Methodist Central Hall - Westminster, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 30.001 W 000° 07.778
30U E 699221 N 5709337
Quick Description: The Methodist Central Hall is located in a square made up from Storey's Gate, Matthew Parker Street and Tothill Street and is just a few minutes walk, in a west-north-west- direction from Westminster Abbey.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 9/17/2012 9:15:09 AM
Waymark Code: WMF9Z7
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member razalas
Views: 9

Long Description:

The Scottish Architects website [visit link] carries a biography about Lanchester who was an architect of this building:

"Henry Vaughan Lanchester was born in London on 9 August 1863 the son of Henry Jones Lanchester and was articled to his father in 1879. Thereafter he sought wider experience in the offices of Frederick James Eedle, Thomas William Cutler and George Campbell Sherrin, taking classes at the Royal Academy Schools and the Architectural Association, gaining the Aldwinckle Travelling Studentship and passing the qualifying examination in 1888, and winning the Owen Jones Studentship in 1889-90. He was admitted ARIBA on 18 November 1889, his proposers being Cutler, Stephen Salter and Aston Webb. In 1896 Lanchester formed a partnership with James S Stewart and Edwin Alfred Rickards. Stewart, born in 1866, had also been in Sherrin's office and had studied at the Royal Academy Schools and had an equally distinguished record winning the Academy's Gold and Silver Medals. Edwin Alfred Rickards, born in 1872, was first articled to Richard John Lovell, but like Lanchester, he moved to Frederick Jones Eedles and after a spell with Dunn & Watson, also to Sherrin's where he renewed contact with Lanchester and met Stewart; from there he went to Leonard Stokes's office until invited by Lanchester to join them in partnership. The firm came into immediate prominence by winning the third premium in the Edinburgh North British competition and then in the following year by winning the Cardiff City Hall and Law Courts competition.

Stewart never sought admission to the RIBA and died tragically early on 3 August 1904, the firm then becoming Lanchester & Rickards. In 1912 Lanchester went to India to report on a site for New Delhi and the replanning of Madras and other Indian cities and acquired a large practice there. Rickards, who had suffered from indifferent health since a near collapse from overwork in 1913 looked after the London office. He volunteered for military service in 1916 but was invalided out after three months. He became seriously ill in 1919 and died in Bournemouth on 29 August 1920. Because of Rickards' illness Lanchester took Thomas Geoffrey Lucas into partnership in 1919 and in 1923 Lucas's former partner Thomas Arthur Lodge.

Lanchester died on 16 January 1953 in London. Lodge continued the practice under the existing name of Lanchester & Lodge."

The Central Methodist Hall is a Grade II listed building and the entry at the English Heritage website [ visit link ] tells us about the building:

" Methodist Central Hall, Westminster 24.2.58 GV II* Main London Methodist hall. 1905-11 by Lanchester and Rickards. Portland stone facing,early reinforced concrete frame (on the Kahn system) and steel trussed Lead clad square dome. Symmetrically composed, free standing,monumental block in Rickards' sophisticated Continental Baroque, with square masses, disciplined by a giant Corinthian order, building up to massive square French dome. French banded rustication to wall planes. Great main storey and tall attic, raised on basement/ground floor. Corinthian columned corner pavilions,with attics, and projecting centrepiece to entrance front with engaged colonnade carried out in central bow with main central enriched architrave portal and side entrances to vestibule in sides of bow. Tall windows with oeil de boeuf or relief panels a la Gabriel above. The tall attics to set-back hall have tall tetrastyle porticoes in antis and shallow segmental pediments above parapets. Vast,enriched rib leaded dome, with oeil de boeuf finished off with balustrade and elaborate, aediculed cupola overall. Richly modelled sculptural mouldings, cornices, urns and trophies. Very skilled internal layout by Lanchester, with the raised hall surrounded by offices and rooms on 4 sides and spectacular, sweeping, Baroque grand staircase design, with French scrollworked bronze balustrade, given dramatic effect by the wide depressed archway through which it rises from the vestibule in 2 flights to meet and then divide again in lofty compartment to return to hall level; vast coffered saucer dome over grand hall, etc."

The Methodist Central Hall website [ visit link ] gives a history overview of the Hall:

"The hall was opened in 1912

Methodist Central Hall Westminster was opened in 1912 as a monument to mark the centenary of John Wesley's death (the founder of Methodism).

Formerly a Royal Aquarium/music hall

The site was formerly occupied by the Royal Aquarium (primarily a music hall), which was purchased by money raised through a huge Methodist fund raising venture.

