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 (scroll down to the Eade & Johns visualisation for more on
this). 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
sombre, 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.
Note that the hall was built on the site of cottages
built on a carnser. See our Carnsers page
for a photograph.
The rebranding of The People's Hall
Below: the stone panels reading 'STOKE HALL' project out from
the surrounding frames somewhat suggesting that they have been 'stuck
over' the original signs reading 'The People's Hall'. Clearly the
disappearance of Thomas Cartwright's 18th century mansion, Stoke Hall, occurred in 1915. The house
stood on the other side of St
Mary-at-Stoke Church with its steep carriage-drive starting close
to the site of this fine Methodist Hall. The owners, presumably to move
away from the building's religious origins, must have decided that it
was worthwhile commissioning a stonemason to make the new panels, not a
cheap job, to cover the old.
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
(in the terminology of Wikipedia)
1. 'Stoke Park', while being the name of the parkland, is also the name
of the Burrell mansion – here we call it
'Stoke Park Mansion' to make it clear. It has been demolished.
2. 'Stoke Hall', built on the rise of
Stoke Hill and next to St Mary-At-Stoke
Church, was built by Thomas Cartwright in 1744/45 ans was once the
home of Robert James Ransome (1830-1891). It has been demolished.
3. 'The People's Hall' in Stoke Street, close to The
Old Bell Inn, has confusingly had the name 'Stoke Hall' added to
its fabric. It still stands.
The People's Hall in 1978
Image courtesy Lawrence
24.4.2023: ‘Hello Borin, I have a colour photo (taken by me in 1978) of
People's Hall showing its original name. One thing that surprises me is
that it is not a listed building; I wonder why. Regards, Lawrence
Mayes.' Many thanks
to Lawrence for this pre-renovation view of an edifice bearing all the
grime of the industrial revolution and coal fires. However, the
original name plaque is certainly readable: 'THE PEOPLES HALL'.]
The People's Hall in 2018
Taken on the Heritage Open Days Saturday, these photographs show an
interesting contrast to the 2004 images above.
On the central main, east door the rebranding to 'Stoke Hall' is
indicated by the metal plate: STOKE HALL OFFICE' and stuck to the
letter-box: 'Roberts Holdings ... Equity Group'.
At the east corner of the site, as Stoke Street turns left and
uphill, there is a hand-panited water hydrant 'H 9' sign on the
brickwork indicating the location nine feet away. A familiar modern,
yellow-and-black hydrant plate is fixed below it. The decorative stone
feature in the foreground speaks of E.T. Johns' attention to detail in
his building design. The double window further down
towards Stoke Bridge illustrates the
colour contrast of red and white which characterises the architecture.
We also see the chequer-board tinted glass in the lower par of the
Above: the main gable of The People's Hall features mock-Tudor
timbering at the apex (beneath a terracotta fleur-de-lys finial) with
fine stone detailing around the upper window; the recessed balcony is
probably the most striking element with its cylindrical redbrick
columns and stone arches and balustrade.
E.E. White's map of 1867 (see
the Stoke Hall page) 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.
[UPDATE 6.4.2018: the
late Brian Jepson saved this visualisation of The People's Hall. The Local List compiled by The Ipswich
Society in1984/5 to encompass unlisted but interesting buildings dates
this hall to 1898. The drawing below would have been created to show to
the clients of the architect practice Eade & Johns prior to
building, so it can be dated to, say, 1897/8. The builder was Edgar
Catchpole and the drawing is captioned: 'William Eade F.R.I.B.A. and E.
Thos. Johns Architects. Ipswich'. Brian worked under Birkin
Haward when the practice had evolved into Johns Slater Haward, so
presumably he saved the drawing from the amongst the papers of the
old firm during a clearout. He also saved the visual of The Social
Settlement by the same
firm date 1902. Two important historical Ipswich documents rescued for
posterity, now in a private collection.]
The detail below highlights the fine penmanship and the humanisation of
the building with delightful figures such as the female wheeling her
bicycle at the centre. The lettering 'THE PEOPLE'S HALL' can be seen
above the door to the left. The door to the right does not appear as
lettered in the drawing, but both doors are described as bearing the
lettering 'The Peoples' Hall' on carved stone panels in the 1985 Local list. This suggests that the
'STOKE HALL' lettering shown at the top of this page was added after
1985. The white panels do appear to be modern.
The 1985 Local list entry:
"2 storey 'Tudor' style. Red brick, Red clay tile roof wit finials. 3
Stone door and window surrounds & mullions. Rectangular leaded
light stained glass windows. 3 overhanging gables face street, with
scroll bracket supports and exposed studwork. Main gable has FF
recessed balcony with 4 brick pillars supporting stone pointed arches.
Stone balustrade. Large pointed arched window to SF. C.I. [cast iron]
feature hopper heads at sides of balcony. Remains of air vent in roof.
'The People's Hall' in carved stone panels over entrance doors either
side of main gable. Suffolk white brick string courses. 4 window range
RHS, 1 in gable. Lead covered air vent in roof with dome cap and finial.
17 memorial stones, main one laid by Alfred Jermyn J.P., June 15th,
1898 – others by Minister and local rural Methodist Societies.
Interior- Main Hall (800).
4 bays. Simple c.i. [cast iron] semicircular
trusses with floral desgn brackets to clerestory. C.i. bow
trusses on stone corbels to side aisles. Stage at S end in apse. Modern
baustrade. Small gellery at N end on 2 c.i. columns with timber and
c.i. balustrade. Stained glass to all windows. Timber dado.
Small Hall (250)
Painted plaster with timber dado. Glazed internal lobby with gallery
over. Small Hall now used as Chapel. Painted timber altarpiece.
Originally Methodist Chapel and Assembly Rooms, now Chapel and Storage."
At this time the 'storage' would have been the costume store/hire
belonging to the Wolsey Theatre; the theatre's props store was in the Church of St Clement which was the victim
of arson in September 1995.
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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Historic Lettering site: Borin Van Loon
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