MISSION TO ALL
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This is around the time Smith acquired Bowland Street, 1889, aged 30.
Titus Salt lived by a strict puritan code. The date of their marriage and James birth suggest that he was born out of wedlock and if that was true they had broken the terms of agreement and therefore would have to leave the employ and security of Salts employment. Whatever the reason was they moved away. James their firstborn was born in January 1857 in Otley.
In September of 1858 they had moved to Menston, the village of Johns birth, the three of them were living in a shack at the bottom of Derry Hill, across the road from John Wigglesworths parents, Francis and Theodosia commonly known as"Bella," and Martha was pregnant again.
And so it was in June of 1859 she gave birth to a baby boy and they named him Smith. Little did they know that this baby boy would shake the world with the power of God Almighty. In December of that year Baby Smith was Christened in the front room of no 37 Derry Hill, Menston.
Little is known of his earliest years. His Grandfather Francis died when he was 4, age 55. By the age of 6 he was working 12 hrs a day in the fields with his Father and 8 year old James, and at 7 he and his dad and brother were working In the mills. Smith was a spindle boy. From 6am to 6pm, they laboured, , Monday to Friday, week in, week out. Weekends were spent out in the fields bird watching, especially out on Ilkley moor. It was in areas like this that Smith developed a habit of taking to God.
Smith's grandmother Bella, was a strong lady, she was a widow and a staunch Methodist. The Wigglesworth shack was opposite her house across Main Street, and she would often take the lads, James and Smith, to her church which was just around the corner from her house. One day she took the lads to church as normal and as they were all dancing and praising God, the knowledge of the salvation of the Lord was revealed to the young Smith and he was born again; he was 8 years old. The year was 1867 and across the moor in Bradford, the Clarendon Academy, under the leadership of Robert Barr, had just opened its doors to its first students. 22 years later God would draw Smith Wigglesworth through those same doors and into the history books.
And 150 years from that date we Mission to All would enter those same doors mandated by God to "do it all again."
From the moment he was born again, Smith could not stop telling everyone about the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the first person he led to the Lord was his mother.
Smith's father John, used to drink in the Malt Shovel pub, a hundred yards from the Wigglesworth’s shack. He wanted to get to know the local Anglican vicar who drank in the same pub, so he had his two boys join the choir, and from then on he and the vicar would often sit together over a beer or two.
Dec 1872/Jan1873 the Wigglesworth family moved to Bradford to work in the mills. There was dad 36, mum 37, James 15, Smith 13, Hannah 11 and Benjamin 1.
They lived in 20 Temple street, Manningham, which was a hundred yards from Lister’s mill. Smith was 13 years old and working in the mill, their standard of living increased as father and two sons were working in full time work and earning good money.
In 1875 Smith had just turned 16 when he began to attend the Salvation Army. When he was 17 his beloved grandmother 'Bella' died, age 69. At 18 he left the mill and began to learn the plumbing trade.
Smith Meets Polly
In 1877 in Bradford city centre, evangelist 'Gypsy Tillie Smith' was holding an outdoor meeting for the Salvation Army. In the crowd was a pretty young woman who was captivated by the evangelists words. The meeting moved from the outdoors to an old building. Tillie began to preach and at the altar call the young woman came to the front and gave her life to the Lord. Her name was Mary Jane Featherstone, (Polly) and in the front balcony was an 18 year old Smith Wigglesworth, the Lord said to Smith, " that woman is your wife ."
Polly joined the Salvation Army and was commissioned as an officer, and over time she and Smith started to get closer and closer to each other, but Smith was a soldier and Polly was a commissioned officer so this relationship was frowned upon. In 1879 age 19, Polly was sent to Leith in Scotland to help with a work the Salvation Army had started there.
Smith by this time had become a very good plumber and as plumbing work had dried up in Bradford he decided to move to Liverpool. Here, he worked all day and at night he searched the dock areas feeding and evangelising the many street children. He also went on the Merchant Ships preaching the gospel.
In 1882 Smith returned to Bradford, age 23. Polly was already back in Bradford, living at Mrs Grace Smith's house, 27 King Street, Eccleshill. She was a general domestic servant and fondly known by her full nickname of Scarborough Poll. They were both called out of the Salvation Army by the Lord, as it had gone into mundane things, i.e. Serving tables and looking after the poor. Gods mandate was clear, " preach salvation to the poor, heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons”. He was also called out of the Methodist church, the Anglican Church, the Brethren, in fact, the Lord called him out of all denominations. Smith never joined any denomination.
Polly joined the Blue Ribbon Army, a temperance movement. By then she was living at no 36 Tudor Street, Horton, Bradford. On arrival back from Liverpool, Smith wanted a place of his own so he moved into rented premises at 28 Victor Road, Manningham. They were married on the 4 December 1882 at Bradford Cathedral, known then as Bradford Parish Church. They moved into 70 Victor Road, Manningham, Bradford.
