Donald Harrison's autobiography continues with information about the 1960s.
Much of our life has been linked with the affairs and people of the Albert Hall. The great and eventful Superintendency of George Sails ended in 1966 when he was promoted to become General Secretary of the Home Missions Division and he was followed at the Albert Hall by John Jackson, a tall ex-railwayman. All ministers have their strengths and weaknesses; John's special gift was a brilliant propensity for delivering two-minute mini-sermons on the radio. These were given at 7 or 8 am on the popular wavelength and were meant to be heard and enjoyed by every kind of listener - committed Christians, casual hearers, busy housewives, agnostics, even atheists. They had to be brief, interesting and carry a significant message - and they did all this magnificently. Many of these addresses were later reproduced in books but it was on the air that they came over best.
I had become a member of the Albert Hall Trustees in 1965, in George Sails's time. In those days the Trust was separate from the Leaders' Meeting (now Church Council) and dealt with the property and financial side of the church as distinct from the devotional and general church matters. In the vestry Eric Butson and I had followed our four years as communion stewards with four years as church stewards. It was while holding this appointment that I was involved with George Sails's exchange of pulpits with the Rev Richard Drake, of Ohio, U.S.A. George had already left for America when the Drakes arrived; we were still at Longore Square at the time and we had them for a meal there and also took them to the Council House to meet the Lord Mayor. The Drakes were a very nice couple and were the first of several U.S. ministers who came to the Albert Hall on exchange over the years.
Albert Hall front 1960s
The Greenwood Secondary (Bilateral) School Band played for the 8 pm Social Hour at the 59th Anniversary celebrations on Sunday 12 March 1961. The Conductor was Joseph Morley. On the Anniversary Day, Thursday 16 March, Mr. T. George Thomas, M.P., Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, conducted the Divine Service at 4.30 pm. He also spoke at the Public Meeting in the evening.
The Albert Hall, whilst continuing to function as a Methodist Mission, was Nottingham's only concert hall. It was modernised in 1961 at a cost of £33,000. Early in the year preparations had begun to be made for the modernisation of the Hall, and on 9 July 1961 large congregations gathered for the final services in the Hall prior to the commencement of the major part of the work on the following day. For the next ten Sundays, services were held in the Institute, but fear that congregations would be seriously depleted during this period proved groundless. The Superintendent Minister had emphasised from the beginning that the modernisation scheme must be used as an occasion for spiritual renewal and positive witness in the city. The first phase of the work started in May but it was not until mid-July that the Hall was vacated and workmen, operating in relays, began the major parts of the work. One of the first big jobs to be undertaken was the taking up of the whole of the old wooden block flooring on the ground floor and relaying it with hardwood blocks of missanda to carry the weight of the new seating fixtures.
Underneath the platform of the Albert Hall
during modernization 18/7/61
It was very noticeable, on returning to the Albert Hall after the alterations, how quiet it was when the congregation sat down, compared with the previous seats which used to rattle terribly. Although it was quieter, there was what sounded like a sigh as everyone sat down because the new seats seemed to be filled with air.
The screen between the foyer and the main hall could be taken away for weddings and suchlike, leaving the middle aisle accessible.
The new foam rubber seats were covered with red Vinyl on the ground floor of the auditorium and blue Vinyl on the balcony. All were fitted with internal rubber cushioning for comfort and had tip-up seats. They gave plenty of knee room and had also been so arranged that nobody's vision of the stage would be blocked by the pillars. These improvements, however, entailed the reduction of the seating accommodation from one thousand seven hundred down to one thousand four hundred.
Improvements also included sound proofing of the improved cloakroom facilities so that noise would not filter through to the Hall, the construction of two new retiring rooms, the rewiring of the premises, new lighting in the main hall and improved foyers.
With the Boys' Brigade
Towards the organ
with mission staff on the platform
From the organ
Albert Hall interior after modernisation
Provision had also been made on the stage for a piano hoist. When fitted, this would mean that a piano could be raised up to the stage and then lowered back again when not in use. Meanwhile the under part of the stage would be used as a store.
In front of the stage was a new communion rail made by Appleby and Son, in beech and mansania woods. This had been made in nine separate units which made its dismantling a simple operation. The same firm had also made a new lectern and communion table and a new conductor's rostrom.
Entry to the auditorium from the Great Hall Street end of the building was through swinging doors at the end of the two aisles. A new brick and plaster wall helped to cut out extraneous sounds which are so disturbing at a concert.
