The town of Morriston is situated three miles up the Swansea Valley, and from early beginnings was a ‘hot bed’ of Welsh nonconformity. It is by no coincidence that Morriston is home to the largest chapel in the Principality. The Tabernacle dominates the town and is euphemistically referred to as the ‘Nonconformist Cathedral of Wales’.
It was into this religious environment that the ‘Army’ entered the town in 1887. The Salvation Army was officially opened in 1st January 1887, Captain Lizzie Codogen was the first Commanding Officer, although it commenced its ministry some time earlier: the first meetings were said to be held in a small building in the Old Bridge district of Morriston – but this cannot be authenticated. However, meetings were held in a room above a cobbler’s shop in Clydu Street, which still stands today.
The Corps moved from the above premises to the present Citadel, which is situated in Morfydd Street, in mid May 1889. Under the heading ‘The House that Tom Built’, the report of the date in the War Cry states ‘The Morriston Corps in the Swansea Division has had a prosperous month since Major & Mrs. Lawley in the middle of May opened the barracks built by ‘Noisy Tom’ Morgan’.
Further reports from the War Cry in those early days:
March 17th, 1888 ‘Morriston – A blessed soul-saving work is being carried on at the Corps, of which Captain Lizzie Cadogan is in charge. A large number of men who have spent many a pound in the public house have been captured for Jesus, and their money is now flowing in the proper channel. Forty of these have recently been sworn in as Salvation Army soldiers under the Blood and Fire flag by Staff-Captain Morgan. May their numbers continually increase’.
June 2nd, 1888 ‘Morriston is making real progress and some of the biggest sinners in town have farewelled from sin and are fighting for Christ. On Sunday some most stirring testimonies were given which would convince any hearer, however sceptical, that a great work of depth is being carried on’.
August 21st, 1889 ‘After eleven months’ successful warfare, Captain Louisa Brown and Lieutenant Louisa Smith have farewelled from Morriston. Captain Anne Ballard, late of Neath, and brand new Lieutenant Lizzie Gilbert, formerly a Brighton I soldier, have succeeded there. Fifty blood and fire Welshmen singing in the open air, and thirty-five dealing with God at knee drill, makes not a small affair. This corps at present heads the division in ‘War Cry’ sales, knee drill, open air and nightly attendances. Is the stripling always to lead the way? Swansea I exclaims “We are on their heels, look out!” Pembroke Dock gasps “We are following hard!” Llanelli means to be second to none; Carmarthen hopes yet, but Morriston declares its intention of going up, and keeping first’. (Staff-Captain Otway D.O.)
October 26, 1889, reported in the ‘War Cry’ that ‘Morriston sold over 400 copies each week – and so the soul-saving work goes on’.
The Citadel buildings were in a state of dis-repair and required a great deal of work to be done. The comrades of the Corps decided to do something about it. A special appeal was launched to raise funds to renovate the hall, sufficient money being given by the comrades on the first Sunday to commence the work, with a commitment by others to give as they could afford.
So, early in 1965 extensive renovations were carried out on the hall, most of the work being carried out by comrades of the Corps, and many friends, who gave their services free of charge – professional help being sought only where necessary, thus keeping the cost down to a minimum. This meant that the comrades had to vacate the premises, and that meetings had to be held elsewhere.
The famous Morriston Orpheus Male Voice Choir allowed the Corps the use of their rehearsal room for the whole period without charge: a magnificent gesture on their part, and greatly appreciated by the Corps Officers and Comrades. The work was completed a year ahead of schedule and a sum of eight hundred pounds left over from the renovations of the Citadel was ‘ear-marked’ to become the basis for the purchase of premises for the Young People’s Corps. The spiritual tone of the Corps was enhanced by the experience of working together in this way. The comrades treated the whole period as a time of special fellowship, believing that the Lord was ever present and blessing their efforts. The re-opening of the Hall was on Saturday, 5th February 1966, with celebrations continuing on the Sunday, these being conducted by Lieutenant-Colonel & Mrs. H. Habershaw.
The Gospel message has been faithfully preached in the streets of Morriston and district thousands of times throughout the last 130 years. Today, forth, fifth, and sixth generation Salvationists serve the ‘Present Age’ with the same zeal, fervour and vigour of early day Salvationists – proud of their heritage.