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Summary:

St John's Mission Hall (full name The Mission Hall of St John the Baptist, Hungerford) stood on the east side of Salisbury Road, opposite Atherton Crescent, between 1899 and 1987. The site is now re-developed as St John's Court.

Photo Gallery:

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- St. John's Mission Hall, 1984

- Salisbury Road, c1910, showing St. John's Mission Hall

- Interior of St. John's Mission Hall, c1910, This photograph was clearly taken at Harvest Thanksgiving, and the man on the right of the photograph is thought to be Captain Byrt, shown with his family.

- St. John's Mission Hall, c1900

- St. John's Mission Hall, c1910. [Rachel Neale, 3rd right back row; Joseph Edward, 2nd row third left]. [Kindly sent by Stella Sampson]

- St. John's Mission Hall (undated). [Joseph Neale, 5th from right, back row]. [Kindly sent by Stella Sampson]

- St. John's Mission Hall (undated). Can you help?

- St. John's Mission Hall (undated). Can you help?

- St. John's Mission Hall, 1974

- St. John's Mission Hall, Apr 1984

- St. John's Mission Hall, Oct 1986

- St. John's Mission Hall during demolition, Jan 1988

- St. John's Court, Mar 1990 built on site of St John's Mission Hall. [Ivor Speed Collection]

- St John's Mission Hall at Harvest Festival. Undated. (Albert Parsons).

The Chuch Army:

In 1894 the Rev Anstice, vicar of Hungerford, retired after nearly 30 years in office. He knew the demands of the parish needed a younger man, one who had the enthusiasm and the physical strength for dealing with an ever growing parish. His successor was the Rev WAG Gray.

Determined to bring back to the Church the many people who were dragging their feet, the Rev Gray decided to ask the Church Army to send an Evangelist to work amongst the labouring and artisan population, whose scanty attendance at both St Lawrence and St Saviours was so distressing - especially the men.

Captain Hatton and his wife arrived on 10 Jun 1895. The Parish Magazine (Jun 1895) says that they "are to come to live and work among the poorer part of the population".

They set to work holding regular Mission services at various local venues, for example (Parish Magazine July 1896) regular Sunday services in the barn at Anvilles Farm (28 attendees) and "on the Lawn at Mr Brown's, Sanham Green" (45 attendees). They visited people in their own homes, and also held open-air services in Moon Lane (now Priory Place), The Marsh, The Barracks, Smitham Bridge, Leverton and Hungerford Newtown.

The Hatton's left Hungerford in July 1896 to move to Hammersmith. The Parish Magazine (Jun 1896) records that "The service on Sunday afternoon in the barn at Anvilles Farm will be taken by one of the clergy until a replacement arrives."

In 1898 the Stantons took over, and the busy life they led and the great need they filled is recorded in the Parish Magazine of that period.

Plans to build a Mission Room:

In March 1899 "Our kind and generous neighbour Lady Pearce (of Chilton Lodge) has given us a fresh proof of her interest in the spiritual welfare of the town, by deciding to build a Mission room for the Moon Lane district". (It was within the next month that the name "Moon Lane" was changed to "Priory Place"). The two Conveyances of land (dated 20 Feb 1899 and 29 Nov 1899) from Lady Pearce to Rev WAG Gray and others are held in the HHA Archives, along with a Fire Insurance for 1899.

"The designs have been drawn by Mr James H Money of Newbury, and the contract placed in the hands of Messrs Wooldridge and Son (of The Wharf, Hungerford).

The work of taking out the foundations has commenced (Feb 1899), and we hope before the month is out to see good progress made with the building. It is to be completed by the beginning of August. Services will be held in it by the clergy and the Church Army evangelist."

The room was called St John's and was to be used by the Evangelists and the clergy for services and a mens club.

The "New Mission Room" was dedicated on Thursday 12 Oct 1899.

"The proceedings will commence with a short Dedicatory service. We hope to be able to entertain at tea all householders & their wives in the old "Moon Lane" district, and also the workmen who have been engaged on the building, and in the evening there will be musical entertainment".

Lady Pearce was presented with a bouquet by a lady called Widow Bennet and it is amusing to note that tea was first provided to the women, and another tea for the men. No doubt the women had to wash up for both sets!