Naturally enough lighting and ventilation are of vital importance and in this field the city firm of W.J. Furse and Co. introduced a new look and some extra fittings. Eight chandeliers of contemporary design had been fitted in the auditorium. These were a wonderful improvement and enhanced the decorative work which had been carried out. One interesting item which had been introduced into the Hall was a boom fitting. This consisted of a series of lights which could be lowered from the roof of the auditorium above the platform when concerts were in progress. Another lighting improvement which had been installed could be seen in the roof of the auditorium. This consisted of twenty-one spotlights in groups of four and five built into the roof at the stage end of the Hall. The lights were controlled at a special board which had been built by the firm. The panel was situated in a small room at balcony level behind the Hall. At the same time the power had been changed from direct to alternating current.
Mainly because of the Hall's arched roof and the wall beside the stage being a "blind" one which had reflected the sound, the ordinary loudspeaker system used to produce little more than a murmur for the spoken word. The new and most up-to-date sound amplification system now gave first-class acoustics for all kinds of public meetings. This was the line source loudspeaker system given by Mr. L.F. Pearson and Mr. T. Pearson, of Pearson Bros (Nott'm) Ltd, both Trustees of the Albert Hall Mission. Six ordinary speakers would be contained in one special cabinet, of which there were five in the Hall.
While many of these alterations and new fittings were not necessarily immediately obvious upon entering the Hall, one thing certainly was, namely the decorative work. The main Hall had been redecorated in pale grey and white, with motifs picked out in pastel shades. Responsible for this work was G. and C. Whittles, of Daybrook Square, Nottingham. Upon leaving the auditorium, the amount of rebuilding and new facilities became even more apparent. The entrance to the auditorium from the North Circus Street end of the building was through two sets of double doors which themselves provided a lobby. On passing through the doors, one entered the auditorium on one side of the widened stage. This had necessitated a considerable amount of re-planning and rebuilding. At the same time the opportunity has been taken to introduce a ticket booking office in the crush hall. This was set between the two entrances to the auditorium and was built beneath the platform.
For the benefit of visiting artists, two new spacious retiring rooms had been constructed. These had been built into the auditorium in opposite corners by the stage and were entered from the crush hall.
An important item which had not been neglected in this big-scale modernisation scheme was toilet facilities. These had been renewed and in some places provided for the first time.
The job of plumbing and sanitary work throughout the whole of the building had been undertaken by W. Holbrook and Son. Water-proofing of the floors had been carried out by Ragusa Asphalte, of Radford. The floor was of attractive terrazzo marble, and the work had been carried out by the Midland Plastering Co. The same firm had also been responsible for the tiling and plastering of the building.
Both foyers, at the North Circus Street entrance and that at Great Hall Street, were altered. The latter had been covered with green-grey coloured rubber tiles supplied and fitted by the Rubber Supply Co. of Chapel Bar, Nottingham.
Grants amounting to £14,000 were promised from Methodist funds for the modernisation scheme and the balance was raised by public appeal.
Mayor's arrival at the rear of the Albert Hall
At the Harvest Festival on the following Sunday the congregation overflowed on to the platform seats, bringing back to older members the memory of the Mission's earliest days.
1961 was an exciting and exhilarating year at the Albert Hall, reaching its climax in the re-dedication by the President of the Methodist Conference, the Rev. Dr. Maldwyn L. Edwards, M.A., on Monday 11 December 1961 at 11.30 am. A plaque commemorating the gifts towards the cost of renovation was unveiled by him.
It was said at the time that:
Far more important, however, than the material alterations and improvements, is the spirit of our people, whose enthusiasm and generosity have been outstanding.
At the Anniversary celebrations on Sunday 18 March 1962 there was a Social Hour in the Institute enhanced by the Nottingham High School Choir conducted by Mr. Kendrick Partington, M.A., MUS.B., F.R.C.O. On Thursday 22 March 1962 there was an Anniversary Luncheon (Tickets 5/-) with greetings from the Rev. Canon D.R. Feaver, M.A. (Vicar of St. Mary's Church and Rural Dean of Nottingham), the Rev. John W. Swarbrick, M.A., B.D. (Chairman, Nottingham and Derby District), and Mr. R. Blakey Dunn, B.Sc. (President, Free Church Federal Council).
A newspaper cutting (no details, but probably October 1962) relates a story of the piano on the Albert Hall platform which had been used for public concerts.
The grand piano in the Albert Hall, Nottingham, has spoiled concerts
before by its noisy mechanism; last night it crowned its achievements by falling
to pieces in mid-concert . . . . . .twice.
The occasion was the visit of the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra under their conductor, Jan Krenz.
The first mishap came when the solo pianist, Wladyslaw Kedra, had reached a rapt lyrical moment in Rachmaninov's popular Paganini Rhapsody.
