The Memorial Hall

Much information concerning the Hall, as well as other matters relating to The Martyrs, has been gleaned from previously unpublished material written by Canon Andrew Raby who became Vicar on 13 December 1913. He stated that his predecessor, the Reverend Arthur Buxton had done wonderful work during a short three years ministry. This resulted in the church being filled on Sunday evenings. Over 700 Sunday School pupils were housed mostly in the Shaftesbury Road School buildings and the seniors in the Ruding Road Schoolrooms.

The Ruding Road building only accommodated about 120 people, it was badly planned, badly heated, constantly needing repairs and was some distance from the church. Nevertheless this, and a small corrugated iron building, known as the Parish Room, in the Vicarage garden, had to suffice for mid-week meetings and activities.

It was used for Bible Classes on Sunday afternoons, and by the ladies sewing parties on Tuesday afternoon and missionary sewing parties on Friday afternoons. “The Gleaner’s Union” worked for missionaries and met once a month on Saturday afternoon under Mrs Snasdell.

Mr Buxton started a scheme for a small Hall near the Vicarage, but this would only have accommodated about half the Sunday School. Canon Raby therefore suggested to the Church Council that a building large enough for all our Sunday School, Bible Classes and mid-week activities should be erected near the church. This was accepted, and a contract was let for the work to begin at the end of August 1914. However, the First World War broke out at the beginning of that month and the scheme had to be shelved. The original cost for building the Hall was to have been £3500.

Four and a half years were to pass before the scheme could be commenced and during this time fund-raising events took place. Sunday School children used to sell chocolates, scented soaps and lavender bags, a mile of pennies which would produce £211, and a wide variety of events. It is interesting to note that at this time the sum of money which the church had to pay to the Diocese, known as the Diocesan Quota, was £66 – at the present time the Parish Share as it is now termed, is over £35,000. Also during this time a new heating apparatus was required in the church, the existing hot air system being ineffective. The present hot water system was installed but with a coke fired boiler, later to be converted to oil and then gas. Also electric lighting was brought in for the first time to replace the gas lighting.

When the war ended an estimate was received for commencing the building of the Hall. This was in the sum of £10,000, but it was hoped that if this was deferred there might be a reduction in the cost of materials and labour. Some two or three years later the cost was then estimated at £7000. During the years of waiting the building fund, with the aid of £2000 realised by the sale of the old school in Ruding Road, had increased to about £5200. The cost of the building was to be £7000, to which must be added the cost of iron railings to the boundary, the purchase of 250 chairs, two pianos, cupboards etc. together with kitchen and catering equipment. The suggestion was made by Canon Raby that a sum of £2000 should be borrowed from the Leicester Building Society at 5% interest.

Work commenced in 1927, and the foundation stone was laid by W Cecil Harris on the 3rd November 1927. Eventually the Hall was completed and furnished, and it was opened in 1928 at a ceremony with the Bishop, Archdeacon and other clergy present.

Briefly, the Hall is built of brick with slated roof and contains five rooms on the ground floor with two entrance halls, kitchen, toilets, and on the upper floor a large concert hall with stage and two smaller rooms. The eight rooms have a total floor area of 8720 sq.ft.

The Leicester Education Committee asked to have the use of five rooms and, with the proviso that the church had the use of all the rooms at weekends and in the evenings, a letting was arranged at £240 per annum. This greatly helped in repaying the loan to the Leicester Building Society, but unfortunately with the outbreak of war in September 1939 the Education Department had to withdraw, and shortly afterwards the army commandeered the Hall except for one room which is known as The Den. All our furniture and equipment had to be packed into this room as tightly as possible, and the available floor space only allowed for meetings of about forty people.

The Senior Sunday School had to make use of the Shaftesbury Road School accommodation and, on the advice of the Bishop, the Junior Sunday School was closed down, and on account of the blackout all our week-night activities were curtailed. Before the war ended the debt to the Building Society had been reduced to £1000, and a concerted effort was then made, and this was achieved by having two Gift Days.

At one time three-day bazaars were held in the hall to provide church funds – people were asked to give a "pound of something" for a stall. In 1947 the bazaar actually produced a third of all the church income, more than from collections.

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