1829 - 1912
William Booth was born
in Nottingham in 1829. At the age of 13 he
was sent to work as an apprentice in a pawnbroker's
shop to help support his mother and sisters.
He did not enjoy his job but it made him only
too aware of the poverty in which people lived
and how they suffered humiliation and degradation
because of it. During his teenage years he
became a Christian and spent much of his spare
time trying to persuade other people to become
Christians too.When his apprenticeship was
completed he moved to London, again to work
in the pawnbroking trade. He joined up with
the local Methodist Church and later decided
to become a minister.
After his marriage to Catherine
Mumford in 1855 he spent several years as
a Methodist minister, travelling all around
the country, preaching and sharing God's word
to all who would listen. Yet he felt that
God wanted more from him, that he should be
doing more to reach ordinary people. He returned
to London with his family, having resigned
his position as a Methodist minister.
One day in 1865 he found
himself in the East End of London, preaching
to crowds of people in the streets. Outside
the Blind Beggar pub some missioners heard
him speaking and were so impressed by his
powerful preaching that they asked him to
lead a series of meetings they were holding
in a large tent.
The tent was situated on
an old Quaker burial ground on Mile End waste
in Whitechapel. The date for the first meeting
was set for 2 July, 1865. To the poor and
wretched of London's East End, Booth brought
the good news of Jesus Christ and his love
for all men. Booth soon realised he had found
his destiny. He formed his own movement, which
he called 'The Christian Mission'.
Slowly the mission began
to grow but the work was hard and Booth would
'stumble home night after night haggard with
fatigue, often his clothes were torn and bloody
bandages swathed his head where a stone had
struck', wrote his wife. Evening meetings
were held in an old warehouse where urchins
threw stones and fireworks through the window.
Outposts were eventually established and in
time attracted converts, yet the results remained
discouraging-this was just another of the
500 charitable and religious groups trying
to help in the East End. It was not until
1878 when The Christian Mission changed its
name to The Salvation Army that things began
to happen. The impetus changed. The idea of
an Army fighting sin caught the imagination
of the people and the Army began to grow rapidly.
Booth's fiery sermons and sharp imagery drove
the message home and more and more people
found themselves willing to leave their past
behind and start a new life as a soldier in
The Salvation Army.
Inevitably, the military
spirit of the movement meant that The Salvation
Army soon spread abroad. By the time Booth
was promoted to Glory in 1912
the Army was at work in 58 countries.