Army's right to hold meetings both at the rink and outdoors was upheld by the local mayor and magistrates.

The Salvation Army in South Australia 

Individual members of the Salvation Army soon began to arrive in Australia as immigrants. Two early converts, John Gore and Edward Saunders, established the first official Corp in South Australia in September 1880, leading their first meeting from the back of a cart in the Botanic Gardens. The following week they held an open air meeting in Light Square, notorious for being the gathering place of prostititutes and larrikins, and this became a regular occurrence.

Members of the Salvation Army band
in Adelaide, c 1890
When the first officers, Captain Thomas Sutherland and his wife, arrived in Adelaide in February 1881 they were met by 68 people associated with the Corp. Within 3 years there were 32 officers and 12 Corps in South Australia. Meetings were held every night in a building in Morphett Street off Light Square, attended by hundreds of people. Though most saw the benefits of the Salvation Army's methods, not all were impressed. On July 30, 1881, the South Australian Register carried this report from the City Police Court:
Thomas Sutherland, "Captain" of the Salvation Army, was charged, on the information of Denis Sullivan, Inspector of Police, that in a certain place situated in the City of Adelaide — to wit, King William street — he did unlawfully disturb the peace, contrary to the statute in such cases made and provided.
The defendant, who appeared in a species of dark uniform with a silver S on the collar, pleaded not guilty. Mr. Pater opened the case by stating that the defendant was the so-called captain of the Salvation Army, a religious body who were in the habit of parading the streets in the evening, singing, screaming, and shrieking. On the occasion in question they had seriously frightened the horses on the cabstand and in the street, besides crowding passengers off the footpath by reason of the throng... 
...John Piper, commercial traveller, of Adelaide, gave evidence as to hearing very indecent language used in the crowd with the army on the night in question, on Sunday, July 24, and that the mob nearly jostled him off his feet. The army was singing 'Will you go,' each one trying to shout louder than the other. By the defendant— Saw the leaders of the army sawing up and down in the air with their arms. Did not know they were keeping time. Considered it a disgraceful exhibition.
Sutherland was fined one shilling, which he refused on principle to pay, and he was sentenced to being imprisoned "until the rising of this court".

A "Special" reporter for The Adelaide Evening Journal provided a more sympathetic if slightly bemused description of one of the Salvation Army meetings in May 1883, too long to include here, but worth reading.

The Salvation Army in Adelaide, as elsewhere, had a strong ministry to women and girls involved in prostitution, and those at risk of falling into it. In England the Salvation Army were at the forefront of a campaign to raise the age of consent from 13 to 18. In South Australia they opened several homes for "rescued girls", providing accommodation and assisting them to return to their family where appropriate. It's not outside the realms of possibility that they had some involvement in Harriet Whybrew's return to her parents in England, though I have no evidence of this.

Meanwhile, in 1882 the newly married Captain James Barker and wife Alice left Colchester and arrived at Port Adelaide to join the work in South Australia. But due to a labour strike on the docks, they had to keep going to Melbourne. They decided on arriving and looking around that they would establish their ministry there instead. The Salvation Army expanded its work rapidly, not just in Victoria but throughout Australia, as a result of the Barkers' pioneering activities.

My grandmother, Rosina,
in her Salvation Army uniform
The Barker family eventually returned to England in 1890. Their daughter Evalina, born in Victoria in 1884, became a Captain and in 1909 she married Albert William Thomas Orsborn.  Orsborn later became the 6th General of the Salvation Army, as well as the author of many of the songs in the Salvation Army song book.

Albert and Evalina employed William and Eliza Beales' daughter Rosina as a servant at their home in Ipswich during her teens. This photograph of Rosina in her Salvation Army uniform, must have been taken about this time.

Once again I'm struck by how different her life must have been after she married and moved to Lancashire, leaving behind not just her family and Essex but the Salvation Army background of her childhood.

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