Hey, Sally Anne…

Another research project for those so inclined came in this week, again via Twitter. Rob Kinnon-Brettle contacted me on Wednesday evening looking for information about the Salvation Army in Brownhills.

I remembered that there was an image in Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington’s book ‘Memories of old Brownhills’ that showed a long-range shot of the building where it stood in a row of terraced hoses next to the Warrener’s Arms pub. The hall would have been demolished some time from about 1979 to 1982; the site is currently occupied by an Accountancy practice.


The Salvation Army Hall is the light coloured building in the row of terraces upper left; image from ‘Memories of Brownhills Past’ by Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington.

That’s not easy to see, so I zoomed in for a better view.


Blown up from the above image. The Hall was an austere, grey fronted building with a big, red door if I remember correctly.

I tweeted the pictures back to Rob, and he explained that he was researching the history of the Salvation Army, and some of his relatives went to the Brownhills Hall. It turns out that he’s contributing to a Wiki, or online encyclopaedia of the history of the Christian organisation, and this enabled him to start a page for Brownhills, which can be seen here.

Rob asked if readers could help:

It occurred to me that I knew nothing at all about the Salvation Army other than sketchy bits about Booth I remembered from school, and the note in the Graphic article about Norton Canes that pointed out that the Hall there was busy every night. I decided to look through the newspaper archives, and what I found surprised me.

The equivalent of planning permission was given in 1883:

Lichfield Mercury - Friday 27 July 1883

Lichfield Mercury – Friday 27 July 1883. The Hodgkins name may well spark interest with a couple of readers.

In a hurried search, I can find no mention of the Hall opening, but it turns out that what I thought was a gentle, genteel uniform and brass band thing was actually very radical in the day, and Salvationists seemed to be roundly viewed as extremists. For about 50 years, the Petty Sessions reports are full of scuffles and disorder charges both against and by Salvation Army people, a good number from Brownhills. This came as some surprise, to be honest. I’d be grateful if any readers could expand on this.

As time goes by, the Salvation Army come to part of civic and religious life, just like any other social organisation in Brownhills, as this report from the Lichfield Mercury of 19th February 1932 shows:

Salvation Army. — The Brownhills Salvation Army were favoured with a visit during the week-end of Staff Captain and Mrs. Field, from Stoke-on-Trent, also Cadet Bright from the Training College, London. On Saturday evening, with the local detachment, they paraded the principal streets, halting at several places, when short addresses were given. On Sunday morning, in the Army Hall, the service was conducted by Mrs. Field. In the evening Captain Field was in charge, and gave an interesting address on ‘God’s Hands.’ The band, under the leadership of Mr. S. Pearce, was assisted by the children, who sang special pieces at each service. Good congregations were present, specially in the evening.

There seems to be some link between the Sally Anne and the local Methodists. I’m interested in this too, and wonder if readers from that background may be able to light things up a little. This report is from the Lichfield Mercury of 4th August 1933:

Salvation Army Concert.—Brownhilis was favoured with a visit of the Salvation Army ‘Musical Miriams’ on Thursday, a specially selected party of 26 Salvation Army officers recently commissioned from the William Booth Training College, who are touring various parts of the country under the command of Major Frances Barker and Captain Dorothy Grainger. The meeting took place in the Wesley Methodist Church. A very good programme was given, consisting of sacred solos, duets, musical items, selections by the party, and short addresses by the leaders and several of the party. At the close Captain Elliott, the local officer, thanked the musicians for their visit, and the trustees for lending the church. A large congregation was present.

Why did they not use their own Hall? Too small, maybe? Use of an organ? Were the links strong between the two groups? Looking at the archives, things certainly seem frosty in the early days between the Salvation Army and the Church of England.

Please, folks, I’m interested in anything you have to add on this, and I freely admit I know nothing of the subject, so please do educate me and others who may be similarly in the dark. I’d particularly like to know when the Hall opened, when it closed and who the movers and shakers were, and how the whole thing fitted into the community.

Feel free to comment here or mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers!

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12 Responses to Hey, Sally Anne…

  1. anthony brevitt says:

    i whent to the brownhills salvation army when i was younger, i took bible class for the younger ones,