The Million Guinea Fund

The 'Wesleyan Methodist Twentieth Century Fund' (or the 'Million Guinea Fund' as it came to be known) opened in 1898 with the aim of raising a million guineas from a million Methodists to help facilitate a great push forward of Methodism. This fund closed in 1904 with just over a million guineas, a quarter of which was allocated to the design and construction of this centenary building. The remaining funds were invested in new Chapels, foreign and home missions, education, soldier's and sailor's homes, temperance work and children's homes.

Non-church design

The design for this 'monumental building of Methodism' was chosen from 132 entries in an anonymous architectural competition. The rules of the competition stated that the design had to be non-Gothic and the general philosophy of the Methodist movement was that buildings were not to resemble churches. The intention was to create non intimidating but welcoming buildings so that people who had no connections with the Christian church would feel comfortable and able to enter them.

The winning design, submitted by Messrs Lancaster and Rickards of London, is in keeping with these ideas and if you look at the exterior of the building you will notice that no cross is visible, nor is there any overtly religious symbolism. The building itself is Viennese Baroque in style with Romanesque decoration. The poet Sir John Betjemen once praised the structure saying "The dome of Central Hall is a splendid foil to the towers of Westminster and the pinnacles of the Houses of Parliament".

Many distinguished visitors

Many distinguished visitors have graced Methodist Central Hall, including Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Billy Graham, the Queen, Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

United Nations

One of the most significant events to have been hosted here was the 1946 inaugural meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Prime Minister Clement Attlee welcomed delegates from all over the globe to Central Hall where 51 member countries took part. The United Nations Organisation returned to Methodist Central Hall in 1996 as part of their 50th Anniversary celebrations.

World War 2

Despite its prominent Westminster location, Methodist Central Hall was barely damaged during the events of Word War II. The basement area (now the cafe area) became the largest air raid shelter in England, housing hundreds of people every night for the duration of the war."

The Central Hall Westminster website [ visit link ] also tells us:

"In 1898 the Wesleyan Methodist Church set up the 20th Century Fund to mark the centenary of John Wesley's death (1703-1791). The aim of the fund was to raise '1 million guineas from 1 million Methodists'. Regardless of wealth, each donor was only allowed to donate one guinea. This was to finance a 'great push forward of Wesleyan Methodism'. The fund closed in 1904 having raised 1,024,501 guineas (£1,075,727).

£250,000 of this money was allocated to the building of a 'monumental Memorial Hall' that would not only house a worshipping congregation and the headquarters of the then Wesleyan Methodist Church but would also be a meeting place for all people, regardless of religious persuasion. It was also to be of 'great service for conferences on religious, educational, scientific, philanthropic and social questions'. This building opened in 1912 and is now known as Central Hall Westminster.

The 50 volume leather-bound Historic Roll, containing the names of all those who donated to the 20th Century Fund, is located adjacent to the Visitor Services Desk and visitors are invited to come to see the names of their ancestors who contributed to the building of this great monument.
Historic Events at Central Hall Westminster

Central Hall Westminster has played host to a number of events of national and international importance over the years.

The Suffragettes, campaigning for the vote for women, met at Central Hall Westminster in 1914, Mahatma Gandhi spoke in the Lecture Hall in 1932, and General de Gaulle founded the free French in the early 1940's.

Perhaps most famously, Central Hall was the chosen venue for the very first General Assembly of the newly formed United Nations, in 1946 - a time that saw the appointment of the first Secretary General, along with the creation of the Security Council and the International Court of Justice. 51 member countries sent delegations and Prime Minister Clement Attlee welcomed the UN to ‘this ancient home of liberty and order’.

Other famous speakers here have been Winston Churchill who addressed the Conservative Party Conference in the Great Hall in 1945, Dr Boutros Boutros-Ghali and the Prince of Wales. We often welcome leading politicians and governmental bodies through our doors, and we sponsor the annual Parliamentary Covenant Service where members across the political parties come together in worship.

Central hall Westminster was also used for feature films, such "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" starring Michael Caine, as well as for promotional material, such as Marks and Spencer's marketing campaign for their Life Assurance Policy.

From 1932-2000 Methodist Central Hall Westminster also served as the main headquarters of the Methodist Church, housing such departments as: the Methodist Relief and Development Fund, Interfaith Relations, Racial Justice, International and Environmental Affairs, Home Missions and Prison Chaplaincy.

Many revered preachers have ministered at Methodist Central Hall. The most famous of whom is Dr. William Edwin Sangster. Sangster served here between 1939 and 1955, and during World War II he managed a 4-year air raid shelter in our basement.

More recently, Central Hall has hosted the Public Enquiries for the Ladbroke Grove and the Marchioness disasters and over the years has welcomed British Prime Ministers, members of the Royal Family and other famous faces."

Architect: Henry Vaughn Lanchester

Prize received: RIBA Royal Gold Medal

In what year: 1934

Website about the Architect: [Web Link]

Website about the building: [Web Link]

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