A sharp sound disrupted the stillness and a piece of wood was seen falling under the piano.
The pianist, finding that the pedal no longer worked, jumped up and left the platform.
The conductor followed.
There was shocked sympathy on the part of the audience.
In no time a piano tuner appeared and crawled under the piano.
The audience amused, clapped him.
The orchestra just relaxed.
Two more men crawled under the piano and the noise of hammering brought great amusement.
Then, the pedal fixed, the pianist and conductor returned and carried on where they had left off, apparently unshaken.
But two minutes from the end, the pedal fell off again - and this time the pianist was past caring.
He carried on undaunted.
As he finished the solo, the audience were warmly appreciative.
Then the piano was pushed gently to one side - and the whole mechanism fell off in a heap on the platform.
On Wednesday 15 May 1963 there was a B.B.C. Television Songs of Praise broadcast from the Albert Hall. It was pre-recorded for reproduction on Whit Sunday 2 June 1963. Included in it was community singing led by a massed choir of the Secondary Schools of Nottingham, Soloist Pamela Watts (Soprano), Conductor Kenneth J. Eade, and Organist Fred Garnett. The prayer and blessing were given by the Rev. George W. Sails.
Mr. Eric Chandler recalled his memories of Albert Hall which he attended with his wife, Hilda.
We started coming to the Albert Hall in 1966, in John Jackson's time. We came from Independent Street. Hilda was good at getting about and getting to know people, and that sort of thing. She had taught for twenty-odd years in the Sunday School at de Ligne Street and Independent Street Churches. Les Wyer was the Sunday School Superintendent at that time.
We had some happy times at the Albert Hall. At the time that we came to the Albert Hall, one of the things they did every year was the Senior Citizens' summer holiday which Les Wyer arranged. They had some good outings there; a whole week away.
The building had just been redone when we got there. The cloakroom was different and various entrance doors were changed. Of course, the Institute was separate from the Hall.
In the Institute, there was an entrance down to the Gymnasium. The Youth Coffee Bar was what used to be the billiard room. When I used to come for the People's College School we used to come down here to the Gymnasium. At the top of the stairs was a window on the left-hand side with a letterbox. Then came a door and you went through a small lobby to the Secretary's office with a little door to the Minister's office. There was a store room [presumably what used to be the room shown as "Hallkeeper" and, later, the "Assistant Minister"]. You went through two swing doors to the foyer, with the lift and stairs in front of you. You went up five steps and the Ladies toilet was on the bend of the stairs. There was a caretaker's store immediately above that with the Gent's toilet immediately above that. Half way up the stairs in each case: half way between each floor. What is shown there as the "Main Hall" was the Lecture Hall, with the stage. There were stairs going up to the stage from the "wings" and steps to the outside fire exit. One of the jobs I did was to put in a fire escape light, which was part of the emergency lighting we put in. There was no entrance from the back; only the old iron fire escape stairs which were taken out in the 1960s. You got out through the Lobby on the side of the wing. When you went down to the outside, you are at a level with the Maid Marian Way.
The upstairs chapel was in what was Room 7, at the top of the stairs, which was fitted up by John Horner. Then Rooms 8 and 9 were at the end. The "Boys' Brigade" room was let out. The "Model Railway Clubroom" and Kitchen were made into one room [Room 10]. That was let out too. They used to have various teachers' (but not the Sunday School teachers) meetings there. After they had been there you had a job to see your way to the door with smoke. We put saucers all round. After one teachers' meeting, there was another with people to do with office machinery, later on the same day, and we tried everything to get rid of the smoke. What used to be the "Girls' Parlour" was quite a big room and had a wooden floor. They put the Ju-jitsu people in there but they complained about the splinters!
All the rooms in the Institute were available to be let out to approved parties. (Three sessions each day, for income). Church departments had first choice.
I was not a caretaker but sometimes I relieved after I retired and sold the shop. I was sixty-six. There had been three caretakers, and then they reduced to two. They had a fortnight's holiday each. The Albert Hall and the Institute were both rambling buildings.
In the Albert Hall, Fred Garnett's office was right at the top of the stairs. The first one was Fred Garnett's and then you went on to two more, one after the other; a ping-pong table in one.
The Wesley Guild used the Church Parlour, Room 1. There was a grand piano in that room. William Turner's choir used to rehearse in Room 1, too. That was before my time. The Turners were music people, not Turner's Bakery. The Nottingham Harmonic Choir rehearsed in the Lecture Hall every Monday evening. Nottingham Playhouse used the Lecture Hall or Room 1 for rehearsing. They marked the floor like the Playhouse stage.
