Biography of William Booth

Photo of William Booth

William Booth was the founder of the Salvation Army in the nineteenth century.

When and Where was he Born?

12th April 1829, 12 Nonintone Place, Sneinton, Nottingham, England.

Family Background:

Booth was the son of a speculative builder.


Apprenticed to a Pawn Broker.

Timeline of William Booth:

1844: Booth converts to Christianity and becomes a revivalist preacher.

1849: He moves to London where he works in a pawnbrokers shop in Walworth.

1852: He meets Catherine Mumford for the first time. Catherine shared his interests in social reform but was not taken by his anti-women views whom he described as “the weaker sex”. He was particularly opposed to women preachers. Although he said he would not like it, he would not prevent Catherine from becoming a preacher herself.

1855: Booth becomes a Methodist New Connexion Minister at Gateshead on Tyneside. He marries Catherine Mumford on 16th June at Stockwell New Chapel.

1860: Catherine first rises to preach in the Bethesda Chapel in Gateshead and she is so powerful that Booth changes his mind about women preachers.

1864: Booth and Catherine found the Whitechapel Christian Mission together in the East End of London to try to help feed and house the poor working people.

1878: The mission is re-organised along army style lines with the preachers being known as officers and William himself being the General. The group quickly become known as the Salvation Army. Booth tries to bring happiness into his services to try and bring in new converts and introduces instrumental music and joyful singing. The Salvation Army became at odds with the Church of England particularly because women took such a prominence and the politician Lord Shaftesbury was to describe Booth as “The Antichrist”.

1891: The Booth’s had been working actively for some years on behalf of the girls who worked at Bryant and May’s match factory in the area. The yellow phosphorus in the matches gave many of them necrosis of the jaw and they opened their own match factory in Old Ford, London in opposition to Bryant and May, using an alternative to yellow phosphorus (Red phosphorus) and paying their workers twice the wages. M.P.s and journalists were invited to the model factory to take note of the working girls plight.

1901: Bryant and May themselves stop using phosphorus in the production of matches.

1902: The establishment’s opinion of William Booth had by now changed and he is invited to the coronation of King Edward the Seventh. He is also made a Freeman of London and granted an honorary degree by the University of Oxford.

When and Where did he Die?

20th August 1912, London, England after septic poisoning after cataract surgery. He was unconscious for forty eight hours before his death.

Age at Death:



16th June 1855 to Catherine Mumford at Stockwell New Chapel.

Site of Grave:

Abney Park Cemetery, Church Street, Stoke Newington.

Places of Interest:


Stockwell New Chapel.
Whitechapel Salvation Army.


Bethesda Chapel, Gateshead.