”Give Me That Old Time Religion”
Captain Eliza Houghton was appointed from London on the 13th March 1882 to Rock Ferry where, on Sunday 2nd April that same year, she opened Corps No: 264 in a disused skating rink on New Chester Road. The coming of the Army to the town caused quite a stir and early ‘War Cry’ reports indicate that the rink, seating 1,200 people, was often packed to capacity. The Corps occupied the premises at Booths Yard and then a shop on New Chester Road for several years, moving to the Oriel Road Hall in 1915 where again great things were accomplished for the Lord. The present hall was acquired in 1955 and the addition of the Young People’s Hall and band room was made in 1960.
Records of these early days are few and far between but it is clear that they were days of great spiritual fervour and enthusiasm for the Lord’s work. The days at Oriel Road Hall are particularly remembered for the wonderful fellowship and the many souls won for God.
We live in a rapidly changing world but God never changes and the Corps today still strives, with His help, to retain that original aim and purpose with which Captain Houghton came to Rock Ferry 122 years ago – that of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people in the area and of loving them for His sake.
A GLIMPSE OF THE PAST
Glorious opening of another skating rink at Rock Ferry. Town all alive! Police in abundance! No opposition, great sympathy. Crowded out! Fourteen souls in the fountain.
Major Josiah Taylor, The War Cry, 6th April 1882
The Salvation Army has established itself at Rock Ferry. Its ‘Hallelujah Lasses’ have proved a great success and it is certainly doing what many of the leading churches have failed to do – arresting the attention of the unthinking and sodden masses of the population who by many had come to be regarded as impervious to spiritual influences. No doubt the Army will mellow with age and there is reason to hope that it will become a legitimate and abiding influence for good in our midst.
The Birkenhead News, 8th April 1882
The disused skating rinks up and down the country are now being purchased by the Salvation Army and the fashion has spread to Rock Ferry, here the holy warriors have taken up their quarters at the skating rink from whence they are discharging heavy fusillades at the enemy. It is quite likely that The Salvation Army may yet become fashionable.
The Birkenhead News, 8th May 1882
The Rock Ferry Corps was packed out for the first time for a long while on Sunday. Captain Mellor and her brave band of warriors are going in for a proper onslaught at the devil’s strongholds. Things are beginning to look very bright. Rock Ferry, using Captain Osbourne and Lieutenant Collins, have got a good hold on the place, the winds of Heaven are blowing, faith burning, victory is ahead.
The War Cry, 1887
Solidity and Stability at Rock Ferry’ – We found that the soldiers and friends of the corps had hearts anything but rock like, except that their devotion to God is firm and solid. The Holy Spirit touched every soul and instead of stiffness and formality we had a time of rejoicing and weeping before the Lord. The knife of conviction was deeply thrust into the souls of everyone present and glory to God, 25 made a full surrender.
The War Cry, 1888