Not to be confused with the lost 1744 Stoke Hall which once stood on
the nearby site of Stoke
Hall Road, off Belstead Road, this rather grand-looking hall has
become known to passers-by as 'Stoke Hall' because of the lettering
which appears twice. Many still refer to it as The
People's Hall. One wonders if the change to 'Stoke Hall' occurred quite
late. We recall visiting the building in the early 1980s when the
sizeable hall was occupied by The Wolsey Theatre Costume Hire business.
The People's Hall [Methodist Mission] was designed by local
architect Edwin Thomas
Johns in 1898 for an association of local Methodist Churches. To
paraphrase Simon Knott (Simon's Suffolk churches see Links): Cotton Methodist Church (on the edge of
the Suffolk village of Bacton) is similar in style to the Methodist
People's Hall with "walls banded with red and white brick and the
windows are in the transitional plate tracery style of the late 13th
century, when Early English was becoming Decorated".
appears above the two sets of double doors onto Stoke Street.
Stoke Street rises from The Old Bell
to the junction with Burrell Road, and appears to narrow in the middle
because of the dominance of the massive brooding presence of the
somber, but well articulated and highly individual Tudor-Revival,
People's Hall. This building was erected through the combined efforts
of collective local Methodist congregations to provide several halls
for religious worship and social ministration. There is a long frontage
to the street with a massive mock-Tudor gable and a first floor open
gallery balcony facing the street. This is flanked by the entrance
doorways pictured above. The right hand entrance has a smaller
half-timbered gable over and it was originally intended that an
identical entrance treatment would also be built on the left. Further
flanking wings were to extend on either side but only the right hand
section was completed. The site for the left-hand wing has remained
vacant. There is extensive use of polychromatic brick detailing and
plain coloured stained glass. The traffic pollution, dark pointing and
north facing orientation contribute to the slightly forbidding external
appearance. The main part of the building is now converted to flats
(although this has not significantly altered its street facade), while
the small hall to the west end remains in religious use.
Close to ground level, among the Suffolk white bricks
towards the west side of the building are a range of foundation
stones in varying states of erosion.
The characters on the tablet to the far right have eroded away.
|LAID BY THE
REV. HENRY T. POPE, D.D.
SECRETARY OF THIS
HOME MISSION COMMITTEE.
REV. WILLIAM BELL. SUPERINTENDENT OF THE COMMITEE.
WAS LAID BY
ALFRED JERMYN ESQ. J.P.
MAYOR OF KINGS LYNN
JUNE 15TH. 1898.
EADE & JOHNS ARCHITECTS, IPSWICH.
|LAID BY THE
REV. JOHN GOULD
CHAIRMAN OF THE
EAST ANGLIAN DISTRICT.
EDGAR CATCHPOLE BUILDER IPSWICH.
ADULT BIBLE CLASS
ADULT BIBLE CLASS
E.E. White's map of 1867 shows
the area with Stoke Bridge at top right running southward to the pinch
of Bell Lane. Stoke Street comes off the
crossroads to curve left past the future site of the People's Hall,
uphill and round to the right to become Belstead Road. The People's
Hall appears to fairly accurately occupy the footprint of housing at
this time. Perhaps we should not be surprised that the hall was
converted into housing in the late twentieth century.
Down the road from The People's Hall is The Old
Bell public house, up the hill is Stoke
Hall Road with its hidden tunnels. Between 1898,
when The People's Hall was built, and 1915, when the Stoke Hall behind
St Mary at Stoke church was demolished, there were two 'Stoke Halls'
within a few hundred yards of one another.
A note about the history of
Methodist Mission Halls.
From the University of Manchester website (3 October 2012): 'A
University of Manchester historian has discovered how the Methodist
Church built some of Britain’s most important and successful community
buildings in the early twentieth century - now mostly forgotten. Dr
Angela Connelly says that 99 ‘Methodist Central Halls’ were built
costing an equivalent of £90 million in today’s terms. Today, the
Methodist Church owns only 18 of the original buildings, many of which
have been substantially altered. Twenty seven have been completely
demolished or bombed in the war. Nineteen are protected as listed
buildings and all, she says, were large buildings designed not to look
like a church.
Dr Connelly, who is based at Manchester Architecture Research Centre,
said: “Nearly everyone in the UK will have seen a Methodist Central
Hall: Pavarotti performed at Kingsway Hall and the UN Declaration was
signed in Westminster Central Hall. But few of us know what they are,
how they are used or what has
happened to them. Because they do not look like churches or
cathedrals, the public aren’t aware of those that remain at all –
especially those which have been converted into other uses such as bars
and pubs. But in their hey day they attracted big crowds: the
Manchester and Salford mission headquarters once boasted 2000
volunteers.” The decline, she says in a Bulletin of the John
Rylands University Library of Manchester paper next month, is down to a
long period of drops in Methodist congregations nationally, as well as
even steeper losses through inner-city demographic and economic
changes. Her Arts and Humanities Research Council funded study shows
how the Missions promoted cultural activity to make their religion
relevant to everyday lives and tempt people away from the lure of
These included popular entertainment such as film shows, concerts and
variety performances. Joseph Rank – of Rank Hovis – provided much of
the capital to build the Central Halls. His son, J. Arthur Rank, the
film producer, was also a prominent Methodist who became interested in
the movie industry after seeing the pioneering use of religious films
at the Methodist Missions in the 1920s. The wife of the Methodist
Times founder and reformer Hugh Price Hughes, also
the nation’s first ever crèche for working girls at the West London
mission in the 1880s.
Dr Connelly said: “As numbers dropped and maintenance
costs spiralled, rooms were let out to other organisations and the
Halls were used for a wide variety of events. Through the twentieth
century, more space was rented out to other organisations for theatres,
libraries, social services and even school exams. Grimsby
and Southampton are now theatres, Liverpool’s Central Hall on Renshaw
Street now hosts a collection of independent traders. At Bristol and
Bradford, the Central Halls are converted into flats.
“These halls were, and in several cases still are, the best venue in
town. But it’s sad how many of these important buildings are no longer
standing - quite moving when you read of the struggles the
Methodists had to keep them going. But I would rather these buildings
are used by the public - even as a bar rather than lose them
altogether as they are such an important part of Britain’s urban
history.” Cities where at least one Methodist Hall was
built included (in alphabetical order): Ashington, Bargoed, Barking,
Barrow-in-Furness, Birmingham, Bolton, Blackburn, Bradford, Brighton,
Bristol, Carlisle, Chester, Coventry, Edinburgh, Gateshead, Glasgow,
Great Yarmouth, Grimsby, Hartlepool, Hull, Ipswich, Leeds, Leicester,
Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Paisley,
Portsmouth, Plymouth, Rochdale, Salford, Scarborough, Southampton,
Sheffield, Slough, Stoke-on-Trent, Stockton-Upon-Tees, Swindon,
Tonypandy, Walsall, Wigan, Wednesbury.' [http://www.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/news/display/?id=8772]
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throughout the Ipswich
Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
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