Brethren Archive

King George Street Hall



The Hall was built in 1816 as a Methodist Chapel and the adjoining small hall dates from 1879.  In 1875 it was aquired by the 'open brethren', and the main building used as an assembly hall, whilst the smaller one for a school room. J W Jordan was local here.  See Beatie, A Story of a Great Recovery, for more details.

Manchester hold a book London: A Record of the Lord's Work at the Hall, King George Street, Greenwich (1875-1935). Preface) [by] (J. W. Jordan) (London, 1935) 21 pp. (CBA 13142) .. which I have yet to see.

Christine Nicholls said ...
I was born in King George Street in 1942 and went to The Hall from the age of one until I moved away at 17. The church was run by wonderful people led by Arthur Bettles. We had sound biblical teaching and weekly activities were provided with many Saturday night events.
The main building as you see it now was built after the war.
Boys and girls were always taught separately, but none the less we were just one great big very happy family.
I have moved around several times but I may still have my books which were presented each year for good attendance.
Wednesday, Jan 8, 2014 : 13:39
Tom said ...
Thanks for your comment; very interesting! Do you remember who the 'leading brothers' were at that time?
Wednesday, Jan 8, 2014 : 23:02
Christine Nicholls said ...
Hello Tom
Thinking about The Hall over the last few days has really inspired to me to write an article in much more detail. It was such an important place for me in my early years. I do have a vivid memory of the people who were there at the time. The Superintendent was Alfred E Bettles (not Arthur as previously stated) Then there was the oversight who were Ernest Nimmo, Arthur Ritchie, Herbert Ritchie, Arthur Brown and Ken Bailey. These men and their families were the nucleus. I remember the Sunday School teachers and the Covenanter and Junior Covenanter leaders. I kept in touch with my Sunday School teacher until she died.
I am still in touch with others who attended at the same time as me and am going to try and discover as much as I can. The son of Alfred Bettles married the daughter of Arthur Brown and I do believe that they are still alive, as are the children of some of the others.
Hope this helps
Thursday, Jan 9, 2014 : 22:26
Tom said ...
You should do! I for one would be an avid reader :-) I live in the borough so it is of particular interest to me; shame such a fine hall closed. You may be aware something was written back in 1935 "A Record of the Lord's Work at the Hall, King George Street, Greenwich (1875-1935)", I have not seen it yet though but its available in the CBA archive in Manchester, I would like to find a copy for my website though! Yes I have heard of some of those names before, particularly Arthur Brown; I will have to ask around those who have been in Assemblies in London for many years and see what more info I can find out about the old Greenwich meeting.
Thursday, Jan 9, 2014 : 22:33
Christine Nicholls said ...
I lived in the borough of Greenwich for all of my life until 18 months ago when my husband retired and we moved to coastal Kent. I often walked along King George Street to look at The Hall and agree it was such a shame when it closed. In 1960 when I moved to Blackheath and left The Hall, the small hall which housed the Sunday School each week was bursting at its seams. However, when I returned in 1967 with my young daughter, there were just two rows of chairs in the front of the hall with Ken Bailey teaching about 2 dozen children of mixed ages. Many of the old houses in the area of Point Hall and Winforton Street had been demolished with families moving out of the area and the people moving into the newly built homes were not interested in church.
I think one of the reasons for the high numbers attending in the 40's and 50's was that it was during and just after the war and most people turned to the church for comfort during those difficult times. I know that in my school years ( I went to the school just opposite The Hall) there were several children whose fathers did not return home from the
fighting. A bit like the Israelites really, when things were going well people forgot about God.
Thursday, Jan 9, 2014 : 23:16
Tom said ...
Ah ok, I live in Blackheath now but from Kent originally and know some of those coastal towns very well :-) Yes there seems to have been a sad and steady decline since the end of WWII in numbers attending assemblies which still continues today i'm afraid. Did you know anything of the old Exclusive meeting on Circus Street in Greenwich? I think that closed in the sixties too. I need to go down to the local history centre at the library and try to get some old pictures of these places!!
Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014 : 14:29
Christine said ...
When I was four, due to overcrowding, we moved out from my grandmothers house in King George Street into a prefab in Greenwich High Road. I passed the Meeting House in Circus Street on my way to and from school each day and also on Sundays. I remember there being a big sign at the gates saying the Lord's word would be preached each Sunday God willing, but never saw anything going on there. I believe it was a much smaller place than The Hall.
Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 : 13:45
Sandy said ...
I am the daughter of Sheila Banahan and Geoffrey Philip Luce. Can you please tell me if you were aquainted with either of them?

