Salvation Army marks its 150th anniversary back to its East End roots

Famous 'War Cry' salvationist newspaper, 1887

Famous 'War Cry' salvationist newspaper, 1887 - Credit: Salvation Army

The Salvation Army celebrates its 150th anniversary today with a big parade in London’s East End where it all started in the 1860s.

The world leader of the ‘Sally Ann’ arrives for this-afternoon’s parade in Poplar and a family fun day which includes a workshop for children on how to make a tambourine.

General André Cox, who leads the global church and charity, is special guest at the Salvation Army’s Poplar branch, often called the ‘No. 1 Corps’ because it is the oldest surviving established church for the organisation, which actually began its work on the streets two years before, in 1865.

The General’s visit begins at 3pm when he joins the fun day and tambourine workshop by Timbreltastic at the Salvation Army Hall in Kerbey Street.

He then joins the procession leaving at 5.15pm to Calvary Charismatic Baptist Church accompanied by music and singing from a combined Salvation Army Band and singers from W1 Community Gospel Choir.

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A celebration From Music Hall to Lighthouse at the Trinity Hall church begins at 6pm at 119 East India Dock Road.

The celebrations continue tomorrow with Worship at Poplar’s Salvation Army Hall in Kerby Street at 11.15am.

The Salvation Army was born on the streets of Whitechapel in July, 1865, when William Booth began his first open air evangelistic campaign preaching in a tent, when the East End was rife with crime, prostitution and drunkenness.

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There was much opposition from tavern keepers and a ‘skeleton army’ emerged to cause trouble on the streets for the salvationists. But eventually the salvationists won over the ‘skeletons’ who joined their ranks.

The mission began working in Poplar in 1867 and was renamed Salvation Army in 1878, as military terminology became more commonplace. Booth became known as the ‘General’.

An early indicator of his social concern was establishing a Food-for-the-Millions programme which provided cheap meals for the poor.

The Poplar Corps and community centre in Kerbey Street is run today by Majors David and Meshiel Brown with programmes including community outreach and advice, a food bank, youth groups and a parent-and-toddler group. Staff and volunteers also run a charity shop and café.

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