Webpage created: February 18, 2018
Webpage updated: February 18, 2018
SALVATION ARMY CONGRESS HALL
'To do all the good you can to all the souls you can'.
The 51st Corps of the Salvation Army was formed at Plymouth in July 1878 and Captain (later Major) James Dowdle, accompanied by his wife and his "Hallelujah Fiddle", held the first meeting in the Central Hall late in August 1878.
For the first few years the Plymouth Corps met in the Saint James Hall, Union Street; the Central Hall in Phoenix Street; the Albert Hall at Eldad; and the Saint Andrew's Hall in Westwell Street. A Salvation Army Band was formed at Plymouth in 1884. General Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, held a meeting at the Saint Andrew's Hall on Friday December 26th 1884.
On Tuesday March 24th 1885 the memorial stones were laid of a new Salvation Army Congress Hall in Martin Street. The site was purchased for £1,100 and the Army's architect, Commissioner E J Sherwood, of London, designed the building. Mr Isaac Foot agreed to erect the building at a cost of £3,150 on the basis of a handshake as General Booth had no money and Mr Foot had no work. The building was constructed of stone but had a brick frontage that included two towers either side of the entrance containing stairs to the upper gallery.
General William Booth officially opened the Congress Hall on Saturday February 6th 1886. It was then reported that the total cost had been £4.700. The main hall, with a 17 feet wide gallery, was said to measure 120 feet by 67 feet 7 inches and the smaller hall 44 feet by 40 feet. On the same day General Booth presented colours to the Salvation Navy fleet of fishing vessels from Plymouth and Brixham.
The Congress Hall in Martin Street was bombed during the night of April 22nd/23rd 1941 and the Army moved to an old Baptist Chapel in Portland Villas. This building had been purchased by Mr H G Hurrell after the Baptist congregation had moved out many years earlier and he, on behalf of the Trustees, presented the premises to the salvation Army at a ceremony on Saturday August 2nd 1941. The official opening was undertaken by Mr Victor Winnicott in the presence of the divisional commander, Lieutenant-Colonel P Polley. 'The enemy have been trying to overcome the morale of the people,' said Mr Winnicott, 'but this is a fine example of how they have failed. We all have our job to do and it is very encouraging to know that the Salvation Army will not know defeat.'
During the reconstruction of Plymouth after the Second World War, a new Congress Hall was opened in Armada Way by General Wilfred Kitching. That was on Saturday April 23rd 1960. The building cost £69,000 but the General was not happy about its location next to the YMCA. 'I wish that was a public-house and not a YMCA,' he is reported to have told his capacity audience: 'and then we should feel we were in good company. We have no quarrel with the YMCA but the Salvation Army is interested in the redemption of men and women.' Among those present were Mrs Kitching; the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Alderman P N Washbourn; Mr Isaac Foot, the son of the Mr Isaac Foot, the builder of the original Congress Hall; Miss Joan Vickers, Member of Parliament for Devonport; and Mr Ian Fraser, the MP for Sutton.