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Central Halls

The building of 'Central Halls' was a prominent feature of the Forward Movement in Wesleyan Methodism, seeking a more forceful evangelical style in order to reach the working classes. The first was Manchester Central Hall in 1886. Of those documented in the Methodist Chapel Committee annual reports, the last to be opened were in Archway, London (1934) and Grimsby (1936) although existing premises continued to be updated to the Central Hall 'style' with tip-up seats and cinema equipment. In total, around 100 structures were either built or modified under the programme at a cost of just short of £3 million (around £90 million today).

These were secular in their architecture and furnishings and in the activities they provided as an alternative attraction to the music hall and public house. Hugh Price Hughes, a principle figure in the movement, successfully argued for one church in urban circuits, with ministers freed from the principle of itinerancy. Noting that the poorer classes were more likely to attend services held in secular venues, he insisted that the Halls were to be devoid of overtly sacred symbolism. They typically accommodated congregations of at least 1,000. Worship space was combined with lecture rooms, office space and shops at street frontage. The Central Missions that operated out of the buildings ran professional advertising campaigns that marketed the spaces as 'Churches for the People' and actively promoted cultural activity and popular entertainment - film shows, concerts and variety performances.

The Halls are associated especially with the flour miller Joseph Rank, whose generous donations financed much of the initial building costs. The Rank connection was further cemented through his son, J. Arthur Rank, who continued to provide funds for their upkeep.

Right up to and during World War 2, Central Halls continued to be major crowd-pullers. Many local authorities were unsure whether to classify them as entertainment premises or religious establishments. Over the long period of national decline in Methodist congregations, Central Halls were afflicted by locally even steeper losses through inner-city demographic and economic change. Falling congregations faced increasing maintenance costs as the buildings aged. By the late 1960s, the cost of upkeep made retaining the Halls untenable and many of them were demolished, modified or sold on.

