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Saturday, 10 November 2012

Blaydon Corps

Blaydon opened on 19th May 1878 as a Christian Mission Station, only a few months before William Booth renamed the Christian Mission as the Salvation Army.  Thus it was one of the earliest Corps of the Salvation Army with the number 43. T. Borrill with fellow Christian Missioners from Felling and Shields led the initial meetings, saving some of Blaydon’s worst characters. The town was regarded as being very poor with “many out of work and others working half-time”. Six months later T. Borrill was sent to Bedlington and a “Hallelujah Lass” named Sarah Broadbent took command. Converts continued to be made.

Blaydon Corps Hall
 In November 1879 Emmanuel Rolfe was sent to open the work in Winlaton. He was met at Blaydon Railway Station by the Blaydon officer and a Salvation Army soldier. Together they trudged up the hill in the snow to have a quick cup of tea before marching out with another comrade to commence an open-air in the freezing cold. Almost immediately Captain Rolfe took command of both Blaydon and Winlaton although in the rapidly growing Army where on average three new Corps per week were being established, Blaydon enjoyed being known as one of the earliest.

However, some Corps did close in the early 1880s and Blaydon appears to have been one of them. In 1893 though, Blaydon reopened although now as Corps 1435. It was soon making an impression on the Army world. In the “Provincial Race” of War Cry selling in the United Kingdom, it was the top Corps in May 1893 (having reopened three months earlier under Captain Blake and Lieutenant Carter). The following month Major Hodder, the officer commanding the Newcastle Division, visited Blaydon and the Wesleyan Chapel was virtually filled for a “glorious meeting”. (One noteworthy point is that William Booth’s name was still on the local Wesleyan preachers plan). 

In July 1893 War Cry sales were still high and a large number of recruits were sworn in during one week’s campaign. The campaign ended with three days of Salvation activities including a Saturday tea for over 200 and a march headed by Newcastle V band.  The Sunday morning meeting commenced with an open-air and knee-drill on Summerhouse Hill with over seventy people. More open-airs and testimonies from recruits were followed by afternoon and evening meetings at the Mechanics Institute.  In conclusion on Monday afternoon there was a Holiness meeting and in the evening, with Hexham band on the march and in the Chapel, forty soldiers were sworn in. The income was £14. “After expenses are paid, the balance will go towards furnishing the officers’ quarters. God Bless the Blaydon Bricks”.

The interior of the hall
 In February 1894, at the first Corps anniversary, Blaydon C.O.s (Captain Marshall and Lieutenant Digance) celebrated with the help of Bentinck (Newcastle V) Band. References were made to the commissioning of a drum-and-fife Band at Blaydon. Three years later a local man, Henry Rawson, left Blaydon for the Training Garrison and went on to serve the Army well in a variety of appointment. By November 1905, Blaydon had well in excess of 130 soldiers, 28 recruits and a Band of twenty-five, frequently seen resplendent in their ‘lion-tamers’ tunics. Even the three Junior bandsmen wore such tunics specially made for them. In July 1906 General Booth himself visited to give a Monday address at the Co-operative Hall. 800 people heard the General give a stirring address on the need for, and success of, the Salvation Army.

Blaydon Salvation Army Corps continued it service until September 2012 when despite the best efforts of the few remaining soldiers, the Corps was closed. Winlaton had closed some years earlier. Blaydon Corps has been run for well over twenty years by Envoy June Tones.

The Blaydon Corps building today was originally built in 1850 as Winlaton Primitive Methodist Chapel. It was built on the ash-pits of the blacksmith shops and furnaces which, along with houses and cottages, were packed into the area. The Chapel was extended in 1895 and known as Winlaton Front Street Primitive Methodist Chapel (later Chapel was exchanged for Church).

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