Salvation Army in Letchworth

By Desmond Rix

Originally printed issue 54 June 1993

On the 26th and 27th June 1993 the Letchworth Corps of the Salvation Army will be celebrating its 80th Birthday and this article attempts to set out something of the history of the movement in our town.

On moving into the town in 1912, Arthur Rix with his wife Gladys, being active Salvationists over many years, found no representation in Letchworth. The Army's Headquarters in London were willing to provide officers, if suitable premises could be found. 

Meetings commenced on Sunday 26th June 1913 in the Co-operative Hall in Leys Avenue on the corner of the Wynd (the upper floor of the present D.E.R. Limited (now Cookability in 2001) and the Nationwide Building Society). 

The first open-air meeting was also held that day in Shott Lane. The hall was generally only available on Sundays, which meant that during the early years weeknight activities, including musical practices, were held in the homes of local Salvationists. Later a room in the Skittles Inn (now the Settlement) was also used.

Opening Ceremony 1921

Several of the early pioneers were local shop keepers, Arthur Rix was the manager of the Singer Sewing Machine shop in Leys Avenue (now Moores Chemist), George Cooper had a fish business in the Wynd. Alfred T Hodgson was later to have an electrical business, first in the Wynd and then in the old Commerce Avenue and George Munt, then also operating in Commerce Avenue, was later to own a cycle business in Eastcheap (now Halfords (Marcellos in 2001)) also at Hitchin and in Welwyn Garden City. 

Arthur Rix was the first Secretary and Alfred Hodgson the first Treasurer.

In 1921, a former First World War YMCA hut outside of Kings Cross Railway Station was brought to Letchworth and erected in Norton Way North and it was used for all activities until 1936. 

'The Hut' however, was always regarded as temporary and George Munt, although no longer a Salvationist, became Hon Treasurer of a project to erect a permanent building next to the Hut at the corner of Nevells Road. 

He was able to mobilise the interest of the townspeople and the sum of £800 was raised in time for its opening on Saturday 1st February 1936.

First Remembrance Day Service

From this time the work steadily grew - this consisting of regular worship and evangelistic meetings, for adults and young people and also work of a community nature - Senior Citizens Club, Ladies Afternoons (Home League) and Parent and Toddler Clubs. 'The Hut' (which during the Second World War had been used as a Community Centre for evacuees) had long passed its useful life by 1973 was replaced by the present cedar-wood Youth Hall - this now being the focal point for all youth and community outreach. 

In 1992 an additional officer was appointed to oversee from Letchworth the latest outreach - the re-opening after 20 years of the work in Steven age.

The work is at present (1993) oversighted by Captain Andy Cox with his wife Gwen and Lieutenant Timothy Johnson being responsible for the Stevenage Outreach.