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8. THE GREAT HALL

Five years after the laying of the foundation stone, on 11 February 1896, the Great Hall Block was to be opened by the Duke of York (later to become King George V). The Council and the Bishops assembled at the Great Smith Street entrance to await the arrival of the Royal Party.

The Entrance Lobby to the Great Hall Block. The bust of Harvey Goodwin was given to the Church House in 1897
The Entrance Lobby to the Great Hall Block.
The bust of Harvey Goodwin was given
to the Church House in 1897.

From the entrance hall, stairs led up on either side to the Great Hall on the first floor, and, until the Dean's Yard wing could be built, two temporary halls for the Convocation of Canterbury occupied the ground floor. Ten rooms in the basement were to be let as offices for Church Societies, and the galleried Great Hall could also be hired out to provide extra income for the Corporation. The organ was not installed until 1899 and so music for the opening ceremony was provided by an orchestra and choir.

Following prayers in the Upper and Lower Houses of the Convocation of Canterbury, the procession moved to the Great Hall where the Duke of Westminster welcomed their Royal Highnesses. In his reply, the Duke of York commented:


The Duke and Duchess of York at the Opening of the Great Hall
The Duke and Duchess of York at the Opening of the Great Hall (Illustrated London Newt)

You remind me that for the first time in the history of the Church its members are enabled to meet together for the transaction of business in their own house; and I trust and pray that the blessing of Divine Providence may guide all future deliberations within these walls to the furtherance of the true interests of the Church, and for the good of the people of this realm. I now have pleasure of declaring the Church House to be opened.

The first of Blomfield's new buildings for the Church House. The Great Hall occupied the first floor, with the main entrance on the corner of Great and Little Smith Streets. The Great Hall looking west. The impressive hammer-beams were purely ornamental
The first of Blomfield's new buildings for the Church House.
The Great Hall occupied the first floor, with the main
entrance on the corner of Great and Little Smith Streets.

(Inset). The Great Hall looking west.
The impressive hammer-beams were purely ornamental.

The Council decided to proceed immediately with an appeal for funds for the construction of the West Block of buildings, which would contain temporary library premises and a hall for the use of the House of Laymen. The appeal was only moderately successful and the Corporation was forced to borrow £9,000 towards the cost. Canon Venables had in mind some memorial to Henry Hoare, the layman who had done much to bring about the revival of the Convocations (Canterbury inactive 1717-1852, and York -1861), and discussed his idea with members of the late Mr Hoare's family and with the Secretary of the Corporation. Dr Benson suggested that the hall for the use of the Canterbury House of Laymen might be a suitable memorial. The Hoare family were pleased to give £2,500 towards the cost and an appeal was also sent out to each member of the two Houses of Laymen.

The Great Hall in use by the Church Assembly. 1925
The Great Hall in use by the Church Assembly. 1925.

The Council had decided that there should be 'no formal special opening' and so the Hoare Memorial Hall was opened by the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Frederick Temple, on 28 January 1902, at a meeting of the two Houses of the Convocation of Canterbury and of the Canterbury House of Laymen. Dr Temple referred to the creation of the House of Laymen, hoping that it would be only the first step in the creation of a national legislative body for the Church.


The Hoare Memorial Hall, circa 1920.

This, then, was the limit of the Church House buildings under the original Royal Charter.

On either side of the portrait of Henry Hoare are those of the chairmen of the Canterbury House of Laymen.

From the Book "The Church House 1888-1988 - A Moment in the Life of the Church"
Published by the Corporation of the Church House in their Centenary Year