A very full report of the opening events is in the November 1899 Parish Magazine:

The report adds "The excellent repast was catered for by Colour Sergeant Barnes of the Red Rose Coffee House and the general arrangements were superintended by Mrs. Hoy, who was the housekeeper at Chilton Lodge."

"Services will be held there by the Church Army Evangelist at 11am and 6pm on Sunday, as well as on one evening during the week. It will also be open on Sunday afternoons for rest and reading. A meeting of the men of the district will shortly be held to make the necessary arrangements and rules for opening an evening club through the winter, and a Mother's meeting will be commenced forthwith."

The building and land was administered by Trustees. One of those was always the incumbent, and usually there were two additional Trustees. It was always independent of the Parish Church.

No sooner had the new Mission Hall been completed than Captain Stanton, who had been working in Hungerford for a year, received orders to move. His place was taken by Captain Elliott, from Rugby.

Shortly before October 1901, Captain Elliott was moved to be evangelist at Luton, Bedfordshire, and Captain Gassick took his place here at Hungerford.

In 1904 Captain Short came, followed by Captain Poulton in 1907 and Captain & Mrs Chamberlain in 1908.

In 1910 St John's was looked after by Captain Byrt of the Church Army for a short time, after which Captain Caddock was responsible. At this time services were held at 11.00am and 6pm every Sunday and an evening service during the week.

From November 1919 Captain Robert Mansfield took charge of St John's, assisted by his sister, until December 1947 when he officially retired but as a successor could not be found immediately, he carried on part time until February 1949.

In 1949 Captain F. Marsden was in charge, and on Sunday 16 Oct 1949 St John's celebrated 50 years with a day of thanksgiving including Harvest Festival, a Sale of Vegetables, and a children's party.

Captain Marsden remained until September 1952. His successor was Robert D Wisken who was in post from 21 Jun 1953 until Jan 1954.

In addition to the regular services, regular 'Band of Cheer' sessions were held every Wednesday afternoon, when a bun and cup of tea cost 1d. The hall was also used on numerous occasions for whist drives, concerts, and other activities. Various clubs were established over the years, including a Quoit Club in 1911. Other activities included an evening club for men, a mothers' meeting room, jumble sales and the showing of lantern slides.

Church Army Evangelists (incomplete):

c1890 - Captain & Mrs Hatton
1897 - Captain & Mrs Whitford
1898 - Captain Stanton
1899 - Captain Elliott
1901 - Captain & Mrs Gassick
1904 - Captain Short
1907 - Captain Poulton
1908 - Captain & Mrs Chamberlain
1910 - Captain Byrt
c1914 - Captain Caddock
1919 - Captain Robert Mansfield
1949 - Captain F Marsden
1952 - Captain Robert D Wisken (retired Jan 1954)

The NWN of 9 Nov 1950 reported that "Captain Robert Mansfield, Church Army, died at his home, The Prospect, Hungerford, on Monday, aged 71. He had a total of 48 years service in the Church Army, and for the past two years had been vicar's warden."

There was a clock on the wall presented by the Fairfield Mission, Harmony Row, Govan, as a token of love to the donor of both missions. A small harmonium was used for many years.

The Trustees:

The St Lawrence Church Inventoiry 1940-90 records (p.24) that the Mission Hall was a "licensed Building within the Parish" (as distinct to the various consecrated buildings). It lists the Trustees in 1940 as Mr George R Neale, Mr Lancelot Peart and Miss Gladys Caulfield. All three were cancelled at some stage and replaced with Mrs A Fry, Miss L Colley and Mr John Davies.

The last years of St John's Mission Hall:

St John's Mission Hall continued in gradually diminishing use until it finally closed in 1984.

The building was demolished in 1987-88, the site being redeveloped as St John's Court.

See also:

- Parish Magazines

- HHA Archives:

  - Conveyance of land in Moon Lane from Lady Pearce to Rev WAG Gray and others 20 Feb 1899

  - Conveyance of land in Moon Lane from Lady Pearce to Rev WAG Gray and others 29 Nov 1899

  - Fire Insurance Policy for St John's Mission Hall, 1899 - £700 for 10s 6d pa.