Chapters Appendices

ALBERT HALL, PART 3: 1910 to 1919

Mr. Bernard Johnson at the Albert Hall organ
In the appointment of Mr. Bernard Johnson,  B.A.,  Mus. Bac., F.R.C.O.,  the Trustees secured an organist of conspicuous ability. Born in Norfolk and educated at Selwyn College, Cambridge, he obtained his B.A. in 1889, his F.R.C.O. in 1891, and his Mus.Bac. in 1897. When at Cambridge he studied music under Dr. Garrett, Organist to the University. He obtained his post of Organist and Music Master at the Framlingham College, Suffolk, in 1889 and held it until 1891, when he became Organist and Assistant Master at Leeds Grammar School. While in Leeds he sang in the festival choir under Sir Arthur Sullivan and was conductor of a well-known male voice choir, whose unaccompanied performances were greatly admired. He was also largely instrumental in establishing a society of the local professional musicians, as well as being very active in the formation of the Leeds Municipal Concerts, held in the Town Hall on Saturday evenings.

In 1904 he accepted the post of Organist to the Bridlington Priory Church, and during his stay in that town founded the Bridlington Amateur Operatic Society, which had produced his opera,  A Petticoat Princess, with great success. He left Bridlington in 1909 to take up his duties at the Albert Hall.

The Binns organ in the 1910s
before the Pearson stained glass  windows
Under his direction, organ recitals were given every Saturday afternoon, the total monetary proceeds being contributed to the funds of the Nottingham General Hospital.

As a composer, Mr. Johnson  produced quite a large number of works of great merit. Included in these were some twenty pieces for the organ, among which his Concert Overture and Sonata di Camera took high rank. He was also the editor of  Stainer & Bell's Recitalist Series. He has written many part-songs - notably a series for female voices for Vincent & Co. Besides his opera already mentioned, an orchestral suite, Faerie, stood to his credit.

On 3 July 1910 the memorial stones of the Institute were laid by Miss Dorothy Boot, Miss Marsden, Sister Alice Maude, Mr. J.H. Pycroft, and Mr. John Segar.

The new Institute building was 47 feet broad and 116 feet long compared with the Albert Hall which had a breadth of 88 feet with a tower rising to a height of 100 feet. The Institute had been described as a "Young people's palace".

The official opening of the Albert Hall Institute was held on Thursday 15 September 1910. In the afternoon the Rev. J.E. Rattenbury, formerly superintendent of the Mission, but at that time superintendent of the Leysian Mission [West London Mission], preached to a crowded congregation in the Large Hall, taking for his text the words: "Your citizenship is in Heaven". Immediately after the service a number of the ministers and others present assembled in the minister's vestry and proceeded thence to the entrance of the Institute the door of which was formally opened by Lady Boot.

Among those present to support Lady Boot and the Rev. R. Moffat Gautrey, who both made appropriate speeches to mark the occasion, were the Misses Boot, the Rev. G. Sanderson (Chairman of the District), the Rev. T. Moorhouse Thorp, the Rev. H.R. Henderson, M.A., the Rev. J.E. Rattenbury, the Rev. E.J. Jones, Mr. Arthur Armitage, the Rev. Frank Boynton, Alderman R. Fleeman J.P., Councillor E. Richards, J.P., Councillor E. Byron, Mr. A.E. Lambert (the architect), the Rev. J.T. Chenalls, etc.. Lady Boot was presented with a gold key as a memento of the occasion.

In the evening a celebratory gathering learned about the costs of the building (estimated at £40,000) and of that £25,031 had already been received or promised, of which Sir Jesse Boot made a gift of £1,000. In addition, he provided the total cost of furnishing the new Institute. The Rev. J. Ernest Rattenbury prefaced his speech with some reminiscences of the earliest days of the Mission. He continued by stating that the Institute was an extension and special application of the church ideal of the home, but it meant that they recognised the life of the people at every side, that Christianity had a special and particular message for that life and that they cared not merely about the exclusive spiritual interests of the people, but for their human interests.  "My old friends whom I love," said Mr. Rattenbury, "I want to say that you have a superb opportunity; there are few churches in England that have a better or as good an opportunity as the Albert Hall here". Rev. Frank Boynton, assistant minister at the Albert Hall, said they were going to show the city of Nottingham that the game of billiards could be a clean game to teach the young people that recreation meant re-creation, and that amusement and recreation were part of their religion and as sacred as their worship.

Sir Jesse Boot
Later in the evening the parlour was packed to witness the unveiling ceremony of the hanging of  a beautifully executed replica of the portrait of Sir Jesse Boot, painted by Mr. Denholm Davis [See photograph right]. In unveiling the picture, the Rev. J.E. Rattenbury said that the Institute, which marked the completion of a great scheme, would remain a permanent memorial to Sir Jesse's generosity and care for his people.

At this time some three thousand hymn sheets were printed each week for the Sunday Services at the Albert Hall. Hymn books were not used by the large congregation. A quotation from Woodliff Brothers, Printers, give an indication of the price paid.
2,500  per  week  -  14/6
3,000  per  week  -  16/6
3,500  per  week  -  18/-

It had always been the policy of the Albert Hall, when letting out rooms, for a formal letting agreement to be provided. In 1909 the following were five of the sub-clauses which were included in the agreement.