Whilst reading the Corps history books the author came across several memos from Divisional Commanders drawing attention to the importance of maintaining the records. Until relatively recently it has not been convenient or practical for such delicate documents to be widely circulated, but thanks to 21st century technology we now have the opportunity to display the record of our heritage. After many hours of typing and editing, the whole of the three volumes of the History Book up to the present day have been copied. During the period from 1993 to the current day the “Official” History, as recorded in the third volume of the history books, is supplemented by that recorded with enthusiasm by Peter Wood, but these nevertheless had to be typed in also. As in the Gospels two or more historians are better than one.
Chatham Citadel has a long and distinguished history, being only the sixteenth corps to be opened in the early days of the Army in 1873. The Corps was in fact opened as, “The Christian Mission”, the name not being changed to “The Salvation Army”, until 1878. The early history is not very well recorded in the Corps History Books and it is not until 1916 that the books appear to have been commenced. There exist, however, a number of very interesting additional documents maintained by members of the Corps who have, or had, a particular feel for its history. A very comprehensive catalogue of officers stationed at the Corps was kept by a very early convert, Charles Hales, and this is reproduced here. The former Corps Sergeant Major, Peter Wood, has spent many hours researching the early history of the Corps and we are indebted to him for making the material available for this site. Early Christian Mission history comes from extracts the “Christian Mission” periodical and local press of the time, while “snippets” of interesting information about life during those early days come from various other local publications. Music forms a very important part of Salvation Army worship. There is some very interesting background to the formation of our Bands and Songster Brigades.
There used to be four Salvation Army Centres in Chatham. On the New Road, which is the main road to the coast, Beulah House had been bequeathed to the Army. It was the home for girls between the ages twelve to sixteen who presumably needed care and protection. It existed there for quite a number of years until a further and larger house was bequeathed in Rochester, called Green Acres. Beulah House staff and girls were transferred there. Later it came under the charge of the local authority. There was also another Salvation Army Centre on The Brook in Chatham, quite close to where the town hall now is. It was a slum post and it is understood that in the early days The Brook was an area visited by certain undesirable characters. One must remember, of course, that Chatham was a garrison town and it was the headquarters of the Royal Marines, Chatham Division and also headquarters of a branch of the Royal Engineers, which it still is today. There was also a Naval base known as HMS Pembroke so Chatham had a very large military and naval tradition. In that connection The Salvation Army had another centre almost opposite the old slum post, a five story building with large letters, one foot high, titling “The Salvation Army Naval and Military Home”. This of course catered for the service personnel of the town.
Over the years there have been many officers taking charge of the corps but possibly one of the most famous was the evangelist Gypsy Smith who started his Christian experience as a Salvation Army officer at Chatham. An old lecture hall was used prior to the building of the present Citadel. It wasn’t until 1912 that they found another building was necessary for the young people and this was built adjoining the Citadel. There are tablets entered into the walls of the building which explain which year it was built and name certain people who had been instrumental in that coming about.