Albert Hall Institute: Basement (1), 1950s
Albert Hall Institute: Basement (1), 1964
Albert Hall Institute: Basement (2), 1950s
Albert Hall Institute: Basement (2), 1964
Albert Hall Institute: Revised Youth Club Layout (1)
Albert Hall Institute: Revised Youth Club Layout (2)
Albert Hall Institute: Ground Floor, 1950s
Albert Hall Institute: Ground Floor, 1964
Albert Hall Institute: Mezzanine, 1950s
Albert Hall Institute: Mezzanine, 1964
Albert Hall Institute: First Floor, 1950s
Albert Hall Institute: First Floor, 1964
Albert Hall Institute: Second Floor, 1950s
Albert Hall Institute: Second Floor, 1964
Mrs. Watkins used to have a class in Room 2.
Room 3 was the Men's classroom. The Ladies' class was in Room 4 (Deaconess). The Minister had a class with fifty or sixty men. John Jackson was very proud of this. It wasn't too theological. It was mainly discussion. There was plenty of fellowship.
The work of the Deaconesses at the Albert Hall changed considerably over the years. In the 1930s it was absolutely unheard of for a Deaconess to take the service in the Hall. By the 1960s, however, there were cases when they preached in the Mission. Their main duty was visiting; this was fairly general, everywhere. They took the bulk of the Bible classes and all the women's meetings - Women's Work, Women's Fellowship, etc.. In a ministerial appointment, people were so pleased to see you when you went to their special meetings, but as a Deaconess at a city-centre mission you were expected to be there anyway. There would be two or three Deaconesses in those days.
The Guardian Journal, of Monday 5 July 1965, provided the following report and congratulated the Rev. George Sails on having provided a place where people could meet and talk and find companionship without necessarily attending a meeting or taking part in any specific activity.
The new lounge and buffet on the mezzanine floor of the Albert Hall Institute was comfortable and cheerful and replaced the little rest room which was provided in the basement before the new lounge was opened. Volunteers staffed the snack bar from 5 pm to 9.45 pm daily and provided anything from a cup of tea to a light meal. They did the job in two shifts to spread the load. About 50 women members of the congregation took it in turn to staff the buffet bar and Mr. and Mrs. Sails worked out the rota. Some helped once a week, some once a fortnight, and Saturdays and Sundays were shared out so that no one had to give up their weekends too often. The new suite was opened at the end of November  and it was estimated that about 500 people used it every week. It was open to all who used the Institute and Albert Hall and the busiest time of the week was after service on Sundays, when it was packed with people having a friendly talk and enjoying a cup of tea or coffee. This was particularly appreciated by those who lived alone.
There is a very well-equipped kitchen complete with cooker and refrigerator, and it is pleasantly decorated in mustard and white. Attractive crockery has been chosen and everything is bright, shining and welcoming. At the buffet side there are six tables and chairs for 24, all in a pleasant shade of blue. At the other side of the room comfortable armchairs and coffee tables are provided for those who just want to sit and chat. It fulfils many purposes and caters for all age groups. The tiniest members of the Girls' Life Brigade cadets pop in to buy their sweets and lemonade, the members of the young groups drop in to continue their discussions over a cup of coffee, city workers can get light meals such as an egg or beans on toast or a bowl of hot soup, before attending some evening activity.
The older members could get a cup of tea after doing the shopping. Others used the lounge while waiting for children who were taking part in some activity. Prices were very moderate but they were making a profit on the food. They had not, however, worked out whether they were adequately covering the gas and electricity used. Serving a variety of food seven days a week meant that the stores had to be well kept and stocks constantly replenished. In charge of ordering from the outset had been Miss Florrie Smith who had the job at her fingertips for she had kept her own little general shop in Long Eaton before she retired. She obviously enjoyed doing this piece of work for the Institute. The men had not escaped all the duties for, in conjunction with the new look at the Institute, there was a fine new enquiry desk and bookstall and this was staffed every evening by one of the men of the congregation.
At the time of an "At Home" at Gill Street on Thursday 7 October 1965 Miss Doris Davies was the housekeeper.
The Minutes of the Trustees' Meeting on 29 October 1965 recorded that:
Our Solicitor advises us that we can assume the ownership of land below the fire-escape [between the Nottingham Playhouse and the Albert Hall] is ours, and that we may carry out the proposed work on it.
Agreed that the Badminton Club be allowed to use the Lecture Hall when it is not booked for other meetings and to mark out the court on the floor, as requested.
