How Leicester's Sally Army still fights the good fight to this day
A couple of months ago, reader Dr Helen Boynton wrote asking what happened to the Salvation Army bands that used to play on suburban street corners.
It got me thinking: for most of us, the Salvation Army is one of those benevolent organisations that has always "been there", but I wondered just how long it had been fighting the good fight in Leicester.
I spoke to the wonderfully-named Dr Bramwell Rudd, retired secretary and flugelhorn player in the Leicester Salvation Army Band, who explained: "The Leicester Salvation Army (SA) band has a long history, first appearing at the Clock Tower on Easter Sunday morning 1881.
"A well-known feature during the 1940s and 1950s was the open air service in the Market Place every Sunday evening, followed by a march to the Citadel in Kildare Street.
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"Since then, it has continued to play on summer Sunday evenings at open air services in the city centre.
"SA bands are famous for playing carols and many people have told us their Christmas would not be complete unless they have heard us playing in Gallowtree Gate.
"We no longer visit residential streets on Sunday mornings, however, we still provide music for two services every Sunday at the SA Citadel, in Kildare Street, Leicester, and maintain a choir, called the Songsters."
Dr Rudd also revealed the interesting history behind the SA in Leicester.
He said: "The fundamentalist Christian Mission sect arrived in Leicester in 1876 and started evangelical preaching from a tent in Humberstone Gate, moving to an old warehouse in Foundry Square, after their tent was destroyed in a gale.
"Their preaching style was fire, brimstone and hell for the sinner and eternal life in heaven for the 'saved'. Social 'evils' of gambling drugs, alcohol, professional sport and the music hall also had to be fought.
"In 1878, the Christian Mission was renamed the Salvation Army, who pledged to fight against sin, poverty, and degradation.
"Quasi-military uniforms and military terminology were introduced. No longer deemed a sect, the SA soon became recognised and encouraged by the state and mainstream churches.
"The Central SA 'Corps' moved to Bread Street in 1914. There were several branches in Leicester, few surviving more than about 50 years, but readers may remember those in Berners Street and more recently Rolleston Street, which continued until 1996.
"Particularly successful was the Corps in Jarrom Street. Founded in 1887, they soon had a thriving membership and were well-known for their brass band and songsters (choir). However, their hall became inadequate for their Day Care Centre and worship activities, so in May 2005, the Corps was renamed Leicester South and relocated to modern premises in Ladysmith Road, Wigston.
"In the 1930s and 1940s, old attitudes against professional sport, theatre and literature softened, as it was realised generations of Salvationists had failed to benefit from the better aspects of these cultures, but abstinence from alcohol, gambling, tobacco and drugs still remain mandatory for all full members.
"During the Second World War, in the 1940 Blitz that destroyed the Freeman Hardy and Willis factory, in Rutland Street, hundreds of members of the public and emergency services were fed and sheltered at the Central Hall.
"A new opening on the New Parks estate commenced with a Sunday school, started by Mrs Amy Thornley in her own home. This initiative was developed into a full Corps by William Hampton, a percussionist in the Central Band, and moved to its own hall in Aikman Avenue in 1979."
The SA are still very active serving the city.
"Old ethics remain and in recent years, care for the lonely and elderly is still important work at Kildare Street," said Dr Rudd.
"The Central regularly provides a drop-in centre with cooked lunch, at nominal cost, for three days a week.
"The Central Hall, costing £10,966, opened in 1931. Recently, the basement hall and worship hall at Kildare Street have been developed as a dual worship and emergency shelter, fully in line with current health and safety legislation.
"A partnership has been formed with charity The Bridge, who used the premises as a night shelter for eight days over Christmas last year, and provides meals for up to 140 homeless people every week. The facilities have also been used recently by the emergency services during the EDL demonstrations and the Sky Plaza Hotel fire.
"We will be holding our Carol Service on December 23, from 10.45am to noon and would warmly welcome anyone who enjoys singing carols. On Christmas Day, we will be providing an open house for people who are lonely, from 11am to 3pm, including a lunch, which is free of charge. Places are limited.
For details, contact 07932 071965 or e-mail: