When I started to work out my association with Wesley Hall, my timeline continued to go backwards. Right up to the opening. My family has long ties with Plumstead, and it was mainly with my Nan’s cousin Stan Hopgood that I look back at the most. Grandad Stan, as my sister and I called him, as both our natural grandfathers passed away before our parents even met, was a member of the church from the start, as he only lived a few doors away at No.4 Timbercroft Lane.
I remember talking to Stan about Wesley Hall when I was young (about 6/7 – I think), as I had been to a pre-school at the church, and was going to the summer playschemes. He told me stories about the scout troop he started there when he was only about 16, with a couple of friends, and this got my interest heightened. But, it was thanks to my uncle Keith who told me stories of the fun he had as one of Stan’s scouts, that made me want more. It was in October 1985 that my mum (who had also been a Brownie at Wesley Hall) brought me to my first cub meeting. It was then that I met Riki, Baloo, and Raksha (or Paul, Jan, and Karen as you’ll know them) for the first time as my cub leaders. My personal connection with the church had now begun. Twenty nine years later I’m still here, now following in my Grandad Stan’s shoes as the Scout Troop leader!
It’s been an amazing roller coaster in that time. From the many scout evenings, and gang show rehearsal weekends I have spent at Wesley Hall, even to the short time I was in a rock band holding weekly rehearsals in the main hall, the church has been a major part of my life. Both of my daughters, Laurie & Holly, have had Wesley Hall play major parts of life too. They have both had early birthday parties in the hall, and to being part of the scout group as soon as they were old enough to join. Holly was also christened at Wesley Hall, in June 2006.
Holly too, now has a key part in the modern history of Wesley Hall. It was on Friday 17th June 2011, when my wife Claire came down to open up the church for our group night. It was meant to be Claire’s first evening running a Beaver night on her, but it didn’t turn out that way. As Claire was unlocking the scout hut Holly noticed smoke coming from the side of the shed, and from the kitchen window. She quickly alerted her mum, quickly raised the alarm, after she had unwittingly disturbed the arsonist still setting the fire. I arrived on the scene just before the fire brigade, and the scene I found still brings back such vivid memories. Even as I write this now, it brings a tear to my eye. Because the arsonist was disturbed, and the alarm raised, the fire was extinguished before any lasting damage was done. A few days later when we got our first look at the damage it was seeing the christening’s role board all melted, with Holly’s name still just visible, it made me think that it was someone blessed at the church, that helped save the church. I still feel that it wasWesley Hall herself sending us a clear message, she wasn’t going anywhere.
But, like the legendary Phoenix, Wesley Hall rose out of the ashes and is now more healthier than ever. I think that people that came here years ago would be shocked at the changes. After all, radiators and comfy chairs! I certainly remember my early church parade days of drafty hall and wooden benches.
My family is now on its sixth generation of links to the church, and there is no sign that it won’t move on to following generations. It’s amazing to see that the church is still here, after all it has seen, and still going after 100 years!
Happy birthday Wesley Hall!
Simon Emmett, Scout Leader