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William Booth

The Salvation Army is active is 126 countries around the world and is known for helping to alleviate poverty - but did you know its founder William Booth comes from Nottingham?

Born in 1829, into an elegant Regency house in Sneinton on the outskirts of the city, William was the son of Samuel and Mary Booth. Samuel came from a poor family however he worked hard as a property speculator, ensuring that his own family could lead a comfortable middle-class life.

But their fortunes didn't last and the Booths moved to Bleasby near Southwell where Samuel took work as a farmer. They later moved back to Sneinton and when William was 13-years-old, he became an apprentice for the pawnbrokers Francis Eames. Later that year his father died, plunging the family into poverty. Although he disliked his job, William knew that it was a means of supporting his family and preventing their suffering - something that would be seen later in his Salvation Army work.

It was during this time that William was also exposed to the social problems and suffering of the day. In addition, he began to be influenced by street speakers from the Chartist movement, which advocated more rights for the working classes, and also became a Methodist, a denomination of Christianity which emphasises practical help and spirituality for the poor.

William later moved to London where he met his wife Catherine and became an evangelical preacher with the Methodist New Connexion. After working in the Halifax and Gateshead areas, he left to form the Christian Mission - which later became the Salvation Army.  

William died in 1912 after a short illness and more than 150,000 came to see him lying in state in Clapton. Around 35,000 people attended his memorial service, while his funeral saw 7,000 Salvationists walk through the streets of London. Among the many honours he received in his life was Freedom of the City in Nottingham.

Today you can find out more about his life at the William Booth Birthplace Museum in Nottingham, where his first home has been recreated in the style of the period, providing a fascinating insight into his life and work. You can also see Nottingham through the eyes of William Booth in the William Booth and the Salvation Army walking trail.

In 2015, William Booth will be in the spotlight as we mark 150 years of the Salvation Army. Salvationists from all over the world will meet in London - and many are expected to take a pilgrimage to the birthplace museum to see where it all began.

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