By Julie Whiteoak
According to a newspaper report in January 1887 the Salvation Army marched from Nelson to ‘open fire’ in Colne.
“As we entered, the band blew their trumpets and the big drum was brought into full play, the people staring and gaping and running towards us from all directions.”
The Salvation Army has a long association with Colne-its founder William Booth is known to have visited Colne on three occasions; 1904, 1908 and 1911. He stayed with Dr Eadie on Albert Road, where the town hall clock chiming is said to have disturbed his sleep.
In September 1889 a Salvation Army barracks was opened in a former warehouse in the Turney Crook area of Colne, near where Windy Bank is today. Turney Crook in those days was a very deprived area; even the local constabulary deemed it risky to enter. The Salvation Army officers, however, wereleft in peace as they walked around the neighbourhood going about their work. From Turney Crook the Salvation Army later held their meetings in Swan Croft, in rooms above businesses now known as Market Place.
Following many years of toil and making many sacrifices, the dedicated body of people attending the Salvation Army were close to realising their hopes of providing a fine new hall in which to hold their meetings. In 1908 on a site in Swan Croft, foundation stones were laid by various local dignitaries; one bearing the motto, ‘Faith, Hope and Charity’ and a fine hall was built by Walter Townend of Colne. Swan Croft was very different then than it is today. Churches would gather in Swan Croft on Whitsuntide and sing hymns.
Ernest and Miriam Hamlet, of Colne, met and married at the Salvation Army in Colne and were involved in the Salvation Army in Colne for most of their lives until it closed. They said it was a very busy hall, often packed to capacity. Salvation Army records from 1922 state the hall had 300 ‘soldiers.’
It opened every day of the week to cater for everyone. Officers usually had Fridays off.
There were open-air meetings on Saturdays when the band played and people would throw pennies onto the big drum. The band alone had 27 members. Sunday services began at 7am with ‘knee drill’ and services continued intermittently until 9pm. The hall was heated by a large stove and there was a Sunday school attached to the side, later demolished when Craddock Road was built. Ernest said although it was very sad when the hall closed, the Christian Spirit goes on.
Matthew Dalley, of Colne, served at the hall in Colne for over 50 years and has some very happy memories of his time there.
He originally visited Colne as a band member but returned and later married his first wife Joyce. He fondly remembers the ‘care and share’ meetings held on Wednesdays and Saturdays. These were very popular with the local community –often serving pie and peas or bacon butties to as many as 60 people. Despite pleas to the headquarters in London, and due to falling numbers, it was decided to close the hall. It was Matthew who, with great sadness, locked the doors of the hall for the final time on 24 September, 2000.
The hall was later acquired by the Citizens Advice Bureau until sold in September 2013. Inspire – part of a national organisation which supports individuals in recovery from addiction – now operates from the rear of the premises.
‘Juice’- another charity which promotes sustained recovery from addiction – holds a support group at Colne Citadel on Thursday evenings and a social evening on Saturdays.