Smith and Polly's house ( no 70 )was 3 storey's high, and Smith's study was on the top floor. To avoid having to run up and down the stairs, Smith installed a voice pipe, a long length of piping running from his study straight down into the basement to the housekeeper, Mrs Steel. When he wanted a cup of tea he would shout "TEA" down the voice pipe to which Mrs Steele would holler back "OK!"; and vice verse Mrs Steel shouted up the voice pipe "DINNER" and Smith would reply loudly down the pipe "OK."
Smith starts his own business
It is at this time that Smith started his own plumbing business. (early 1883 ), Smith rented a small building in a poor area, and called it Bradford Street Mission. Polly was the preacher, she preached with fire, was very forthright and focused on souls. Smith couldn't preach, so he got on with his plumbing business, evangelising as he worked.
1883 was a severe winter and the damage caused by the weather kept Smith working flat out month after month. The money came rolling in, so much so that Smith let his focus change from building Gods Kingdom to building his own. He lost sight of souls and gradually went into a backslidden state. This lasted approximately 2 years.
Towards the end of this period Smith was in a bad state. He had a bad temper, he could flare up quickly. A naturally strong man, he was around 5' 10" tall and built like a boxer, he was a rough, tough Yorkshire plumber and was a force to be reckoned with.
One night Polly arrived home from church later than normal, she went into the kitchen where Smith was ranting and raving because of her lateness. He took hold of her shoulders, shook her aggressively, turned her around and pushed her hard back out of the back door and locked her out of the house, or so he thought. Polly ran out of the back yard using the Lumb Lane entrance, turned left to Victor road and entered the house by the front door. She entered the kitchen and stood behind Smith who was still shouting and punching the air, he had really lost it. Polly found this so funny that she started to laugh uncontrollably. Smith turned round and saw her laughing, this started him laughing and the backsliding was broken. Smith saw how far he'd fallen.
Soon after that he went into a 10 day fast and God broke his temper. He came out of that fast a renewed man and never looked back again; his wife had saved him from a terrible spiritual shipwreck. He was 25 years old. The year was 1885. Bowland Street Mission was 5 years away.
Over the last two years Smith had made midweek trips to Leeds to replenish his plumbing supplies. Shortly after coming back to the Lord he was on one of these trips when information came to him of sick people being healed at a Zion church in Leeds. He began taking sick people from Bradford to this church on a weekly basis and many of them were healed. The leadership saw the spiritual strength on Smith Wigglesworth and asked him to head up the meetings on a certain weekend and so release them to go away on a conference. Reluctantly, Smith agreed, thinking he could delegate someone to lead the meeting. On the day, everyone said he must do it; and so, lacking in confidence, he took to the platform and preached, not remembering what he preached. 15 came forward for healing and all 15 were healed. Encouraged by this he started healing meetings in his Bradford Street Mission.
Smith and Polly first come to Bowland Street
As more and more people were healed Smith and Polly had to move to larger premises more than once. During this time Reader Harris, a Methodist preacher and KC barrister had rented the Clarendon Academy building on Bowland Street, Bradford, and was holding bible study classes. Over the next two years Smith and Polly attended many sessions in this building. Little did they realise that this building was about to play such a very large role in their lives and the lives of thousands of others around the world.
In 1889 Smith and Polly had outgrown their mission building again and were on the lookout for larger premises. At this same time the lease was up on the Clarendon Academy building and Reader Harris was moving on; and so it was that Smith and Polly Wigglesworth acquired the Clarendon Academy building on Bowland Street and renamed it "BOWLAND STREET MISSION" and the adventure began.
The next 18 years saw many miracles, signs and wonders in this building. The meetings were full of life. Polly was the preacher because Smith couldn't string two sentences together without crying, so much so that he became known in some circles as the weeping preacher. As he wept, souls would come to Christ.
Smith meets the Holy Spirit
The story starts here 3 years before Smith's birth. In 1856 John Wigglesworth, age 20, lived in Saltaire and Martha Pearson, age 22, lived in nearby Shipley and they both worked in Salts mill. John was a dyer and Martha was a weaver.
Both had good jobs, a wage that was higher than normal, and good living conditions. The houses they lived in were some of the best in the country.
They fell in love and were married on the 28 July 1856.
Then the scene changes. Between July 1856 and 1857, something happened which saw them move out of good accommodation, leave good jobs and a good standard of living, and go into abject poverty living in a shack. What that event was we can only guess.
Mrs Boddy: The lady who imparted the baptism of the Spirit to Smith at Sunderland.
