There is evidence of dissenters (‘thought to be Plymouth brethren’) meeting in West Malvern in 1855, and there is indication that J. N. Darby gave a lecture in Malvern on 27 October 1865, the subject being Ephesians 4. 20 - 5. 22.
A number of Christian business people in the North Malvern – Malvern Link area – are thought to have met in a hall in Pump Street, North Malvern, in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Their desire to have a place of their own led to the building of a Gospel Hall in Cowleigh Road in 1894, the date being carved in stone above the entrance.
In March 1906 the Hall became the property of the Stewards Company (Bath) and an agreement was signed with them as landlords, and William Manley Lory, James Evans and Frederick Paige, as tenants, to rent the Gospel Hall at a sum of £10 per annum. In March 1908, the Hall was recorded in the Official Register as a place of Religious Worship with Fred Paige of Hillfield, Malvern Link, as the minister!
A Mrs. Harriett A. Brocklebank was a generous supporter of gospel work in the area and a letter dated 13 July 1926 confirms that she had given to the brethren at the Gospel Hall the Gospel Mission Room (and its contents) in Somers Park Avenue for outreach. This building was later bought by the Wesleyan Methodists and moved to their site in that same road.
Mrs. Brocklebank is also remembered as having provided a number of such Rooms in the area, including one at Powick and one on the Guarlford Road, which was known as the Old Elm Gospel Hall. In the latter, an assembly met for a number of years until about 1950 when their numbers diminished and those remaining joined the assembly meeting at Cowleigh Road. That Hall was used for outreach by the assembly for the next few years until taken over by the Andrew League, an assemblyrelated organisation, and the site was ultimately sold when no longer needed by them.
There were some Christian schools in the town, notably the Clarendon School in Cowleigh Road, in which Harold St. John and his family took a great interest.
Christians from other churches often attended the Sunday evening and week-night preaching meetings in the Gospel Hall. An Anglican clergyman, who returned to Malvern on his retirement, told how he used to attend with his mother during his youth, prior to World War II.
During World War II, with a naval base in the district, a work was conducted among the sailors, and after the war the assembly benefited from the presence of a number of Christians working at the Radar Establishment. At this time a Sunday School was established, and for a number of years there was also a very flourishing Women’s Meeting.
In the 1970’s, acting on the advice of two schoolteachers, in fellowship, the possibility of holding a Holiday Bible Club in one of the schools during August was discussed. One of them was Headteacher of the school at Poolbrook and she suggested it should be used. Plans were made, and homes on the estate visited, with a consequent good attendance of children and the appreciation of parents. Many of the latter asked if something similar could be held during term-time and so a weekly Bible Club was instituted. Over the next few years a family service was held monthly, and then there was also a monthly Ladies’ Meeting. These continued until numbers reduced in the assembly. The Bible Club was discontinued because of a disruptive element. The seed had been sown for several years and there was an obvious effect on a number of folk, both young and old, though not with any addition to the assembly.
Special services were held in 1994 to commemorate the centenary of the building of the Gospel Hall and to celebrate the Lord’s goodness.
As families have grown up and moved on, numbers have dwindled and the membership is now mostly retired people who have moved to the area. But, praise the Lord, the building still stands as a witness to the faithfulness of God and the believers continue to meet and witness to their Lord, looking to Him for wisdom and guidance as to the future. Visitors to the area can be sure of a warm welcome at The Gospel Hall, Cowleigh Road, Malvern.
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