The Archive Collection

Remembering the Anniversary of the Greater London Crusade at Harringay Arena

March 18, 2024

This year marks the 70th anniversary of Billy Graham’s breakthrough Crusade event in London. The event lasted from March 1 through May 22, 1954. Before Billy Graham could even arrive in England, the newspapers, politicians, and even many clergy were already blasting the evangelist. In Just As I Am, Rev. Graham recalls receiving a news report by radio a few days before they were set to arrive that said, “A Labour member of Parliament announced today that he would challenge in Commons the admission of Billy Graham to England on the grounds the American evangelist was interfering in British politics under the guise of religion.”

The press greet Billy and Ruth Graham as they arrive in England, 1954

Fortunately, no such thing happened. Billy and Ruth Graham were able to get off the ship and the Crusade began as planned at Harringay Arena. Harringay was a 12,000-seat indoor stadium in the northern section of London and was generally used for circuses, hockey matches, and other athletic events. The Crusade team had reserved the arena for an astounding three months, which was shocking to even their most ardent supporters who felt they should plan for no more than three or four weeks.

And, yet, night after night the arena was filled, despite the British being generally suspicious of “Americans coming over to save them.” One editor even wrote that “Billy Graham will fall… on his face in London,” and a bishop added, “Billy Graham will return to the United States with his tail between his legs.”

A ticket from the Greater London Crusade held in Harringay Arena, 1954
A staff pass from the Greater London Crusade held in Harringay Arena, 1954

On the first evening, Rev. Graham preached on the topic “Does God Matter?” and around 200 people came forward at the invitation. In Just As I Am, he recounts, “The unemotional British, as the newspapers had called them, had tears streaming down their cheeks as they came to Christ. One onlooker later commented on how struck he was by the sound of shoes creaking on the wood floor.”

A newspaper called The English Churchman published an article on March 19, just two weeks into the Crusade, with the headline “Harringay Arena is Too Small for the Crusade Crowds.” In one section of the article, the writer says:

“The secular press has sought for an explanation of this unprecedented interest in religion, and has had to confess that it could find none. And the general public have been asking why, without sensation, stunts or high pressure appeals, hundreds of people were professing conversion. There is, of course, only one possible answer, and that it is God honouring the prayers of His people offered over many months and in all parts of the world.”

The English Churchman Newspaper from March 1, 1954

Much to the bafflement of the British, thousands came to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior through the efforts of this Crusade. Billy Graham didn’t resort to theatrics as many other evangelists of the time had done; instead, he delivered the simple Gospel message he preached on every habitable continent during his ministry. This simple message pierced the hearts of those who flooded Harringay Arena each night and the legacy of that Crusade extended beyond the walls of the stadium to a continued revival the next year.

The Christian Herald newspaper from May 1, 1954

Franklin Graham will continue to follow in his father’s footsteps as he returns to Britain yet again this year for the God Loves You Tour UK in Birmingham and Glasgow.

You can find out more about Billy Graham’s Greater London Crusade and his other evangelistic efforts around the world in The Journey of Faith tour at the Billy Graham Library. Plan your visit today.

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