In 1907 Smith heard of Alexander Boddy's Anglican Church in Sunderland, where people were being baptised in the Spirit and ‘speaking in tongues’. He and Polly believed that they were both baptised in the Spirit but they did not ‘speak in tongues’. So, desiring this gift, he and a friend travelled up to Sunderland to All Saints church. He found the meetings were a tame affair, not at all like his own in Bowland Street. He disrupted the meetings so much that on one occasion he was asked to leave. He was so hungry that he could not contain himself. Eventually, not having received the ‘gift of tongues’, and preparing to leave, he called at the vicarage to say goodbye to Mrs Boddy. She laid hands on him and he received, and the gift of tongues flowed out of him.
He went back and addressed the meeting, immediately others received the gift and began to speak in tongues. He left for Bradford at once, sending a telegram to his home. When he arrived home, Polly was not happy with him; she said "I am as much baptised in the Holy Spirit as you are, we'll see about this, on Sunday you will preach, not I ! "
Sunday arrived. They both entered The Mission in Bowland Street. As the meeting started, Smith bounded up the 3 steps to the platform, opened his mouth and preached with power and authority; without crying. People were healed and baptised in the Spirit, with speaking in tongues. Pentecost had arrived. Polly, seated at the back of the hall, amazed, she kept saying, "that's not my Smith, that's not my Smith”. Their son, young George was heard to say " I want what father’s got. "
Bowland Street Revival Starts
1908 saw the first Bradford Easter Convention held at Bowland Street Mission. The next 5 years were out of this world, literally. In this small Mission on Bowland Street, Bradford, the dead were raised, demons were cast out, the sick were healed, missing limbs grew in front of people; it was Pentecost in full flow, the Acts Church. This small mission operated in the mode of a first century church.
Smith looses Polly
On the 1st of January 1913, Smith was at home preparing to go and minister in Scotland and Polly had gone to Bowland Street to lead the meeting. She finished speaking and stepping off the platform she prepared to leave, she put on her coat, shook the hands of the many visitors, gave a few hugs, then went through the front door. As she stood on the steps she suffered a heart attack and died. She was 53 years old. She was confirmed dead and taken home. Smith had been informed and was with the children when they brought Polly's body home. Smith met them at the door, he said, " take her upstairs and lay her on the bed. " Everyone knew what he was going to do. They did what he said and laid Polly's body on the bed, an empty shell. Smith ushered them out, closed the door, walked over to his wife's lifeless corpse and rebuking death he called his wife back. Polly returned to her body and opened her eyes. Smith and Polly talked for a short while, she told him that the Lord had called her home and that she had work to do. She said that Smith had to let her go. Smith reluctantly agreed and let her go to be with the Lord. His greatest love had departed. Now it was up to his daughter Alice to assist her Father.
Daughter Alice takes over
Alice's Story: Alice Wigglesworth was born in January 1885, she was Smith and Polly's 2nd child and their only daughter. She was born profoundly deaf and remained so till her death in 1964. Alice was married twice; both times to missionaries.
Sydney William Smith married Mary Hollis, a Salvationist, in the Mission fields of Brazil in 1913. She gave birth to a son but died in childbirth leaving Sydney on his own in the jungle with a new born child. He came back to Bradford with his newborn son, Sydney Jr. After an unknown period of time he fell in love with Alice and they were married around 1915. Sydney Smith Sr is then called back to the mission fields of Brazil, leaving his son Sydney Jr with Alice at home in Smith's house. He travelled back to Brazil to set up a home for Alice and Sydney Jr to join him in the mission field. A short time later the Wigglesworth household received news that Alice's husband had been martyred! Alice was now a widow and a single parent with a 2 year old stepson.
1919 Alice met James Salter at an Easter convention. In 1920 she joined the Congo Evangelical Mission, (C.E.M.) founded by Willie Burton. Jimmy was the national director for Great Britain.
1921/1922 Alice and Jimmy are married. They brought up Sydney Jr as their own son. Sydney Jr married and around 1948 they had a son, named Paul Smith, who became the Methodist Superintendent of Plymouth and is now retired.
Smith sets off on his travels
In 1914 Smith began his worldwide ministry with a visit to America. Jimmy Salter releases his wife to travel with her father knowing that he needed her. Jimmy needed his wife by his own side as he travelled in many difficult circumstances but because of his selflessness, sacrificed his own need for the sake of the gospel.
In 1919 after another trip to America, Smith returned to find that the leadership of Bowland Street did not want him as leader anymore. They wanted control of the meetings but they could not control Smith. Smith and his family left and began to attend Southend (Elim Pentecostal)hall on Leeds road, Bradford, where he stayed untill his death.
Smith continued his world wide ministry up until his death in March 1947. His daughter Alice and her husband Jimmy Salter travelled extensively with him. He died in the vestry of Glad Tidings Hall, in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, now New Life Christian centre. The funeral of Smith Wigglesworth was from Southend Hall Leeds road to Nab Wood cemetery, Shipley.