27 July 2018 You are here:

Special event to honour Salvation Army's 1886 campaign for freedom finally recognised

A plaque will be unveiled at Torquay Harbour on Sunday 12 August to mark 130 years since the overturning of a law which prevented The Salvation Army’s band from marching through the town on Sundays.

In 1886, the Torquay Harbour and District Act - which introduced the ban, came into force.

For the next two years The Salvation Army – including its founder William Booth and his daughter Eva, campaigned to have the act overturned. 

Local Salvation Army members including William Robins - whose ancestors are erecting the plaque, were sent to jail for marching through Torquay in protest. 

The campaign saw Parliamentary debates between Torquay MP Richard Mallock and the-then Home Secretary Henry Matthews and it received the backing of Henry H Fowler, the MP for Wolverhampton.

Local and UK-wide media took interest in the story and it was covered by newspapers including The Times, The Pall Mall Gazette, The Western Times and The Devon Weekly Times.

Then on 4 June 1888 the Torquay Harbour and District (1886) Amendment Act, which overturned the ban on marching on a Sunday in Torquay, received its first reading in the House of Commons. 

And by August 1888 the amendment received Royal Assent, became law and The Salvation Army band was again able to march through the streets of Torquay on a Sunday. Major Robert Elliott of The Salvation Army in Devon and Cornwall said:

“The unveiling of this plaque in the Inner Harbour in Torquay which is close to where William Robins was arrested in 1888, is an opportunity to celebrate the history of The Salvation Army and its contribution to Torquay and the surrounding area.

“It is also a chance to reflect on and remember the sacrifice made by William Robins and other local of Salvationists who were effectively jailed for their faith as they sought to serve the community of Torquay in the name of God.

“The Salvation Army has a long history in Torquay having first come here in 1882 and while the early years were very challenging times, over the last 136 years The Salvation Army has grown in Torquay and emerged as a respected Christian movement serving the local community.

“I am very grateful to Mr Martin Robins - the great-grandson of William Robins, and the Robins family for commissioning this plaque to commemorate the history of The Salvation Army in Torquay and of the sacrifice made by their ancestor and others like him over 130 years ago.”

The plaque unveiling ceremony is taking place during an open air service on Sunday 12 August at 3.00pm to be held in the Inner Harbour in Torquay, Devon TQ1 2BG.