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.
@BrownhillsBob Do you know where the Salvation Army hall was in Brownhills?— rkb (@kinnonbrettle) November 20, 2013
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.
That’s not easy to see, so I zoomed in for a better view.
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:
@BrownhillsBob maybe some of your readers will know other officers who were at Brownhills corps?— rkb (@kinnonbrettle) November 22, 2013
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:
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!