by The Highbury Centre, Islington, London, 8/13/19.
In 19th century London, the gap between the very richest and the poorest of the poor seemed unbridgeable. Aristocratic families flitted between their country estates and their town houses, enjoying the very best that society had to offer, while the newly wealthy middle classes flocked to the West End’s department stores to fill their houses with the latest must-have artefacts. In stark contrast to this conspicuous consumption, poor and working-class people lived crowded together in the most abject poverty, with no sanitation, in crumbling and dangerous housing.
Poor children were fortunate to live until their fifth birthday. Cholera, typhus, dysentery, smallpox and TB were all killers. Their parents fared no better, often dying from over-work or disease.
In 1865, a married couple, William and Catherine Booth, both ardent Methodists, felt called to take the good news out on the streets. They offered practical support to those who needed it most, “soup, soap and salvation.” By 1878, they were known as the Salvation Army and became a familiar sight in the poorest districts of London.
By 1893, the year of the foundation of the Foreign Missions Club in Highbury New Park, the Salvation Army had expanded hugely, taking the news of God’s love out on the streets to thousands. Extreme poverty and its related issues, addiction, hunger, malnutrition, desperation and crime was rife in the capital, leading William Booth to deliver passionate speeches to his growing ranks about the need for help. “While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight; while little children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight – I’ll fight to the very end!”
The work of the Salvation Army, started over 150 years ago, still goes on worldwide. William and Catherine Booth are buried at Abney Park in Stoke Newington, just over 1.5 miles from The Highbury Centre. Their legacy of love, practical care and salvation for all lives on in our century, where sadly want and poverty are still very much a part of our society.
At The Highbury Centre, our heart has always been to offer Christian accommodation, rest and relaxation to missionaries, workers for the Lord and anyone in need of a comfortable bed for the night. A great deal of things have changed since we first opened our doors in 1893, but much remains the same. We are proud to offer good value, welcoming and accessible accommodation in the heart of North London.
If reading this has interested you, you can find out more about the work of the Salvation Army by clicking on this link: www.salvationarmy.org.uk/
Find out more about the Highbury Centre, an affordable guest house in London, at https://www.thehighburycentre.org