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24. THE RE-OPENING OF THE ASSEMBLY HALL

The work of restoring the war-damaged Assembly Hall has been put in hand but, here again, paucity of labour and materials are likely to prevent the attainment of the Council's desire for this work to be completed in time for the Hall to be ready for use by the Church Assembly and the Lambeth Conference in 1948. . . During the work upon the Assembly Hall the opportunity has been taken to re-arrange the seating of the Hall so as to give better facilities for its primary purpose as the debating chamber of the Church Assembly, and other meetings.
(Annual Report of the Council, 1947)

At the March 1950 Council meeting, it was announced that the Hall would be completed by 31 August. Therefore, that summer, the Church Assembly met for the last time at the Central Hall, and expressed their gratitude to the Trustees for fourteen years hospitality by the presentation of a commemorative lectern for use in the private chapel there.

The Council invited Queen Mary to re-open the restored Assembly Hall. Her Majesty's third visit to the Church House (the first had been as Duchess of York in 1896), planned for the start of the autumn session, had to be postponed when Her Majesty caught a chill. 'Queen Mary is more than sorry to disappoint all those who will be at Church House on Monday', wrote her private secretary. 'But if it is their wish that the little ceremony shall be postponed until the spring session of the Church Assembly at the end of January, Her Majesty hopes very much to be able to undertake it then.'

Queen Mary with Dr Geoffrey Fisher (Archbishop of Canterbury 1945-1961) on 29 January 1951 when Her Majesty re-opened the Assembly Hall.
Queen Mary with Dr Geoffrey Fisher (Archbishop of
Canterbury 1945-1961) on 29 January 1951 when Her
Majesty re-opened the Assembly Hall.
(BBC Hulton Picture Library)

Two carved oak panels, one commemorating the opening of the House in 1940 and the other the re-opening of the Assembly Hall, were already in place, the latter inscribed with the incorrect date of 13 November. This had to be taken down and the correct date recorded.

A little before three o'clock on 29 January 1951, Queen Mary arrived and was warmly welcomed by the Assembly, which then sang unaccompanied (for the organ had not been restored to the Hall) the hymn, 'Holy, Holy, Holy!' After a short service of prayers and dedication, Her Majesty unveiled the panels and Dr Fisher then read aloud the inscriptions on them.

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