Celebrating 125 years of transforming lives at The Salvation Army’s Hadleigh Farm Estate
In 1891 The Salvation Army bought 900 acres of farmland in the Essex village of Hadleigh and developed a pioneering social programme to empower people living in poverty and experiencing long-term unemployment. After 125 years of transforming lives The Salvation Army continues to be at the heart of the local community today.
The Salvation Army marked the milestone in a service of thanksgiving at Hadleigh Farm Tea Rooms on Wednesday 25th May attended by 150 people, including the newly elected Castle Point Mayor Councillor Steven Cole. Staff from the Hadleigh Farm Estate celebrated the past and present work of The Salvation Army on the site, from the Training Centre for people with additional support needs and their successful partnership with Essex County Council at Hadleigh Park’s Hub, to the popular tearooms and rare breeds centre.
Speaking at the event, The Salvation Army’s Divisional Commander for London North-East, Major Norman Ord, said: “Hadleigh holds a special place in the hearts of Salvationists all around the world. The evolution and professionalism of The Salvation Army’s services at Hadleigh Farm models our Christian mission to care for people, to respond to their needs and empower them to reach their potential.
“We are so grateful for the faithfulness of God and also for the support from the people of Hadleigh throughout the years. We feel privileged to serve and welcome the local community to the estate on a daily basis.”
During the service of thanksgiving trainees from the training centre spoke of how the staff at Hadleigh Farm have transformed their lives by helping build their confidence and teaching them new skills. Parents and carers also thanked The Salvation Army for their ongoing support.
The celebrations recognised The Salvation Army’s continued dedication to the local community through the planting of a new pear tree. As staff, volunteers, partners and trainees shovelled soil into the tree’s pot, they demonstrated their commitment to continue working together to see Hadleigh Farm bear fruit. The choice of a pear tree acknowledged that at one time during its 125 year history Hadleigh Farm was home to some 10,000 fruit trees.
The purchase of Hadleigh Farm in 1891 implemented the social manifesto of William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army. Men experiencing homelessness and unemployment in the East End of London were given the opportunity to escape the deprivation of the capital and move to Hadleigh Farm where they could learn new skills, principally agriculture and brick making. The aim was to give these men and their families a hand-up out of poverty, rather than a hand-out, in the hope that they would find employment and stay out of the workhouse.
The estate supported itself, selling its produce to the Southend community and trading bricks with London. By the end of 1892 the site incorporated a working farm, three brick works, a hospital and a Salvation Army church, as well as a tramline and railway for transporting agricultural produce and bricks from the farm to the wharf in Hadleigh Ray.
The services The Salvation Army runs at Hadleigh Farm have evolved over the years in response to need. By 1912 nearly 7,000 men had worked at Hadleigh Farm, with more than 60 per cent finding employment. As the Government developed its own welfare programme, the need for projects such as Hadleigh Farm became less urgent. In the 1930s the farm provided a place of refuge to Basque children during the Spanish Civil War, as well as around 70 Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Germany and Eastern Europe.
Today, a team of dedicated staff and 58 volunteers keep the site running, welcoming more than 280,000 visits to the Hadleigh Farm Estate each year. There are currently 171 trainees with additional support needs enrolled at the training centre, which offers education and accredited qualifications to improve employability in carpentry, catering, horticulture, hospitality, construction, IT and retail. Trainees also benefit from onsite work experience at the tearooms and rare breeds centre.
The Salvation Army is always looking for new opportunities to serve the local community. Just last year, Essex County Council opened the Hub at Hadleigh Park and provided The Salvation Army with the space to run a café, reading room and a sensory room within the visitors’ centre. The Hub, which serves visitors to the redesigned site of the 2012 Olympic mountain bike course, also includes a bike shop and workshop.
Photos shared with permission of Hadleigh Camera Club