See also: Bradshaw, Jonas James


Central Halls
 Ashington, Hirst Central Hall,1926, Demolished
 Bargoed, Central Hall 1927. Unsure
 Barking Central Hall, 1929, New Build
 Barrow-in-Furness, Hartington Street, 1907. Sold
 Belfast, Grosvenor Hall, 1926, New Build
 Birmingham Central Hall. 1903. Sold
 Blackburn, Queen’s Hall, 1922. Demolished
 Bolton, King’s Hall,1907. Demolished
 Bolton,| Victoria Hall, 1900
 Bradford, Eastbrook Hall 1904. Sold. Exterior Saved.
 Bradford, Prospect Hall, 1911. Sikh Gurdwara
 Brighton,  Dorset Gardens, Methodist Church
 Bristol Central Hall, 1924. Sold
 Carlisle, Fisher Street, 1923. For sale
 Chester, Central Hall, 1933. Unsure
 Cork, Central Hall., 1889. Sold, Retail outlet
 Coventry, Warwick Lane, 1933. Methodist Church
 Dublin Central Mission, Abbey Street, 1893 .Methodist Church
 Edinburgh Central Hall, 1901. Sold to Baptists
 Edinburgh Central Hall, Leith, 1933. Sold
 Gateshead Central Hall, | 1933. Rebuilt as smaller premises, 1957
 Glasgow, Bridgeton Central Hall. Demolished (CPO)
 Glasgow,  Maryhill Central Hall, 1923. Sold. Community Centre
 Great Yarmouth, Deneside,1938. Baptist Church
 Grimsby Central Hall,1936. Sold
 Hartlepool, Burbank Central Hall. 1939. Sold
 Hull, King’s Hall 1910.| Demolished
 Hull, Queen’s Hall, 1905. Demolished
 Hull, Thornton Hall, 1911. Bombed
 Ipswich, People’s Hall, 1899.  Part religious Use, part private flats.
 Leeds, Oxford Place, 1896 - 1903. Methodist Owned
 Leeds,  Skillbeck Street Central Hall.  Demolished (CPO)
 Leicester, Bishop Street
 Liverpool,  Linacre, 1905. Methodist Church
 Liverpool,  Charles Garrett Memorial Hall, 1905 Sold
 London,  Archway Central Hall, 1934. Main Hall sold
 London, Becontree Central Hall, 1928. Demolished
 London,  Bethnal Green Central Hall Bombed
 London, Bow Central Hall. Bombed
 London, Bromley Central Hall, 1905. Bombed
 London, Burnt Oak, 1929. Unsure
 London Chatham Central Hall, 1908 Demolished
 London, Dagenham (Heathway) Central Hall,| 1930
 London, East End Mission, Stepney, 1907. | Sold. Main Hall demolished.
 London, East Ham Central Hall, 1906. Demolished
 London, Edmonton Central Hall, 1911. new building
 London, Islington Central Hall, 1929. Demolished
 London, King’s Hall, Southall., 1915. Methodist hurch/Shared
 London, Kingsway Hall, 1911.Sold, Demolished. Rebuilt as a Hotel.
 London, Leysian Mission Hall, 1905. Sold. ‘Imperial Hotel’
 London, London Street, Greenwich. Bombed
 London, Lycett Central Hall. Unsure|
 London,  Mare Street,  Hackney, 1925. Sold
 London, Plumstead Hall, 1903. Demolished
 London,  Queen’s Hall, Hayes End, 1934. Unsure
 London,  Queen’s Hall, Battersea, 1945. Newly Build Methodist Church
 London,  Redhill Central Hall, 1932.| Newly Buitd Methodist Church  
 London, South London Central Hall, 1898.| Main Hall demolished
 London, Southfields Central Hall, 1925. Demolished
 London, Springfield Hal 903. Demolished
 London, Stratford, The Grove.  ?
 London,  The Ideal. Bombed
 London, Tooting Central Hall, 1910.| Newly Built Methodist Church
 London, Uxbridge Central Hall 1930. Demolished
 London, Victoria Hall (Greenwich)1899. Demolished
 London, Wesley Hall, Lower Sydenham, 1903
 London, Westminster Central Hall, 1912
 London,  Yiewsley Central Hall, 1927. Demolished
 Londonderry, Clooney Hall, 1894. Newly built
 Manchester, Albert Hall, 1911. Public House
 Manchester, Bridgewater Hall, Hulme, c.1888. Demolished
 Manchester Central Hall, 1886
 Manchester, New Dock Mission Hall, 1914. Demolished
 Manchester, Victoria Hall, 1897. Demolished
 Manchester, Wesley Hall, 1888. Demolished
 Newcastle, Westgate Hall, 1901. Sold. In private ownership
 Nottingham, Albert Hall, 1910. Conference venue
 Nottingham, Aspley Estate, 1932
 Nottingham, King’s Hall, 1907. Unknown
 Paisley Central Hall, 1908. Methodist Church
 Plymouth, Devonport Central Hall, 1927  
 Plymouth Central Hall, 1939.  Methodist Church
 Portsmouth, Eastney Central Hall 1927. Unsure
 Portsmouth,  Fratton Road, 1928. Replacement
 (New Build)
 Portsmouth, Wesley Central Hall, 1900. Replaced by Fratton Road
 Rochdale, Thomas Champness Memorial Hall, 1925. Community Church
 Salford, Regent Road Methodist Hall, 1934. Demolished 
 Scarborough, Queen Street, 1924.  Methodist Church
 Sheffield, Carbrook Central Hall, 1935. Sold
 Sheffield, Victoria Hall, 1908. Methodist Church
 Sheffield,  Wesley Hall, Crookes, 1910. Methodist Church
 Sheffield, Wesleyan Central Hall, Attercliffe, 1925. Sold
 Slough Central Hall, 1932. Demolished
 Southampton, Central Hall, 1925.  Community Church
 Southampton, Swaythling Central Hall, 1932. Shared church
 Stockton-Upon-Tees, Billingham Central Hall, 1931. Demolished
 Stoke-on-Trent:  Longton Central Hall. Methodist Church
 Swindon, Clarence Street, 1907. Unsure
 Tonypandy Central Hall, 1922. Demolished
 Walsall, Central Hall, 1929.  Methodist Church
 Wednesbury, Springhead Hall, 1932
 Wigan, Queen’s Hall, 1907. Part Demolished Methodist Church

Sources

  • George Sails, At the Centre: the story of Methodism's Central Missions(1970)
  • P.S. Bagwell, Outcast London: a Christian Response
  • Brian Frost, with Stuart Jordan, Pioneers of Social Passion (Peterborough, 2006)
  • Angela Connelly, 'Methodist Central Halls as Public Sacred Space' (Manchester PhD, 2010)
  • Methodist Recorder, 18 March 2010

Entry written by: AC
Category: Subject

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