We begin our potted history of Wesley Hall with an extract from the Methodist Recorder on Woolwich Methodism, 28th December 1911.
“The newest development in this old Circuit is at the Slade where a new area of people is springing up. Until the last weeks there has resided at the Slade a lady of means who deliberately moved into the area to devote time, personal service and money to religious and good works. She has bought and presented to Methodism a large site of freehold land most suitably situated. She has also given the use of her own house rent free for 3 years for the future use of a Pastor who wil develop the scheme and carry out Christian and temperance work.”
That pastor was Mr. George Dempster and that was how Wesley Hall Methodist Church began: through the generosity of a friend of the church who was not a Methodist but believed that such a building was necessary in the area. The Scheme was later launched at a special service to commemorate 125 years of Methodism in Woolwich on 4th January 1912. After a lot of work in the local community of the Slade and fund-raising, the building was eventually opened on 10th March 1914 and the building was packed with people.
In October 1938, there was another great effort to raise funds for Wesley Hall’s continued work amongst young people. From a special Souvenir Booklet produced at the time, Rev. Arthur Summerfield writes:
The work at Wesley Hall is mainly among young people. The premises are not sufficient to cope with the many organisations for the youth of the neighbourhood. Situated on the verge of a large new building area the scope of the work has increased considerably, with encouraging results. We have a loyal band of young men and women ably led by Pastor Spink who are facing up to these new opportunities but whose efforts are somewhat hampered by lack of funds.
“We believe that great days are before us and we trust that the success of these celebrations will be but the beginning of a new era for this Church. We are full of hope and trust that the confidence of our friends will inspire them to give us all the help they can.”
Pastor Chas Young writes in the booklet about progress during the years 1929 – 1933, which, he writes, was confined chiefly to youth organisation:
“The Girls’ Club was drafted into a Guide Company under Captain Tebbutt. The Boys’ Club gave place to a Scout troop, with Mr. H. Hogger as Scoutmaster. Later the Rovers transformed the Club room into a Rover Den. The Sunday School was graded and needed more room. The Junior Guild was growing and needed more room, as sid the Scouts and Guides, so a hut was purchased and erected under the guidance of Mr. A. J. Parker, and with the help of the Rovers; the Guides furnished the hut, which was opened by Mrs. Bartlett Lang. At the close of my ministry, there was promise of a bright future arising out of these organisations.”
Some other notable dates:
16th November 1946 – A concert was held by the Brownies, Guides and Scouts to raise funds for the church.
16th September 1950 – Wesley Hall was reopened following renovation and restoration works. This when the Rover Den became our Chapel.
11th April 1964 – Wesley Hall celebrated its Golden Jubilee Anniversary. During the afternoon, there was a chance to meet old friends and a tea for which a charge of 2/6d was mad (12.5p). An evening Thanksgiving Service was held conducted by Rev. Maynard Wilson, with Rev. W. J. R. Nash and Rev. R. J. Billington as speakers. The order of service notably states that one of the bible readings was read by a Master Paul Nichols, who is now the church’s treasurer.
8th May 1971 – Re-opening and Dedication of Wesley Hall – now a modernised and dual purpose hall. Notably the organist for that special service was a Mr. Frank Bryan and our minister was Rev. Leslie Day.
Karen Gilham, Church Secretary