A House Through Time: The Salvation Army at 5 Ravensworth Terrace
The Salvation Army International Heritage Centre was pleased to be involved in the research behind David Olusoga’s BBC2 series, A House Through Time, the last episode of which was broadcast on Monday (29 April). A House Through Time follows the inhabitants of one house from its construction to the present day. The first series, broadcast in 2018, looked at a house in Liverpool and the second series focussed on 5 Ravensworth Terrace in the Summerhill area of Newcastle.
In the spring of 2018, we were contacted by TwentyTwenty, the producers of the BBC series A House Through Time, as they had discovered that the house they were researching for the series had been used as a Goodwill Centre by The Salvation Army from the 1960s onwards. Salvation Army Goodwill Centres were a national network of institutions which provided practical assistance for people in extreme poverty. Originally set up as the Cellar, Gutter and Garret Brigade in the early 1880s, and later known as ‘Slum Work’, Goodwill Centres were present in deprived areas all across the UK from the 1940s.
Unlike The Salvation Army’s evangelical corps or its mother & baby homes and other social work centres, very few records survive from Goodwill Centres and we have little information on their work. The first we had heard of the Newcastle Goodwill Centre was when TwentyTwenty got in touch. However, we quickly found that while we only had a brochure for the opening of the centre and a couple of photographs, this represented much more than we hold for most Goodwill Centres. The two photographs were in the papers of the Editorial Department and they led us to two articles about 5 Ravensworth Terrace in The Salvation Army’s newspaper, The War Cry. The first of these was about the opening of the Centre which, along with the brochure, told us that 5 Ravensworth Terrace was opened as the Sir Cecil Cochrane Memorial Goodwill Centre on 29 February 1964 by the leader of The Salvation Army in the UK, Commissioner Edgar Grinsted, with musical accompaniment from the brass band of Newcastle Temple Corps.
Cecil Cochrane had been a Liberal MP for South Shields before the First World War, he had died four years before the Goodwill Centre in Ravensworth Terrace opened and, other than a reference in the Centre’s opening programme to his “interest” and “sincere admiration” for The Salvation Army it is not immediately obvious why the Centre was named after him as it was very uncommon for a Centre to be named after anyone other than a prominent Salvation Army Officer or a major donor (this Centre is certainly the only one I know of to be named after a knight). However, the programme goes on to refer to his “many charitable acts hidden by anonymity” and, as a representative of the Cochrane Trust was present at the opening, it seems likely that one of Cecil Cochrane’s charitable acts was the creation of a legacy for The Salvation Army to fund this Goodwill Centre.
The other The War Cry article dates from 1977 and includes reference to the Officers who ran the Centre, Major Ethel Hall and Lieutenant Brenda Bays. The article is illustrated by a photograph of the meeting hall installed on the house’s ground floor but in the archive we have a second, unused photograph, showing Major Hall and Lt Bays on the front steps of 5 Ravensworth Terrace. The article goes on to say that they “were about to leave for a round of caring calls that would highlight the day for many chronic sick and lonely housebound people, people not able to use the facilities of the centre but who love to have a visit from its officers. A Ford estate car does valiant service and its uses are as varied as the needs encountered.” Besides Major Hall and Lt Bays, we were able to use historic directories to compile a list of the Officers who had worked at the Centre, which enabled TwentyTwenty to contact Major Eileen Moffat who had been a lieutenant at the Centre between 1970 and 1974 and was interviewed for the programme.
The episode also includes a photograph, apparently from Newcastle Central Library, showing the rear of the Centre with a poster advertising the two weekly services held in the meeting hall and listing other events at the Centre, including youth clubs.
We know that the Sir Cecil Cochrane Goodwill Centre closed in 1982 but there is nothing on record about the reason for its closure. This was certainly not the end of The Salvation Army’s Goodwill work as there were still 23 active Goodwill Centres in the late 1990s when all Goodwill Centres were absorbed into existing Salvation Army corps across the country.
While for most of its history, 5 Ravensworth Terrace was, as it is today, a family home, The Salvation Army’s Goodwill Centre was not its first institutional use. An earlier episode showed that in the 1880s the house had been a Church of England Diocesan rescue home, similar to those run by The Salvation Army at the same time (see www.northumberlandarchives.com/2019/04/10/diocesan-training-home-refuge-...)
All four episodes of A House Through Time are available via the BBC iPlayer website, with episode four available until 30 May 2019.