Friday, 9 March 2012

The Salvation Army, St Luke's

Near the western end of Old Street, a large ghost sign reminds people that the building in which the housing and homelessness charity Shelter is based was once a hostel run by the Salvation Army.

It appears the Salvation Army, the Church and charitable movement founded in 1865 by William and Catherine Booth, moved to Old Street in 1890. They took possession of a former brewery and within its walls set up an 'elevator', a factory where, in exchange for a day's work, men would be entitled to a full food ticket. Those who did not work hard enough would only get a fraction of the ration or could even be sent away. Around 500 men worked there. Many lived there too, although some slept and ate at the shelter in Quaker Street in Shoreditch, less than a mile away. The main meal of the day was breakfast, which in 1893 consisted of "four enormous pieces of bread with jam, marmalade or margarine, and a pint of tea or coffee." Those with a dainty apetite could swap two pieces of bread and the jam for a piece of pressed beef. Work carried out at the Old Street 'elevator' included cutting wood, making mattresses and brushes, sorting out and mending old clothes, and sorting out papers. However the old brewery was in a dilapidated state and the 'elevator' closed soon afterwards when the Salvation Army opened 'elevator III' in Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel. The Salvation Army then rented the building but on terms that left it free to re-occupy the site whenever the Army's Social Department could find the funds to refurbish it. This clause was certainly enforced as in 1900 the Salvation Army announced it was about to build a hostel with accomodation for 450 people in Old Street at a cost of £25,000. It seems the original plan was to provide shelter to women rather than men. Maybe that was the case when the hostel opened but, as the ghost sign indicates, women were later replaced by men.
The Missionary Tea Warehouse was also based in the new building and a warehouse was erected at the back, with an entrance on Garrett Street. Packs of tea sold under the label 'Triumph' were stocked and dispatched from there. Profits generated by the sale of 'Triumph' tea, as well as of the other brands of the Salvation Army's Missionary Tea League, went to extend missionary work in the UK and abroad.

Hostel For
Working Men
Cheap Beds
And Food

The hostel certainly closed in 1969 or shortly before. Indeed The Estate Gazette announced that year that the Salvation Army had sold its hostel for men on Old Street as well as the warehouse at the back.

Location: Old Street / Pictures taken in March 2008

1 comment:

helen said...

Lovely building those chimneys!