History of Hadleigh Farm

In 1891 The Salvation Army bought 900 acres of farmland in the Essex village of Hadleigh and developed a pioneering social programme to empower people living in poverty and experiencing long-term unemployment. After 125 years of transforming lives The Salvation Army continues to be at the heart of the local community today.

The purchase of Hadleigh Farm in 1891 implemented the social manifesto of William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army. Men experiencing homelessness and unemployment in the East End of London were given the opportunity to escape the deprivation of the capital and move to Hadleigh Farm where they could learn new skills, principally agriculture and brick making. The aim was to give these men and their families a hand-up out of poverty, rather than a hand-out, in the hope that they would find employment and stay out of the workhouse.

The Estate supported itself, selling its produce to the Southend community and trading bricks with London. By the end of 1892 the site incorporated a working farm, three brick works, a hospital and a Salvation Army church, as well as a tramline and railway for transporting agricultural produce and bricks from the farm to the wharf in Hadleigh Ray.

The services The Salvation Army runs at Hadleigh Farm have evolved over the years in response to need. By 1912 nearly 7,000 men had worked at Hadleigh Farm, with more than 60 per cent finding employment. As the Government developed its own welfare programme, the need for projects such as Hadleigh Farm became less urgent. In the 1930s the farm provided a place of refuge to Basque children during the Spanish Civil War, as well as around 70 Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Germany and Eastern Europe.

Today The Salvation Army Hadleigh Farm Estate continues the legacy left behind by William Booth and strives to help vulnerable and marginalised members of the local community and beyond.

The International Heritage Centre preserve, catalogue, research and make accessible material about the life and work of The Salvation Army. For more information about the International Heritage Centre, visit their website here

For more information about the historic town of Hadleigh and the role The Salvation Army have played here for over 125 years, visit the Hadleigh and Thundersley Community Archive here.

For more information about the Hadleigh Farm Colony, local historians Gordon Parkhill and Graham Cook have written a fascinating book tracing its history right up until the present day. Purchase a copy of Hadleigh Salvation Army Farm: A Vision Reborn from Amazon here.