The Methodist Central Hall
In 1870 Methodists first met in East Ham in a small building in Market Street. In 1880 a brick structure was erected in the Barking Road next door to the Town Hall. By 1903 the congregation had outgrown this building (East Ham's population was rapidly expanding) so the church met in East Ham Town Hall, while a new church was being built. In 1906 the Wesleyan Central Hall was opened, at a cost of £25,184.
The great hall accommodated 2,500 people. The rostrum had uninterrupted vision from all ground floor and gallery seats. There were school rooms, club rooms, vestries, kitchens and accommodation covering every church activity.
Under the guidance of the first Mission Superintendent, Revd J Wakerley, large congregations assembled for morning and evening services. It was an inspiring moment as stewards closed all doors just before the service began. An empty rostrum, then in silence the minister mounted the rear steps to the rostrum, took his place at the lectern, a personal prayer, then a great opening hymn - the Hall vibrant, all ready for another inspiring service. A congregation numbering hundreds, was all ready to listen to speakers of the like of a young Donald Soper.
All departments of the church flourished. The Sisterhood, with its outings and community activities. The Brotherhood which met on Sunday afternoons began with a membership of 725 men. A 50-voice choir and an orchestra served as an aid to worship. The brotherhood was open to all and over a thousand people would attend the meetings, which included an orchestral selection, a soloist, and then the guest speaker. The Hall was also a contributor to the cultural life of East Ham. Saturday evening concerts by the great London Orchestras, and distinguished musicians, School speech days were also held there.
During the Second World War worship continued to be held, but the building was also used to house people whose homes were bombed. School and public feeding facilities were set up.
After the war the congregation dwindled and by 1968 they could no longer bear the cost of maintaining the building. So after a final service the building was demolished and the congregation moved to the Congregational Church in Wakefield Street, the first joint service being held in November 1968.
The Congregational Church
On 21st November 1886 Mr S Patmore and a few friends, feeling the need for a Nonconformist place of worship, started a mission in a room over a stable in Holme Road. By 1890 the work was taken over by the Congregational Union with twelve names on the church roll, and an iron building was erected in Stamford Road and the first service was held on 17th July 1890. On 8th April eight Deacons were elected to run the church.
The congregation continued to grow and in 1897 three plots of land comprising of a row of cottages called 'Ballyrag Row' was purchased in Wakefield Street. The cottages were demolished and the stone laying of the first Church took place on 12th May 1900. On 10th January 1901 the church was opened, the estimated cost being £4,750. Until March 1911 the Stamford Road premises continued to be used by the Sunday School, when new premises were opened at the rear of the Wakefield Street Church.
In May 1923 electric light was installed and new hymnbooks and piano were bought by raising loans from members and friends, repaid tri-annually.
In September 1940 the Church was destroyed by German bombing. Services were held in a St John's schoolroom and later shared services at the Presbyterian Church. In 1945 Sunday services were held in Hartley Road School. In 1946 a room was rented in Holme Road to hold services.
In 1950 Myrtle hall was reopened, the first stage of a three stage rebuilding plan. On 9th June 1956 the stone laying of the new church took place. Copies of the current edition of the newspaper ‘Stratford Express’ and other documents were placed under the stone. On Saturday 14th September 1957 the new church was dedicated and opened at an estimated cost of £22,500.
In 1965 an approach was first made by East Ham Central Hall to join with the Congregational Church. This was refused by the members, but was later agreed to in February 1968.
In 1973 the Congregational and the Methodist Churches became a joint church and a uniting service was held on 7th January 1973.
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