I have been involved with Wesley Hall for a huge amount of my life. I joined the 27th Woolwich Cubs around 1960. Cubs was on a Wednesday, then in the hut, and was led by Akela, affectionately known as ‘Danny’. Assistants were Joyce and Arthur Stevens.
I moved on to Scouts – into the Owl patrol under Patrol Leader Bill Goad. Graham Hogger and Ben ‘Hoot’ were leaders and I remember all too well the mad games we used to play – British Bulldog and High Jimmy Knacker – the camping trips and pioneering projects. I progressed into the Senior Scout section with Brian Watling as leader. As a young lad I also attended the Wednesday boys’ club run by Danny.
It was in the Senior Scouts that my love of folk music was born. Peter Scofield , another 27th Senior Scout, and I got together and we learnt folk songs which we sang at Friday meetings in the den. This musical association grew into a lifelong friendship. Later Linda Young joined us to form the Tideway Folk Group. Later, Linda left the group and John Bogg and Mick Bullen joined. In our early twenties we held a Scout and Guide Folk Club in the Scout hut – on Mondays. For three years or so the club was a huge success with folk singers from far and wide singing to a very receptive audience. We held a couple of folk concerts too in the main hall, called ‘Hi Folk’.
Friendships formed with other 27th Scouts and Senior Scouts in those days have remained to this day. Many of us still meet up from time to time and some still lend a hand when help is needed around the hall. I found my life-long soul mate and wife Jan at Wesley Hall.
I became an Assistant Cub Leader and then Cub Leader at the 27th when Danny had to ‘give up the reigns’, a role which I continue to this day. I did a spell as an Assistant Scout Leader too.
I’m told I was a member of the Wesley Hall Sunday School, but sadly I have little memory of this. I attended church and became a member of the church fairly early on in my life. I remember the jumble sales, when we toured the streets with a trek cart asking for jumble. I remember too the annual Christmas bazaars, which were very popular with the local community. Mum and Dad made huge numbers of Christmas decorations for these and later Dad repaired and renovated toys to sell on the Scouts’ amazing toy stall. The carol services were wonderful with every corner of the main hall lit by hundreds of candles. I remember playing the guitar at services leading the congregation at services, and today I manage the sound system for Church Parade services.
Other writers have mentioned the Gang Shows at Wesley Hall. These originated way back in the 1940s. Gang Shows at Wesley Hall were revived in the mid 1980s, with the Woolwich District Scout show Showtime. I was involved in the production team and ‘trod the boards’. Showtime later grew into a popular and nationally recognised Gang Show staged at the Woolwich Public Hall.
We have seen memorable but sometime turbulent times at Wesley Hall. Threats of closure, struggles with maintaining the building, even an almost disastrous fire have not shaken the foundations of Wesley Hall. The community at Wesley Hall is as strong today as it was in the beginning. Everyday of the week Wesley Hall is occupied, serving the local community. Over the past 100 years Wesley Hall will be dear to perhaps thousands of people for all sorts of reasons.
It has been a privilege to be part of the story.
Paul Nichols, Treasurer