Webpage created: February 14, 2016.
Webpage updated: February 14, 2016
DEVONPORT METHODIST CENTRAL HALL
The Methodist Central Hall at Devonport was located on the south side of Fore Street, between the London and South Western Tavern and the Welcome Soldiers' and Sailors' Home.
The building housed the Hope Baptist congregation until 1926 when the Ker Street Methodists and Morice Street Methodists amalgamated to form the Devonport Mission of the Methodist Church. They converted the building into the Devonport Central Hall at a cost of about £20,000. It could accommodate 1,300 worshippers and was usually filled to capacity every Sunday until the black-out and air raids started.
The Welcome Sailors' and Soldiers' Home was built by the Methodists in 1908 at a cost of about £12,000. Both buildings were destroyed in the Second World War.
A temporary corrugated iron building was erected on the site in 1950 but this was demolished in 1955 in readiness for the construction of the new Hall.
On Saturday October 27th 1956 the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Mr W J Oats, and Sister Emmeline Downing, laid the foundation stones of the new Devonport Central Hall. Sister Downing was a member of the pre-War congregation and had worked unceasingly during its closure to keep the congregation together. Among those present were the Admiral-Superintendent of the Royal Dockyard, Vice-Admiral L N Brownfield, and the vicar of Stoke Damerel Church, the Reverend Ferney Adams. Tea and speeches followed.
The Devonport Methodist Central Hall was opened by Mr Philip H Race and dedicated by Doctor W E Sangster on Saturday September 14th 1957. The Lord Mayor, Alderman Leslie F Paul, was in attendance along with the Commander-in-Chief of the Plymouth Command, Admiral Sir Mark Pizey, and the Admiral-Superintendent of the Royal Dockyard, Vice-Admiral L N Brownfield. The architect of the building was Mr Victor C L Saunders ARIBA, of Plymouth, and the contractor was Messrs A N Coles Ltd.
Using the inscribed mallet presented to him by the architect, Mr Race knocked three times on the main door and said: 'Open the gates of the Temple that we may go in and praise the Lord' before he, Doctor Sangster and the minister, the Reverend Ewart Lewis, led the congregation inside. After the usual tea and speeches, there was a programme of music arranged by Messrs Charles Grant and Godfrey Gerry and in the evening there was a public meeting. The Devonport Central Methodist Hall could accommodate 261 people on the ground floor, 239 in the gallery, and 52 in the semi-circular platform for the choir.
In 1988 the Devonport Methodist Central Hall was acquired by the City of Plymouth Theatre Company and converted it into a small theatre, the Devonport Playhouse.