The Circus, Hastings - Catherine Booth (1873)



The reporter of “the Hastings Independent“ gives the following account of this meeting: –

‘Was it curiosity, was it a higher motive or was it a blending of both which filled the circus here on Sunday evening? No church in this borough ever had or could hold so large a congregation as was there assembled, and certainly no performance at the circus ever yet managed to draw so vast a concourse of people. Boxes, gallery, pit, promenade – even the very ring itself, where clowns tumbled in jest and fair ladies perform feats of horsemanship – were crowded. Men, women and children from the fisher-boy and flower-girl up to the members of the school Board and Town Council; publicans and Good Templars; young sparks, whose God is a cigar and a fresh looking cravat; Miliner-girls and servants, radiant in ribbons and cheap finery; shop boys, tradesmen, Saints and sinners, all were gathered in response to an announcement proclaimed from dead walls and hoardings a few days previously that Mrs Booth was going to preach.

Who is this Mrs Booth, who possesses such power to attract to a single meeting at least 1/10 of the whole population of our borough? Was it to hear a woman preach, because some of us believe that ladies have no right to be our theological teachers, that we went? Was it to laugh and jeer that others of us were present? Was it because many of us had already heard Mrs Booth’s friends say such marvellous things of her eloquence that we were determined to receive oral and ocular demonstration for ourselves, or were we attracted by the singularity of the transforming, for the nonce, a theatre into the house of God? At any rate, whatever may have been the motive of the many incoming, there were some 2,500 in all. Looking round on the large number of people, and contemplating in one’s mind the comparatively empty churches and chapels outside, one could not but think that the lesson might be learned by some ministers from even Mrs Booth and the committee who bring her to Hastings to lead the people in a sensational way to Heaven.“

From, 'Catherine Booth, mother of the Salvation Army', Volume II, by Booth-Tucker, pages 27-8.

Additional Information

I do not know where the venue was.