The Congregational Lecture Hall,
Upper High Street Epsom
This page is based on the information the booklet:
Into The Fourth Century : History Of Epsom United Reformed Church: Tercentenary 1688-1988 by P. Carey
In 1850 some members of the Epsom Congregational Church fell out with their eccentric Minister, the Rev. Thomas Lee and set up a second Chapel in The Parade. Later some land in Station Road was presented by Mr. Thomas Norman for the use of the Parade Chapel. However in 1878 the two churches had resolved their differences and the combined congregation were using the Church Street building.
Extract from the 1896 Ordnance Survey Map - click image to enlarge
Red = Lecture Hall, Green = The Church Street Chapel,
Yellow = The Parade Chapel, Blue = Public Hall
The foundation stones for the Lecture Hall, Upper High Street Epsom were laid on 27 July 1882 and the building opened on 8 February 1883 on the land presented by Mr. Thomas Norman. The hall's primary purpose was for use by the Church's Sunday Schools. These were surprisingly popular, as a total of 575 Sunday school pupils and 52 teachers were soon regularly using the hall.
When not used by the Sunday Schools the hall soon became a focal point for the community housing various groups and events. Demand for use of the hall increased when the Public Hall, at the junction of Upper High Street (then called Station Road) and Church Street, closed in the early 1900s.
In 1904 a new Church (1904-1961) was built on site of Old Congregational Church (which was built 1846) so the Congregation temporarily met in Lecture Hall.
At the start of WW1 the hall was requisitioned for a short time for recruitment activities and then was no doubt used for war related activities. The Lecture Hall was officially registered with Land Reg as "Congregational Church Hallin 1917.
Following WW1 Sunday school numbers declined significantly but by 1938 the Sunday school still had over 300 pupils and up to 20 Sunday School Teachers.
In 1923 a Miss Gray moved her Infant and Primary school
into rooms in the hall from her home in West Street. During WW2 the school operated out of basement rooms. The Primary section of the school closed school shortly after the war as Miss Gary was already in her eighties. The infants' section carried on for a short while but it too eventually closed after over 20 years teaching local children.
In October 1929 Ebbisham Hall and the smaller Myers Hall were opened in the town by the Epsom branch of the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was an organisation for men in trade and which had affiliations to the Congregational Church. Some groups moved from the heavily used Lecture Hall to the new building. This must have had quite an effect on the Lecture Hall finances as in the early 1930s, two shops were built on the hall forecourt with the rent money going towards the hall upkeep.
During WW2 the hall was again used for war related activities including a Services Club, a Knitting Club, an Emergency Medical Unit for homeless refugees and a YMCA meeting place. With many children evacuated from the borough the Sunday School sessions were temporarily halted.
In peacetime apart from Sunday Schools, and the usual youth activities of Girls and Boys Brigades, Scouts etc., the Lecture Hall was used by a wide variety of organisations and for various events including
- A Literary Society (who moved in when the Public Hall in The Quadrant closed in 1900 till 1930 when it moved to the new Ebbisham Hall)
- A Meals canteen for Epsom Boys' County Secondary School untill 1954
- British Camp Fire Girls
- Christian Endeavour
- Chrysanthemum Society
- Concerts and Theatrical Events
- Crusader Class
- Fund raising for local charities
- Local Jews held synagogue meetings in the Hall
- Mission Work
- Regnal League
- The Band of Hope (from 1884)
- The Brotherhood had a club, Library and meeting rooms untill 1930
- Used for demonstrations by Gas & Electric Companies.
- White Ribboners (A temperance organisation)
- Women's Church Council
In 1961 the Church roof and upper sections were damaged by fire so the Lecture Hall was again used for Church services till the current United Reform Church was built in Church Street.
In 1973 the Lecture Hall was declared unsafe by insurers and fire authority and some remedial work was undertaken by a mixture of volunteers and professional builders. In 1990 the Hall was burnt down. For a short while the site was used as a car park and later it was used by a supermarket but it is now part of the Odeon cinema complex.
The burnt out ruins of the Lecture Hall 1990
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum