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
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