The Salvation Army began in 1865 when William Booth, a London minister, gave up the comfort of his pulpit and decided to take his message into the streets where it would reach the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the destitute.
His original aim was to send converts to established churches of the day, but soon he realized that the poor did not feel comfortable or welcome in the pews of most of the churches and chapels of Victorian England. Regular churchgoers were appalled when these shabbily dressed, unwashed people came to join them in worship. Booth decided to found a church especially for them - the East London Christian Mission. The mission grew slowly, but Booth's faith in God remained undiminished.
Today, The Salvation Army is a truly international Christian Church, at work in 126 Countries around the globe. The beginnings of The Salvation Army in Hythe can be traced back to the Griggs family, a name which will still be familiar to local people today. Wright Griggs was born in 1862, at 36 Stade Street, Hythe, into a family that had lived in Hythe for at least four generations. The family owned a fleet of fishing boats.
At the age of eleven, Wright joined the Merchant Navy and served on the "Vivid" one of a fleet of colliers, and became "mate" of this vessel at the age of eighteen. It was while in dock at Hartlepool, at the age of seventeen, he became converted at The Salvation Army. When at home, Wright attended the Salvation Army in Folkestone, where there was great opposition, and was a foremost figure in it's defence during the riots there.
Wright had intended to marry Elizabeth Laslett, a daughter of a coastguard, in the Folkestone Salvation Army hall, but hearing that the Skeleton Army planned to bombard them with fish heads and offal, the couple secretly came to Hythe and were married in the Congregational Church in 1883. Wright continued to serve in the Merchant Navy for another three years, and was offered the Captaincy of a ship. He declined the offer in order to devote more time to the great fight for acknowledgement which the Army was making at that time. On leaving the Navy, Wright and Elizabeth became Salvation Army Officers, and commanded four Corps in the London area.
On the death of his father, he resigned as a Salvation Army Officer and returned to Hythe to carry on the family fishing business. He would not allow any of his fleet to go fishing on a Sunday, having to wait until one minute past midnight before they could put to sea.
He became a member of the Lifeboat crew in 1891 and later was appointed Coxswain. He continued serving with the lifeboat until his death, and was known as the "Father of the Lifeboat". He and his family linked up with the Army in Folkestone, and it was largely due to the pressure that Wright put on the Army that they agreed to open an Outpost at Hythe in 1895, officially opened in 1896. Wright and his family became founder members of the corps. He and Elizabeth had fourteen children, five sons and nine daughters, and were very active in the corps during the first half of the century.
Wright was Promoted to Glory on 18th September 1931, and there were many tributes to a "Man of God". The Lifeboat crews from Hythe and Dungeness were present at the funeral, and the hall was filled to overflowing. After the service the cortege was processed to Saltwood for the interment, headed by the combined Hythe and Folkestone Salvation Army Bands. Crowds lined the canal bank and streets to witness the funeral procession.
It is in this same pioneer spirit of innovation and service that The Salvation Army in Hythe continues it’s mission today.