The Nottinghamshire Archives black hard-covered "Circuit Schedule Book" records the Quarterly Schedule "showing the state of the Methodist Societies in the Albert Hall Circuit at the Visitation of the Classes for the Quarter ending March 1966".
|Rev. G.W. Sails||Tuesday||105|
|Sister Phyllis||Wed. afternoon||79|
|Sister Josie||Wed. evening||46|
|Sunday School||Mr. Mottram||15|
|Mrs. Sails||Sunday afternoon||15|
|Sister Josie's Tuesday Group||34|
|Rev. David J. Wheeler||67|
|Sister Josie's Thurs. Even.||62|
|Dr. Eric Foxley||18|
|Mr. MacIntosh|| 15|
In the quarters ending December 1966 to September 1968 inclusive, Independent Street 44 was added at the bottom of the list.
At the Quarterly Meeting on 14 March 1966 it was recommended that, (a) the Mission take over Independent Street Society from the Nottingham West Circuit from September 1966, (b) the Society should be under the pastoral care of the King's Hall Minister, and (c) there should be immediate consultation with the West Circuit on the plans for the New Building. After long discussion the foregoing resolutions were approved with one vote against.
The Rev. George Sails left Nottingham in August 1966 to take up an appointment in the Home Missions Department of the Methodist Church in London. His successor as Superintendent of the Albert Hall Methodist Mission was the Rev. John Jackson who had been superintendent of the Victoria Hall Mission at Bolton for two years. Before that, he was at the Darlington Street Methodist Church, Wolverhampton, for seven years. He was a fourth-generation railwayman and worked in the signalling and telegraphic section before going into the ministry in 1945. He was born in Winsford in Cheshire and was educated at Verdin Grammar School in Winsford and Richmond Theological College in Surrey. He served as a circuit minister at Stroud, Howden (Yorkshire), Longton, Stoke-on-Trent and finally at Darlington. He was married with a son, John (then a teacher in Bolton), and a daughter, Helen.
Mrs. Vi Nelson recalled:
On one occasion the choir rehearsed a version of an introit which was different from the usual. Some members of the choir had missed the rehearsals so, at the service when we sang the introit, those of us who had rehearsed it sang the new version and those who had missed the rehearsals sang the usual version. Fred Garnett, the organist, was so upset that his wig nearly came off!
Another time we were rehearsing the Messiah when all the lights went out. We continued rehearsing and sang the Hallelujah Chorus from memory.
The Trustees' Meeting on 30 November 1967 was informed by Mr. L.H Pearson that a 12-Section New Brigadier Boiler (£1,950) and Riley Stoker (£850) [from Messes. Young, Austen and Young] had been installed after the existing boiler had been removed. It had been suggested that, whilst this work was being done, a pit for the later provision of an excavator for the automatic removal of ash, to avoid manual raking out and removal to ground level, also be installed. It was also recorded that some modifications, repairs and decorations had now been done in the basement (hitherto known as the Billiards Room and B.1). Due to the illness of Mr. H. Mottram, another full-time caretaker, Mr. Peter Webster, had been engaged. Mr. Mottram subsequently returned to work with fixed hours and lighter duties.
At the time of the 66th Anniversary, in 1968, the Mission Staff consisted of Rev. John Jackson (Superintendent), Rev. Bryan A. Rippon, Rev. Derek Kendrick, Rev. A. John Kiberd, B.D., Sister Phyllis Thorne, Sister Annette Vickers and Mrs. Rose Taylor (Secretary).
The Trustees' Meeting on 10 October 1968 was informed that a letter concerning artistes' accommodation had been received from Nottingham Harmonic Society. As a result, it was agreed to have a dropped ceiling and rails for curtains to be used to divide the room into cubicles.
The Trustees' Meeting on 28 March 1969 reported that there was now no female cleaner. Mr. Peter Webster had left, but Mr. H. Mottram had returned after illness. Messrs. H. Mottram and E.T. Hall were on full-time and equal footing, working shifts about. Messrs. A. Sleigh and T.B. Moore were part-time, mornings only. It was agreed to insert an extra clause in letting contracts, so that if lettings finished late, the hire would re-imburse the caretakers accordingly. It was also reported that it was agreed to make out a badminton court in the basement, as the Girls' Parlour was unsuitable.
The Trustees' Meeting on 31 October 1969 recorded that a partition had been erected in the former B.B. Room, so that Boys' Brigade and a Girls' Brigade should each have its own part for storing materials etc.
Mr. Bill Appleby and Mr. Ernest Hall provided the following information about the fabric of the Albert Hall and Institute.
The Pearson windows, which had come from Halifax Place, were only clipped in so that we could get underneath to clean them.
