Webpage created: July 23, 2017
Webpage updated: September 25, 2021
PLYMOUTH METHODIST CENTRAL HALL
The Plymouth Methodist Central Hall is located at the top end of Cornwall Street, Plymouth.
Frontage of the Plymouth Methodist Central
Hal, circa 1960.
The Central Hall is a direct descendant of the first Wesleyan/Methodist meeting house in the garden of Mr Prideaux's house in Mud Lane. As the congregation grew so did the desire to have a larger place in which to worship. When the Old Town Gate was removed in 1809 this opened up the opportunity to move to a more pleasant site outside the very congested Town. As a result the Ebenezer Methodist Chapel was built in 1811.
Over the following century and a half several more Methodist Chapels were were erected in Plymouth including the New Wesley Chapel in Ham Street. The congregations fluctuated over the years until a disaster struck. On the night of Sunday September 12th 1937 the New Wesley Chapel was destroyed by fire and its congregation moved to the Ebenezer, albeit in the firm belief that their own Chapel would be quickly rebuilt.
As it turned out, the Reverend W E Chivers thought differently and persuaded everybody that it would be better to create a new Mission Church right in the centre of Plymouth, at the Ebenezer Chapel. There was a lot of debate on the subject but eventually this idea was accepted and on Sunday April 16th 1939 the Ebenezer closed its doors in preparation for conversion. The Minister, the Reverend J Leslie Nix, led a day of special events to mark the occasion: a Farewell Rally at 3pm; a Re-union Tea at 4.30pm, presided over by Doctor Rosa Bale; an Organ Recital by the Ebenezer's long serving organist, Mr David Parkes, at 6pm; a United Farewell Service at 6.30pm and finally Holy Communion at 8pm.
During the conversion, the pulpit, some of the wooden pews and the organ from the school room went to Wotter Methodist Chapel. Services were held in the school rooms while the work went on. The general contractors were Messrs A N Coles (Contractors) Ltd and their foreman, Mr N H Spear, oversaw the work. The rostrum, Communion rail and panelling were executed by Mr A G Huddy, of Plymouth, and Messrs W G Heath & Company were responsible for all the electrical work. With steelwork from Messrs Blight & White Ltd, cement from Messrs Henry Ede Ltd and and an organ constructed by Messrs Hele & Company, it was well and truly a local affair.
Finally on a gloriously sunny Wednesday May 1st 1940 the new Plymouth Central Hall was opened. Promptly at 3pm Mrs L Gentle, one of the oldest members of the New Wesley congregation, unlocked the gate to give access to the forecourt, and Mrs E Brewer, an older member of the former Ebenezer Methodist Chapel, invited the Reverend W E Chivers to unveil the plaque which commemorates the official linking of the two Chapels.
Mayor-choosing ceremonies and civic meetings took place in the new Hall during the Second World War, as did local events like school prize days during the 1950s until the Guildhall was reopened. One of the most significant events was the granting of the Freedom of the City of Plymouth to Lady Astor.
The old school premises were replaced in the 1970 by the present three-storey brick building. In that same year the Prayer Chapel, an octagonal building on the south side of the main building, was opened. This was financed by the family of the late Mrs Isabel H Smith, widow of Mr William B Smith, of Worcester, Massachusetts, USA, but the Chapel is dedicated to the memory of the Right Honourable Isaac Foot (1880-1960), who was not only a Privy Councillor but a well-known Methodist preacher.
During the construction work of the new extension, the old burial ground was cleared and the remains transferred to a mass grave at Efford Cemetery.
The Plymouth Methodist Central Hall is still in use today.