Nobody appears to have written about the Salvation Army Citadel before, so I thought I would put a little fact and detail to it. Pictured here in an aerial photo from 1955 is The Salvation Army Building, nicknamed, “The Citadel”. Actually, the name Citadel applied to most Salvation Army headquarters buildings. Located at the top , South East end of Forrest Street, the building stood directly opposite the gate of Blantyre Vic’s Castle Park Grounds.
Its style is quite unique for Blantyre in terms of its architecture and design. Whilst researching this article, I was surprised to see it on maps as early as 1897, when I always thought the style was more art deco 1920s. The building was made of brick with architectural features common for Salvation Army buildings. At 12m x 25m the building was modelled on the Army headquarters buildings in London and Sheffield and although Blantyre’s was smaller, it contained familiar parts like the towers and arched entrance. The Citadel commenced construction in Summer 1886 and was officially opened at the end of November 1886.
The Salvation Army, perhaps as they represented a new movement, initially had a hard time in Blantyre. There was general non acceptance of their beliefs, which even at times manifested in violence towards these Salvationists. In January 1887, nine men from Blantyre were charged with breach of the peace and assaulting 4 Salvation army officers. John Smith (cobbler), Chirstopher McKenna (coal carter), Hugh and Michael Flynn, James Daily, Matthew Carrigan, David McInally, John Ferguson and Thomas McVey (all miners) were the guilty parties. With exception of Smith at 63 years old, the ages ranged between 18 and 24. That first year since opening, it was common for the Salvation Army to be subjected to these sort of attacks. Earlier that same month in January 1887, Mr Edward Smith was charged with continually “snowballing” the Army. In court he was admonished, but the incident was not unnoticed by Smith’s friends, who then took exception to the Salvation army. The judge noticed that the accused were all Roman Catholics, who were at the time looking for their own religious outlet to be formed. The judge determined rightly so that the Salvation Army had the same rights to be in Blantyre as Roman Catholics did. Each were fined £2. This incident I belief incited unrest amongst people in Blantyre and aggravation towards the Salvation army. Not a month later Mr Edward Cornfield, a miner was charged with assaulting Thomas Gray of the Salvation army. Cornfield was punch drunk at the time, quite literally, for whilst Gray was making his testimonial, Cornfield appeared and without reason, punched him to the ground. For that action, Cornfield received 60 days imprisonment. Later that year, during the infamous Blantyre riots, the rioters stopped to take time from their vandalism, to mock the Salvation army.
As the decades rolled on and various denominations got their own religious outlets, the good work that the Salvation Army does was accepted, especially during their compassionate activitiesin WW1. During WW1, officers included Brigadier Orr and General Booth. On Sundays, the Salvation army Band became a regular sight in the our town, accompanying the preachers as they gave out sermons on streets.
Speaking of The Citadel, Thomas Dunsmuir Hartman of Chicago said, “My little pals and I used to go down to the hall in a Sunday afternoon for our Ginger and biscuits all free, and you were encouraged to sing at the top of your voice, which I could not do in my own home, it was just great. We did not know what we were singing about but with biscuits and ginger who cared. We were all little tough guys, so girls always suffered. After we came out of the service, if you can call it that, we would immediately start making fun of the Salvation Army, like singing songs about them. One I can remember went.
“The Salvation Army free from sin all went to heaven in a corned beef tin.
The corned beef tin began to smell, so they jumped out and landed in h–l “
I have to-day the greatest respect for the Salvation Army, and in my books they are the very best, in all that they do.”
Pictured from that era is the Citadel in 1960. Jeannie Lindsay was a sergeant there at the start of the 1990s. The Citadel was demolished in the early 1990s, a reflection of its age. The Salvation Army celebrated its 150th year Anniversary on 5th July 2015.
On social media:
Helen Lawson Taylor I went to the Sunday school there .
Margaret Stewart Me and my sister went her when we were young . We had a great time. We went to different places with them as we sang in the choir. It was a great experience for us. Lots of lovely people.