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Saturday, 9 November 2013

Salvation Army Rioting in Frome

The town of Frome, Somerset is entering on the long evenings with a very good prospect of a recurrence of the rowdyism and rioting which disgraced the borough last winter. On Thursday the disturbances recommenced for the first time for many months. The occasion was the welcome of two Salvationists from Shepton Mallet gaol, to which they were committed on the previous Thursday by the Frome magistrates for neglecting to pay small fines of 6d. and costs inflicted on them for obstructing the main thoroughfares of the town by preaching. On a previous occasion members of the Army had been summoned, and it was stated that the police had only taken action after the officers of the Army had repeatedly promised that they would not stop in the streets, but that they would simply march through the town. Their promises, however, were broken as often as they were made. The Bench then dismissed the case on the defendants promising that they would obey the law.
They were immediately removed to another town, and their successors at once commenced the old system. After a police warning and a promise that there should be no stoppages in the streets, these were removed, and so it went on. A continual change of officers rendered police warnings useless, and at last, after several months of this bravado, “Captains” Smith and Cozens were summoned for obstruction. They were defended by a well known counsel, and were fined 6p. and costs. The distress warrants were returned in each case marked “no effects” and the magistrates, in the usual course, committed the defendants to prison for seven days. On Thursday they were released, and the Salvationists were determined to make the most of the matter. Bills were issued, of which the following is a copy:-
“Coming Home, Thursday, August 28. Return of Captains Smith and Cozens from their Seven Days’ Rest in Shepton Mallet gaol. Major Sowerby, 20 Blood and Fire Officers, and a Host of Red Hot Soldiers, with Brass Bands, will give them a proper welcome home. Grand Banquet at 5p.m. Everybody come. Monster Salvation Tournament at 7.30. The boys from the gaol will wear their prison costume and relate their prison experiences. Come early.”
The men were received at the gates of the gaol by parties of their comrades from Frome, Bath, Yeovil, Bristol and Wells, with two bands. They first marched to the “British Workman” where they all had breakfast, after which the two ex-prisoners were arrayed in convict’s dress (canvas suits, with the broad arrow), and then the whole party proceeded in the brakes to Frome where they arrived about 11.30. During the remainder of the morning and afternoon, with only a pause for dinner, the party with the band paraded the town, drawing large crowds after them. After the “grand banquet” the procession again formed. The crowd became angry, and yells and hoots greeted the procession. Matters got worse when the Salvationists stopped outside the police station and gave groans and hisses, the band starting the defiant tune of “We Shall Conquer”. They then proceeded to their barracks, but on the road the now enormous mob attacked them from all sides. Several of the flags were taken and torn into a hundred pieces. The bands suffered also, many of their instruments being battered out of shape and the big drum was, it is said, cut open. When the melee was at its height, the Salvationists sent a hasty message to the police station for assistance. Only one man was at the station, and as he would have been perfectly useless in the midst of two thoroughly angry bodies, the sergeant on duty declined the responsibility of sending him. As soon as the flags had been captured and the Salvationists had escaped to their barracks, the bulk of the mob gave three cheers, and started the chorus of “Rule Britannia”, during which they formed in marching order and proceeded to the market place where they disbanded. In a very short time the town became quiet.
The Times. Saturday August 30th 1884
Thanks to member Linda Sullivan for this interesting article.

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