Salvation Army Godmanchester
Photos and text kindly supplied by Winifred Pender (Nee Dale)
The Salvation Army opened in 1887. At that time the population was between 2 and 3 thousand people. It was reported in 'The War Cry' that someone commented to the first Salvationists "I'm glad you are coming- we want some life here" The first meeting was held in a barn, cleaned out and fitted with a platform and held about 200 people. The response was so large it was not big enough.
During the next 100 years, worship halls in Pipers Lane and then Silver Street become the place to see uniformed Salvationists who would readily witness to a faith in God and it became a meeting place of many Christians who wished to worship God in an informal setting with music and preaching, activities for young people and many social occasions. During the war, German Prisoners of War would be brought from a house in West Street where they were detained, and they had the chance to share meetings with those who gathered in the Salvation Army hall on a Sunday afternoon. These meetings were led by trained Salvation Army Officers who were appointed by the Headquarters in London. It became a regular sight to see the band marching through the streets of Godmanchester and open air meetings were held in Huntingdon also.
Records show that those who went to be trained as Salvation Army Officers from Godmanchester through those years are named as follows:
- Emily Bondfield (nee Pettit) 1891 Became a Captain.
- Florence Groves (nee Reeve) 1894 Major.
- Alan Victor Binge 1922 Major.
- Valerie Pearl George 1953 Major.
- Winifred Violet Dale 1953 Commissioner
- David Wing Captain.
Godmanchester Salvation Army corps ceased operating in the early years of 2000 but there are still those who are members and attend other places of worship.
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The War Cry, November 10th, 1898
PROMOTED TO THE HEAVENLY RANKS
“Be Good; Meet me in Heaven.”
“Burton is dead!” Such were the words that fell upon our ears a few hours after our comrade passed away. And, alas! It was true.
Bandmaster Charles Burton, Godmanchester
Brother Burton was no more. He was gone to see his Jesus, Who had done so much for him, in saving him from the lowest depths of sin. Little did We think that, as we picked up the “War Cry”’ a short time ago, and read the account of Brother Lochie’s death, the first Bandmaster of this corps, that we should soon have to record the death of another.
Brother Burton was converted to God in the ranks of The Salvation Army about two years ago. Almost the last testimony that he gave in the barracks he turned to his poor old mother, and said, “Cheer up, mother, I am going to heaven with you." Little did he think he would soon be there.
About four months ago our comrade was taken in, and although he was visited by five doctors, yet it was all of no use, his race was run, his fight was ended. We have lost a hard-working Bandmaster, whose place will be hard to fill; always at his post, in rain or sunshine. On Sunday afternoon a good number of soldiers and friends met outside his house, where we held a short service, when one of the bandsmen spoke a few words and urged the people to come to Christ.
We started for the cemetery, headed by the band playing, “For ever with the Lord.” Our comrade’s instrument, cap and guernsey were placed upon the coffin the streets were lined with people. About five hundred stood around the grave, where a very impressive service was led by Capt. Newth, under whom our comrade was converted.
At night we held a memorial service; the hall was packed with people. The bandsmen and officers pleaded with the people to turn to God, to let Charley Burton’s Saviour be their Saviour. The last words of our comrade on earth to his wife were, “Be good; meet me in heaven?” One of our comrade’s favourite march tunes was, “Down at the Saviour’ feet.” We trust that, by our comrade’s death many souls maybe brought into light.
T. B., Capt Newth
Opening Date October 1887
War Cry Report, 12th November 1887, Page 13
Opening of Godmanchester which is near Huntingdon, in fact almost part of it being only separated by the River Ouse. The population is something between two and three thousand. It has its churches and its chapels, and, of course, its public houses; it even boasted of its Primrose League, but until last Saturday it lacked one thing, it had no salvation army. “I’m glad you’re coming” said an old woman to me some two weeks before; “We want some life here.” And so people who had never seen The Army seem instinctively to understand that it is closely associated with life. A most striking testimony indeed. We have secured a part of a barn, which after being repaired and cleaned and fitted with a platform, makes a real Salvation Army Barracks holding about 200 people. We opened on Saturday night, the attacking party from a human point of view, was by no means formidable, numbering about a dozen.
The little place was crammed to suffocation at the opening meeting with the roughest of the neighbourhood, the very class we are after. “You’ve emptied the public houses tonight, sir” and a man in drink, as I stood up to speak, a remark which was received with general applause. God grant that many people never meet each other in the public houses again! It was perfectly wonderful how the people flocked all day Sunday, not only from Godmanchester, but from the surrounding villages, to hear and see The Salvation Army. The landlord came to me just before the evening meeting, trembling with fear, and said, “Do you know there are at least Two Thousand people in the lane unable to get in?”
There has never been such crowds here before inside, a most powerful meeting was held. Oh, How they listened as we talked to them of heaven and hell, of sin and judgement, of Calvary and Calvary’s.
Victim! The hall was emptied more than once, only to be filled again. A blessed work of salvation was begun. A work which, by God’s grace shall never cease till the saviour comes.