The Battle of Church Square
In 1880 the people of Basingstoke read an announcement that
the Salvation Army were coming to the factory in Brook Street on Sunday,
September 19th to "open fire on Sin and Satan." The factory was a
disused silk mill near Victory Square, which they had adopted as their
headquarters. The town had been renowned for it's brewing and was full of public
houses, so the prospect of abstinence
was resented in the town. This was, at first, shown in mild ways, when the
Salvation Army Band played in the Market Place one butcher rang a bell
throughout the performance.
The situation took a serious turn when a group of men from the
Victoria Inn formed an opposing "army", called the Massagainians.
Hostility grew until one Sunday morning in 1881 the Riot Act had to be read and
the artillery, stationed in Basingstoke at the time, were called in to quell
fighting and clear the streets. Robert Holder, the proprietor of the Three Tuns,
where the soldiers were billeted, made truncheons for the soldiers to use. The
Salvation Army marchers, with a bodyguard of young supporters, had reached
Church Square when the two armies
clashed. The Salvation Army scattered then tried to reform, during which a
number of injuries were caused. The Salvation Armies flag was torn and the staff
broken into three pieces. Many of the Salvation Army were beaten with sticks, leaving
many covered in blood. The Mayor and the Council had to be shut behind the gates
of the brewery, whilst the Battle of Church Square raged on.
Some of the Massagainians were sent to Winchester prison, after
serving their sentences they returned to Basingstoke to a hero's welcome as
honoured guests at a banquet in the Corn Exchange.
(back to top)