John Wesley /Wikimedia (CC)

The Methodist Church built about 107 large impressive halls on main thoroughfares, with at least one in every city. Of these, some 48 remain with just 18 still being used by Methodists but the buildings often having been modified. The Halls were designed not to look like churches and their primary function was to provide a place where people could enjoy a Saturday night out without alcohol and to this end, variety shows were put on, with the evening interspersed by rousing hymns and prayers. To this end, at the core of the buildings was a large hall with capacity for between 1,000 and 2,500 people. The buildings were mortgage funded and they were often built with retail units on the ground floor, from which rental income could be earned. Despite being impressive to look at from the street, the buildings were often cheaply constructed with an emphasis having been placed on the façade. The buildings were also utilised as reading rooms, bases for youth clubs and clubs for young mothers, as well as Social Work. Methodists were, and still are, very active in Social Work, including supporting homeless people, unmarried mothers and the provision of poor relief. Their city centre locations brought this work to the attention of local businessmen and attracted their support.

During the second half of the 20th Century there was a decline in usage of the Central Halls and most were closed, often falling into disrepair. It does seem that these halls were ‘of their time’ but there are other contributory factors to their decline. During World War 2 some sustained bomb damage due to their central locations and were not rebuilt. A general movement of people caused a decline in City Centre congregations and the 60 or 70 years has seen a general decline in Methodism.

Some impressive examples remain including the Central Halls in Westminster (London), Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.

Liverpool Central Methodist Grand Hall



The Methodist Central Halls

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