Swan Lodge creates mural tribute to Salvation Army origins

published on 10 Aug 2023

Swan Lodge mural
Manager Christine Ritchie with the mural

A mural based on The Salvation Army founder William Booth’s famous book ‘In Darkest England and The Way Out’ has been unveiled at Swan Lodge Lifehouse.

The huge artistic achievement by local artist Frank Styles is brightening up the foyer at the Lifehouse in Sunderland, which provides supported accommodation for up to 65 people who are homeless.

The modern-day mural was designed by residents who had been researching the origin stories of The Salvation Army and its founder William Booth, who published his bestselling book In Darkest England And The Way Out’ in October 1890, which explored proposals for the reformation of social and welfare services.

Swan Lodge mural

The Swan Lodge mural features swans flying above the sea and the local Roker Lifehouse with members of staff in a boat pulling people aboard.

Christine Ritchie, Swan Lodge Service Manager, said: “We wanted to freshen up the foyer area and involve the residents in a project to help make the area brighter and more welcoming.

“We’d been talking to residents about William Booth, how The Salvation Army started and about the picture with the lighthouse, which featured in William Booth’s book and focused on themes like homelessness, addiction, destitution, unemployment.

Swan Lodge mural

“Then it was a case of doing a modern depiction of it because in many ways things haven’t changed since the original drawing. The picture shows staff, The Salvation Army, pulling people onto a boat, helping them up, which is something we are still doing to this day.

“We contacted Frank who worked with the residents to come up with a design. Swan Lodge is their home and in many ways we, the staff, are the visitors so it was important that our residents led with what they wanted.

“The boat depicted is the Guiding Star which was the name of my father’s boat, named by my mum who was a Salvation Army member. There is a Sunderland landmark with the Roker Lighthouse.”

In darkest England
Part of the original drawing and inspiration for the mural

The mural also features staff members, including Christine, who had no idea they would be portrayed until the unveiling.

Christine added: “We had no clue we were going to be depicted, and it’s brilliant. It’s a talking point because it is recognisably us!”

Last year North East based artist Frank Styles, who focuses on creating large scale murals, also painted a stunning mural on the outside of Swan Lodge featuring a seascape with swans flying up the side of the building in High Street East.

two teenage girls having breakfast at a Salvation Army summer camp.

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