Albion Hall, Gloucester

Marvin Beggs, Gloucester, UK

Precious Seed

The assembly meeting in Albion Hall, Gloucester, commenced through the commitment of Dr. Walter Hadwen, a medical practitioner who came to Gloucester at the time of the great smallpox epidemic there in 1895-96. Immediately on moving to Gloucester he started evangelical work in rented rooms on Southgate Street where a small assembly was formed. Although the fellowship was not large it attracted a growing number to the Sunday School and to the Sunday evening meeting. The rooms soon became too small to accommodate those who gathered each week to listen to the gospel. This led to the purchase, in 1905, of three cottages further along Southgate Street, and Albion Hall was built in the gardens at their back.

Between the two World Wars Sunday School attendance averaged around 300 and, in those days of economic recession, the annual Summer Outing and the Christmas Prize-giving Party were probably the most exciting events of the year for the children. It is thought that fellowship numbers were then between forty to fifty. Until his death in December 1932 Dr. Hadwen was the regular speaker on Sunday evenings to a well filled hall.

In 1936, Mr. Arthur Greenwood held a mission in the hall, and although it was intended as an evangelical outreach there was a real sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the most noticeable work, initially, being in the lives of the believers in the assembly. It was said of some of the leaders, ‘They were changed men after that mission’. They also had the joy of seeing many saved. Until then believers’ baptism was not practised in Albion Hall but after the mission some thirty to forty members of the assembly were baptized in King Street Gospel Hall. From then on Albion Hall was clearly associated with the ‘open brethren’ assemblies.

The years of the World Wars saw changes, with young men in the assembly being conscripted, but the work went on and other young men in the forces came to Albion Hall and brought ‘a breath of fresh air’ as they preached and gave their testimonies. On Sunday afternoons, after Sunday School, the ladies, in spite of rationing, would prepare a tea for servicemen and invite them to stay on for the evening service. As many as twenty would come to the teas and a number of them were saved on hearing the gospel. The work continued in the post-war years and in 1957 a number of members of Albion Hall joined with members from Ebenezer Gospel Hall, also in Gloucester, to form a new witness, in the Hucclecote suburb of the city, now known as Hillview Evangelical Church.

In the mid-sixties most of the members of the Albion Hall assembly were old and things had become static. It was at this low point that the Lord sent a number of gifted and newly-married couples to join the fellowship and this led to a spiritual revival. Covenanter Classes were started, summer camp work was begun, and a ladies’ meeting, and people were saved. A steady increase in numbers in fellowship resulted. Gifted brethren provided regular Bible teaching and by the end of the decade the assembly had grown substantially.

Albion Hall is right in the centre of Gloucester and backs on to the docks area. In the late 1980s the city put forward plans for the redevelopment of the area which had become very run down. This led to the assembly to consider relocating to a suburb of the city but after a year of prayerful consideration there was an almost unanimous decision to stay put and to redevelop the existing premises. This was done in phases, with the help of a local Christian architect, Godfrey Burden, and the final phase has recently been completed. We now find ourselves located at the centre of a large, mixed commercial and private brown-field site development and we are looking to the Lord for guidance on how to reach the people.

We are open to His leading. Recently, a displaced French-speaking African brother from the Congo has joined us and he is conducting bi-lingual meetings on Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings with other arrivals from the Congo. Also, Gloucester City Mission, working with street people in the city, has rented our shop for their office.

Please pray for us and if your travels bring you to our city you will find a warm welcome at Southgate Evangelical Church, Albion Hall, 146 Southgate Street, Gloucester GL1 2EX.

A recently published book One Hundred Years in Southgate Street details and illustrates the history of the assembly and is available from the above address for £8.00 per copy.