Salvation Army Citadel, Blantyre

1955 Salvation Army Citadel, Blantyre, top of Forrest Street

1955 Salvation Army Citadel, Blantyre, top of Forrest Street

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.

1960 Citadel Blantyre Forrest Street

1960 Citadel Blantyre Forrest Street

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.

Eleanor Connor Very interesting info…said it before –this is a Brilliant Site. 💚 💛
Etta Morrison Helen Lawson Taylor Betty McLean we attended Sunday School in the Citadel for yrs..
Helen Lawson Taylor I represented the Salvation Army guides on the 50 th anniversary ,I was the lucky one whose name was picked for the Blantyre guides.
Alex Mcgill I played baritone for 3 years marching through the streets of Blantyre
Anne Grogan I went there as a child and in 1977 left there to train at the William Booth Memorial College in London to become an officer. Earlier Marg Halbert left there as well to become an officer. I think we were the last to enter college from there.
Betty McLean I marched through the street with the flag then collected money round the houses after the little service outdoors. They do a great work I still have a salvation army book. Lots of good people I remember attended there. On a Friday night a few of us scrubbed the hall floor and one night Hughie McClelland came in saying he was Jesus of Nazathe from the sea of Galilee. He scared the life out of us. LOL
Etta Morrison Betty I can still picture you and Hannah Nelson in your uniforms..very smart..x
Helen Allan My friend Anne Barrie and I were junior soldiers. Loved it, timbrels, choir and the youth club.
Jeanette Turvey My great aunts Helen effie ,Jean ,nelson ,all went to the Salvation Army in Blantyre in the 1920s and 30s
Rita Tastard My family went to The Salvation Army in Blantyre from 1981, and now go to The Salvation Army in Rutherglen. Many memories of the hall in Forrest Street and when it closed the use of Larkfield Community Centre and laterally the High Blantyre Primary School for a few years.
Margaret Nuttall Those were very happy years for us, it was hard work but I wouldn’t change it for all the tea in China.x
Margaret Nuttall It would be interesting to know where some of the young people we worked with when we soldiered at Blantyre Corps are today and how life has treated them over the years. Please get intouch with us through face book it would be lovely to hear from you.x
Sandra Slimming My parents were stationed there 1959/60 remember it very well also the quarters up the side of a church. Spent 2 happy years there
Mary McGaulley My 2 aunts Maggie Lloyd (Buchanan) and Maggie Fotheringham (Gilmore) were in the Salvation Army Blantyre all they’re lives.When they died we sang songs that were popular with the Salvation Army, and as kids they always took us there where we had a great time. Good memories, I’m living in Canada now where they are very popular and always reminds me of my wonderful Aunts.


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  1. Hi Paul.

    The link between Blantyre and Gisborne Salvationists seemed to begin when nurse Margaret (Maggie) Thomson (nee English) and her three children left an unhappy marriage and, at her immigrant family’s suggestion, came to Gisborne in 1901. Her reports of life in NZ during a subsequent trip to Blantyre in 1911 seem to have sparked interest in emigrating among several families. After returning to NZ, the Gisborne Corps offered to sponsor other families. Apart from other members of her own family, a steady trickle of Salvation Army connected families came to Gisborne during the next decade or so, That trickle was interrupted by the suspension of assisted immigration during World War I, so the Brunton family of my grandparents, Walter and Jane Galloway (nee Neilson) and their four boys had to await the first immigrant ship in 1920. Blantyre names you might recognise include Turbitt, Middleton, Preston, Stein (1912), Freebairn (1921), Waugh (via Australia, 1915), Prentice , Neilson (to NZ 1913, Gisborne, 1915), Dunsmore (1924) and Stewart. These families formed a significant and close-knit group within the Gisborne corps where they were known as the Blantyre colony. There was a considerable amount of intermarriage within the colony and the corps. The links are brought out in a book by Joan Hutson, “As for me and my House”, published by the Salvation Army NZ, Fiji and Tonga Territory, 2004 (ISBN 0-476-01182-5). Hope this is helpful. I have a number of family photos in addition to those published in the book.


    Warwick Brunton

  2. Thank you Paul. I can send you something on the chain migration of Salvationists from Blantyre to Gisborne, N.Z., but wonder if you know what records the Blantyre Corps may have to trace when my grandparents (Walter Brunton (1873-1958) and Jane Galloway Neilson (1879-1939) joined up. They immigrated in 1920, but would have done so earlier except for the First World War. Jane’s mother and brothers came out in 1913.

  3. How great to find the photos and write-up of the Salvation Army in Blantyre. My paternal grandparents, Walter and Jeannie Galloway Brunton, and their family were members of the Blantyre Corps but emigrated to New Zealand in 1920, joining a chain migration of Blantyre Salvationists who settled in the North Island town of Gisborne. I have a lot of information about these families for anyone interested.

    1. Hi Warwick – I for one am always interested in what happened to Blantyre families when they moved to far off places in the world.

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