The heating system was a mystery. Hot air was fed in through an air tunnel from the top of the building. This is contrary to all sorts of natural physics. The hot air was supposed to circulate: it was pumped up from the boiler room through a big shaft and then the hot air was supposed to push the cool air in the Hall down to the boiler room for re-heating. It took a long time to heat the building. Sometimes it took from Saturday afternoon for it to be warm for Sunday morning. They probably had it on most of the time in winter because there was nearly always some activity in the Hall. The standards of insulation were nil by present-day standards. The boiler-house was underneath the back crush hall. There was an external door down underneath the basement stairs, down to the boiler-house. There was a complete flight of stairs.
The acoustics were judged to be the best in the Midlands if not wider afield. It was probably the barrel ceiling that made it so good. Some people did not need microphones in the Albert Hall to speak. If you had got a good voice you did not need a microphone, indeed the microphone distorted your voice because it was too powerful for the system.
I am sure that a lot of people who went to the Albert Hall used to presume that the ceiling was also the roof, but above it is an ordinary pitched slated roof and there is a big void in the centre of the roof. You can stand upright between the two. But with those circular leaded lights apparently showing daylight, people assumed that that was the roof. There are rectangular skylights above that. The void between the ceiling and the roof is not floored in. There is a narrow bordered catwalk made of expanded metal. You could see the plaster of the ceiling below. In order to change the light bulbs in the chandeliers we had to go in the roof and wind them down. We sat in the dark with a torch. There were lights in only a few places; just naked bulbs hanging down, and not where every chandelier light was. You had a rope in one hand and the electricity apparatus in the other to tie it together and let it down. They were lowered to the level of the balcony, not to the lower floor, so you could reach them from the balcony.
A hoist from the roof was used to lift the piano onto the platform for concerts. We had to operate this from the far side of the roof. It was very hot up there. We had to go through the heat chamber to get to the other side where the framework for the hoist was. We had to run along a board across the roof void. Once you got there, you stayed there for the remainder of the concert. It would take too long to come down and go up again. So if there were encores you were really hot by the end. It was quite a tortuous route to get up there, I remember. It took three or four minutes. It was quite awkward and low in one or two places. The first little lobby was a haven for pigeons.
Mrs. Naylor used to soak, wash and repair the used clothes. There was also a second lady who did repairs.
When the Americans took over the Institute during the war, they put in a floor straight across the upstairs balcony, but it was taken down when they had finished. The Albert Hall wanted to keep it but they had made an agreement with the Americans that it must be put back exactly as it had been. They refused to leave it so it was put back to how it was.
Rose Taylor (née Cropper) married Arthur quite late in life. He was a very good pianist. He used to play for the Youth Club pantomimes in Ken Waights's time, and for some of the concerts. He used to come to rehearsals as well as the actual performances. He used to put in hours and hours. He played for Rose's class when the class had engagements. I know they had a piano at home. He played for Men's choirs.
Mr. Jago used to play for the Turner's Choir. He was an accompanist for the Albert Hall choir. He played for some of the Harmonic Choir singing competitions. Mr. Garnett was in charge.
There was a trap door which allowed you to get into the roof above the organ. We could also get to the two sides where you could walk behind the organ. You could get underneath as well. There were little doors at the bottom. There was an humidifier in there which we used to fill with water. The room immediately underneath was what became a minister's and stewards' vestry, between the staircases on the ground floor, and if you were in the stewards' vestry when they were playing the organ you could almost feel the room vibrating. The motor to the organ was reached by going down through the stewards' vestry.
There was a long passage from the minister's vestry up onto the stage. First of all you went down a few steps from the vestry floor level to the minister's toilet, down some more steps, along the floor below the crush hall, and up the other side onto the stage. There was a room underneath the stage. Sometimes we had services in the Minister's vestry.
The cloakrooms were built in the crush area when we altered the stairs in 1961 or 1962.
The corner shop in Great Hall Street, at the side of the alleyway between it and the Albert Hall, had an external door which led to a timber staircase at the back of the shop. There was a furrier on the first floor. The second floor room had been lettable but nobody ever let it, so the idea was to make a quiet room and chapel up there and decorate it. This was when I was in the Youth Club, because I [Bill Appleby] remember going up there and decorating it. That was about 1953.
The small chapel in the Institute was built in the late 1970s, in John Horner's time, and was almost immediately opposite the lift. It had double doors to keep out the sound.
The Church Parlour was on the first floor of the Institute and was one of the biggest rooms, after the Lecture Hall. It had a suspended ceiling put in and I think the floor was recovered. They made some big storage cupboards in the back between the two double doors. That was the room they used for singing and when they lowered the ceiling the acoustics disappeared. It was used for the music and drama festivals; there and in the Lecture Hall. That was when Mr. Jago had a lot to do with them. There was always a decent piano, a little grand, in the Church Parlour. Examinations were held in there: Police, Fire Service, University, Civil Service exams; all in that room at the top. They hired one room and virtually took over the whole building. They hardly let you walk about because of the need to keep quiet. They were very, very fussy about who was in the building. You couldn't bang a door or tip up a chair without someone coming out.
Len and Gerry Wilson (Clement Pianos Limited) had a lot to do with the pianos at that time. They took over from Kent and Coopers, the ticket agents. Miss Jefferies and two little ladies used to deal with the concerts and then Gerald Wilson took over. Clements organised and supplied all the staffing for the concerts.
Before the hoist was put in, the Mission used to pay somebody to come and take the piano on and off the stage. Then Rose Taylor suggested that the caretakers do it, so they took on the job. We used to have to create a ramp from the floor to the platform. The piano had to be lifted down through a hole in the stage to the room underneath on Saturday night after the concert.
Marie Beazley used to have a room in the Institute basement. She had a big cupboard with all the handicapped children's wheelchairs and games in it.
When George Sails had the buffet built they used the two rooms the deaconesses had on the balcony two floors up from the rest room. The deaconesses were moved out onto a higher floor, the second floor. Their room was on the floor above the mezzanine, so really theirs was on the "First Floor". We made a kitchen for them on the same floor.
The Girls' Club met in the Girls' Parlour, the biggest room on the top floor. It was right across the width at the end of the main corridor.
When Maid Marian Way was built, the Institute fronted onto the main road, as it were, while previously it was always down a blind alley, behind a pub.
Room B1 became the girls' and boys' toilets with the new doorway off the pavement, at the top of Maid Marian Way, which is now the entrance to Byron House with the new development. On the outside there used to be an iron fire escape, but that was done away with and they created a new internal staircase with the double doors onto the pavement and that was used as a supplementary entrance, just to the Youth Club area, rather than using the main Institute entrance.
You came in up the Institute's steps, and on the left was the doorway and a little lobby and then there was a secretary's office and the minister's office with a connecting door. Beside these was the hallkeepers' room, which later was used for stationary stores and other items. These were basically on the same level as the lecture hall.
There was a big stage at the end of the lecture hall, used for the Youth Club pantomime.
Mr. Garnett had a room of his own, like an office. He had the same room that Gordon Thorp had used prior to his coming.
Originally there was a sloping glass canopy on the front of the Albert Hall which became broken and damaged. They did away with it and put in the cantilevered, flat roof canopy. There was a problem with it because when the big, high-sided furniture wagons used to come with the orchestral equipment, they used to rub along the edge of the canopy and it was forever being repaired, damaged and repaired, so eventually it was removed. We had a job repairing the cladding where the steel framework, which had been built into the wall, was cut off and retrieved.
The 67th Anniversary  Report quoted the Mission Staff as working at the following centres:
|Mission Staff||Centres of work|
|Rev. John Jackson||Albert Hall|
|Rev. Bryan A. Rippon||Albert Hall Institute|
|Rev. Derek Kendrick||University of Nottingham|
|Rev. A. John Kiberd, B.D.||Gill Street|
|Sister Edna Bishop||King's Hall|
|Sister Annette Vickers||Aspley Central Hall|
|Mrs. Rose Taylor||Albert Hall Office.|
Sister Olive Lewin recalled memories of this period:
Gill Street was a marvellous house. It was a pity that it had to close. Sister Alice Bird ran that for a while, until she got married. Miss Taverner had an "At Home" every year with bazaars and a concert. Arthur Taylor used to play the piano and get the singers.
We had lovely garden parties. Mr. Waights, Mr. Sails, Mr. Pope all had garden parties at the manse. Crowds used to go. Mr. Sails always had a Christmas party, for the young ones, at the manse.
While the Albert Hall was being refurbished there were three services on the Sunday evenings. A Deaconess would lead each of the three services. The first service was in the Lecture Hall, the second in the Church Parlour and the third in the Girls' Parlour. It was marvellously timed. All three services were the same including the sermon. The Deaconess took each service as far as the sermon. Mr Sails gave his sermon in the Lecture Hall while the Deaconess took the service in the Church Parlour. When he had finished his first sermon he went to the second service where he gave the same sermon. The same thing happened in the Church Parlour. The Deaconess then took the remainder of the service. His timing was very very good, in anything. He was very very meticulous in everything; his preparation and with the stewards. You could almost say exactly when he would finish a service.
On a Sunday night he would look around the Hall at the congregation. Everybody instinctively sat in the same seat each week. If a member was not in their seat, he knew you were missing. You could see him, before his sermon, looking around. He was taking in every face.
In the last year before Mr. Sails left he visited every single member of the Hall - over six hundred.
Mrs. Alice Jarratt provides some interesting insight into the Albert Hall Mission.
It was in 1925 that I joined the Albert Hall, when I was 15 years of age. There was a Rest Room in the basement of the Institute before the 1939-45 war, in Osborne Gregory's day. I remember they took a collection to buy some material to make the curtains. There was only one window in the room. Someone bought the material and I made the curtains. Then we rigged up a table which we pinched from another room in the Institute and we got a cloth. It really was a Rest Room: you could go in and get a cup of tea. Every night, any member of the Mission could come in from work, bring their own meal and we would heat it up and make sandwiches and that went on for many months until the Americans came in and took over part of the Institute. In the war they made the little Rest Room into a NAAFI. We Albert Hall girls had a rota and we took it in turns to help them out. My younger sister, Peggy, was on that team. I never was. I remember distinctly the war years and the Albert Hall connection with the Americans. They also took over our Billiard Room and they placed everything down there.
In George Sails's time they built the Buffet on the first floor of the Institute. It was open every day of the week, from 4 o'clock until 10 o'clock. We had two shifts. I always went on the 4 o'clock shift because I was freer then. I came off at 7pm: a three-hour shift. The 7 o'clock shift came off at 10 [later, it was 5pm to 7.30pm and 7.30pm to 10pm]. We served everything, then. It was going strong right to the end.
Mrs. Evelyn Martin was in charge of the Buffet for a time. She used to use the cash-and-carry. She was never behind the counter in the kitchen but organised the buying of the food.
There were two things unique to the Albert Hall. One was the used-clothes store. The other was our liaison with the Salvation Army. Rose Taylor had a lot to do with it. We would give any man on the road, who came in, a half crown ticket signed by Rose Taylor, and he took it to the Salvation Army hostel and they gave him a meal and a bed for the night. Our office then paid the Salvation Army when they returned the tickets. It was probably started before the war and went on all the years I was there.
There was a hoist for carrying food from the basement kitchen right to the top of the building. Rose Taylor organised nearly all the catering in the Mission. She ordered the food, it was delivered and she paid. At the annual anniversary we used to have a luncheon, a tea and a supper. The luncheon was a very formal occasion, almost a dressed-up affair. Rose Taylor ran these and she did it marvellously.
There was a board in the lobby with all the names of the staff. If they were on the premises they would push a little button as they came in and it would say "IN" and when they left they pressed the button and it would say "OUT", so we always knew where the five staff were. Early on, the Deaconesses were on the first floor but later, when the Buffet was built, they were moved to the top floor. The Deaconesses also had a room with a bath in it and a toilet.
When the refurbishment of the Albert Hall was carried out and the parquet floor was laid on the platform no-one was allowed to walk on it in high heels: we had to take our shoes off.
Bob Proctor used to say: "If ever I want to know anything at all about Methodism I'll go to George Jarratt". He often used to ring us up, especially about anything to do with the Albert Hall.
We had a permanent list of subscribers who wanted to give money for the purpose of providing flowers for the platform on Sundays, and the date on which they wanted to give. Each would give an amount, say five pounds, and then the flowers were given away. Four of us were responsible for the flowers: Beatrice Pikett, Dorothy Spencer, Rene Dove and myself. Dorothy Spencer and Rene Dove got the money. They would remind the person: "Your flowers next week", and that person could have it put on the hymn sheet that they had given flowers that day. I had a long list of people who were on the flower rota and they used to come to me and the previous week I would tell them: "You do the flowers next week". Then they would say: "I'll give you the money", and then I would get the flowers. They might tell me to get what I liked or they might say: "Can I have so-and-so; it was my husband's favourite flower".
There was a Co-op across Derby Road, at one time, with a florists and fish shop, straight across the road, next door to the Albert Hotel, but I used to go to the Market or to Mr. Brook in Sherwood. He quite often used to deliver them when I did it.
Miss Taverner worked for Sir Arthur Black as his housekeeper. He owned a factory in Nottingham. He was on the Nottingham City Council.
The Turner's [Ladies] Choir used to rehearse in the chapel over the corner shop on Derby Road that led into the back of the Albert Hall during the war, because they were not allowed to rehearse in the Albert Hall or in the Institute.
They were very strict about what kind of worship they had. Only Ministers (including Supernumeraries) and Deaconesses were allowed on the platform except for one day of the year when we had Local Preachers and that was on Local Preacher's Sunday.
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