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The Battle of Church Square

In 1880 the people of Basingstoke read an announcement Religious devotion 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 abstinenceThe demon drink 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 Put em upthe 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 armiesSalvation Army drummer 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. 

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