THE SALVATION ARMY IN DARTFORD
One Sunday in September 1886, two Salvation Army lasses were brought to Dartford to begin a pioneering work in the town. The early days of the Salvation Army in Dartford were characterised by opposition and hard work. Despite initial opposition, the Salvation Army attracted a strong following in Dartford, local drunkards and criminals were converted to Christianity. A brass band was quickly formed to accompany worship and to attract people to open air meetings.
After holding open air meetings in Dartford for more than twenty years, a dispute arose with the local authorities regarding the Salvation Army's use of the Bull Centre (outside the Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel) for their street services. A general ban on outdoor meetings in Dartford was introduced and the police were ordered to ensure that the ban was enforced. The Salvationists ignored the new ruling and continued to hold their street meetings. A number of their members were summoned by the Dartford police for obstruction. Rather than pay the fine imposed by the local Courts, some of the Dartford Salvation Army Corps members elected to go to prison at Maidstone. This incident caused a public outcry.
The imprisoned Salvationists were given a hero's welcome when they were
released from prison and returned to Dartford in triumph. Possibly the
largest crowd ever to assemble in central Dartford greeted the Salvationists.
The dispute was later settled at a formal meeting between the Salvation
Army, the local council and the Kent Police.
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THE SALVATION ARMY CITADEL IN DARTFORD
Dartford Corps' Old Barracks at Overy Street was vacated some time before 1912. A new Salvation Army Citadel was constructed in Hythe Street and officially opened by Mrs. Keyes (wife of local flour mill owner) in September 1912. The proceedings commenced with the singing of the Old Hundredth accompanied by the massed bands of the Plumstead and Dartford Corps. The estimated cost of the new Citadel (including land purchase) was £1716. All construction work was undertaken using local labour.
A celebratory tea was held at the Co-operative Hall after the opening services. On the Sunday following the official opening, the day started with a Prayer Meeting at 7.30 am and services were conducted at 11, 3, and 7. In the afternoon a large number of local children marched from the old hall in Overy Street to the new one.
The Citadel is still in active use in Dartford and provides a town centre base for the Salvation Army's worship and ministry in the town.