  2. David Oakley says:

    Hi Bob,
    I was very interested in the ‘Hey, Sally Anne’ post as my own experience of the Brownhills Corps of the Salvation Army goes back to the early days of the war. I was never a member, but the band and the familiar hymn tunes drew me like a magnet. The normal practice was to hold an open-air meeting, complete with band, prior to the Sunday evening service in the Hall. A popular venue for these meetings was a little way into Church Road and I often joined in and shared a hymn book with one of the members. At the end of the meeting , they would form up, band leading the way, and march to the hall, some little way down the High Street. The marching tune was always , “We are marching on with shield and banner, bright” with the steady thump of the big drum. Irresistable !
    At the time, there was a young band player named Eric Malpass. Little did I know then, that he would meet, and marry, my cousin, Edie Corfield. Edie joined the Salvation Army, Signed the Articles of War, wore the uniform, complete with the familiar bonnet and became a zealous convert. So much so, that some time later, as husband and wife, they embarked on the Salvation Army as a life’s work and trained as Officers. Whether they were ever appointed as officers in charge of the Brownhills Corps, I do not know but as officers in the Salvation Army, they went wherever they were posted.
    Formed in the East End of London, all those years ago, things were quite tough, and converts, taken from dockside pubs, knew how to use their fists in defence of their new-found faith, as well as the scoffers and belligerents who formed the majority of onlookers at the open-air meetings. The play by G.B. Shaw, ‘Major Barbara’ gives quite a good insight into the mixture of violence and Christian pacifism surrounding the movement in those early days.
    Salvation Army ‘lassies’ would enter pubs with copies of ‘The War Cry’ for sale, plus the collecting tin, listening to the popular tunes of the day being hammered out on the bar piano and the patrons roaring out the words, and the lassies, selling War Cries and collecting money that could originally have come from all sorts of doubtful enterprises. Tunes that were often converted later into Salvation Army hymns, and money which was used on all the worthwhile enterprises of the Salvation Army, were aptly encapsulated in the words of General Booth, “Why should the Devil have all the best tunes”? and “ Give us dirty money, and the Lord will wash it clean”!
    Conversions were often quite startling, Habitual drunkards and wife beaters often found themselves on the penitent forms at the local Citadel and started a new life as Army members. One heckler at an open-air meeting who disputed the “Water into wine “ miracle at Canaan was confronted by a recent convert who challenged the doubter with the words, “Come to my house, brother, and I’ll show you a bigger miracle, where the Lord has changed beer into furniture”! The convert, with most of his income wasted on drink, had resorted to orange boxes as table and chairs to furnish the essentials, They were no longer needed after his conversion.
    Finally a tailpiece. Now living in Scarborough, I was addressed a few years ago, by an elderly gentleman , accompanied by his wife, who wanted to know the way to the nearest bus stop, into town. Observing a midland accent I asked where they came from. “Oh, said he, from a little place you’ve probably never heard of – Brownhills. “Oh, said I, well, I was born next door, in Walsall Wood”. His surprise and pleasure was clearly evident, then came an exchange of names, and they were actually aunt and uncle to Eric Malpass, the Salvationist who had married my cousin Edie. Needless to say, several buses came and went before we had finished our chat. As they say, ‘It’s a small world’.

    • anthony brevitt says:

      eric and edie malpass are my uncle and aunty, when i was in the salvation army the people who ran it was maj holmes, i used to play the tenner horn/ ufonium and i took bible class for the young kids, my name is anthony brevitt, i used to live at 39 hednesford road brownhills from when i was 10 years old

  3. Rob Kinnon-Brettle says:

    I was very interested to hear of the SA in Norton Canes. Whilst that is news to me I am not surprised as SA halls were often located in coal-mining areas. The next nearest halls to Brownhills would have been in Chase Terrace or Pelsall.

  4. Peter says:

    Very interesting photograph and again an extremely detailed and first hand account from the young David Oakley, surely David must be one of the most valuable resources we have to record the past, beneath the billboard for the cigarettes seems to be a road? Did it have a name?
    Thanks for the story and the article and again thanks to David.


    • David Oakley says:

      Thanks, Peter, for the kind mention in your comments. I am grateful to the blog for giving me the opportunity to delve into my memories in this manner. As one of the older contributors, my only regret is that more old people of a similar age have never unravelled the mysteries of the computer. There must be a host of untapped memories out there, each contributing a different facet of knowledge to life in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s. A good ‘primary source’ as historians would say. Yes, a little bit of nostalgia and sentiment gets in the way, at times, but most of us ‘say it as we saw it’
      I would say to middle-age readers of the blog, listen when your elderly parents talk about ‘old times’. Stored away in that lumber room of memory there may be something of real value. Many little memories, recorded on the blog, have exploded into real talking points, and comments. I am pleased to see that many younger readers are developing an appetite for local history, This augurs well for the future.

  5. Not Brownhills related but my memories of the Sally Army have made them a preferred charity. In the early 60’s I was “dumped” at a SA Sunday School meeting, god knows where, by my grand mother one Sunday while on holiday. Grand Parents would turn up and drag me off somewhere on a regular basis, our kid would be left at home?
    Anyway I was looked after and have memories of the SA looking after me personally where special. In my late teens I got to know a local (Bromsgrove) member who was told to get a life by the Army, Gordon eat, breathed, slept the Army 24/7 and was well respected within the general community. He went into retail, rather a shop assistant in the local late night corner shop. I heard stories of anyone in real need being helped by Gordon with the odd can of Spam! He made his mission too find these families before hand. Behind the counter listening to others gossip.

  6. Lisa says:

    Lovely to see a picture of Simeon Cadmans house, he was my great grandad. I vagueley remember going to the house when I was younger. Samuel (my grandad) took the business over after Simeon had died.

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