Thank you
Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015 : 20:47
Foundling said ...
I also remember attending King George Street Hall circa early 1950s. This would not be unusual if the facts were clear. Well Alfred Bettles is recorded as one of my Godparents, a direct neighbour of my Parents on Rochester Way and I recall be was one of the Brethren. Hence I found this site - or should I say you found me. For an avoidance of doubt – I am a Catholic (CofE) married to a Catholic (Roman) - on All Saints Bay (Bishops Dispensation); but that’s another story. Thank you for being there and God be with you.
Thursday, Jul 23, 2015 : 05:52
Christine Nicholls said ...
In reply to Sandy, yes I knew Sheila and Geoff very well, they were Sunday School teachers. Sheila took the Junior Covenanters for years with Betty Cooper and Molly Bettles. They also took a service at a hospital once a month on a Sunday evening. Sheila lived in Diamond Terrace in Greenwich. They married at The Hall and afterwards lived in Sutlej Road in Charlton. I think that their first child was a boy.
Wednesday, Jun 29, 2016 : 19:22
Tom said ...
This former hall is currently for sale, for just shy of £2 million quid if anyone fancies their own bit of Brethren history!
Monday, Feb 13, 2017 : 22:53
IVOR PLAYER said ...
I came across this trawling through Greenwich King George Street. When I was a young boy we lived at 50b Crooms Hill though the entrance was on King George Street at the end near the park. I remember attending Sunday School at the Hall. Mum used to take me down. Then one day that just stopped. We moved over to Trafalgar Road to Palliser House before my teens. Seeing this has brought back a flood of memories. A street party I think for Queen Elizabeth's coronation? A local pub down my end of the street. Rag and Bone or pub horse going along the street dropping horse poo and people collecting it for their small back yards or flower pots? I remember some families that used to live there, Buckingham and Lewis. It was a good place to grow up.
Tuesday, Aug 29, 2017 : 07:08
Sarah Wright (nee Bettles) said ...
I am the 54 year old granddaughter of Alfred Bettles and Arthur Brown. Sadly Alfred died in 1962 and I never met him, however I am told he was an amazing man of God. It is wonderful to read about your fond memories of The Hall, King George Street. I too have wonderful memories of school holidays spent with my grandmother Marjorie and Aunt Mollie. I remember always being welcome at the church, joining in with the Sunday School, evenings in Greenwich Park, coach trips to the beach and wonderful after church suppers as guests of Doris and John Fagg or Margaret and Ken Bailey. My father David was friends of Geoff and Sheila Luce.
Sunday, Jan 14, 2018 : 05:34
Chris Fagg said ...
Well I can’t tell you how surprised I am to find a post mentioning my parents John and Doris Fagg who were married at the hall king George st as it was my mother’s church. Her dad had lived in king George street before moving to lewisham. I went to Sunday school there as a child but we left in the mid seventies when we moved to Bromley. I remember Marjorie Bettles and Auntie Mollie.
Other names in there I know are Ernest Nimmo who was my uncle (mum’s side) and Ken Bailey who I was distantly related to.
I think I have a copy of a booklet that was written in 1975 for the centenary and somwhere in the family archive will be a recording of the service from that day recorded by my brother. We also have dozens of photos of the inside of the buildings and of the people...and I think I remember Sarah Bettles who was slightly younger than me.
Wednesday, Jan 31, 2018 : 08:01
Tom said ...
Hi Chris, Thanks for your comment .. would be very interested to get a photocopy of the centenary book if that was at all possible, and any of those pictures you mention too.

I'm still looking for an earlier publication too "A Record of the Lord's Work at the Hall, King George Street, Greenwich (1875-1935)" - if anyone out there has a copy of that.
Wednesday, Jan 31, 2018 : 15:01
Maureen Hulbert (nee Plummer) said ...
I have wonderful memories of the Hall, where I became a Christian. I was introduced to the Hall by Mavis Phillips, who was in my class at Royal Hill Primary School. My friend Avril Jones and I attended there for many years from 1947 to 1960 when I was married by Alfred Bettles. I took a sunday school class there. I have fond memories of the girl covenanter leader Doris Duggan who gave so much of her time to looking after "her Girls".
I remember all of the people already mentioned, but do not remember a Christine-you are younger than me, I was born in 1938. I remember Geoff and Sheila Luce very well, and of course Geoff's brother Andrew. There was a wonderful group of teenagers there, and we had so much fun-.,outings,cycle rides etc. I remember many of the young people of that time .I !don't remember a Christine though, I need some clues ! oris Duggan, t leader.I took a sunday school class there.
Sunday, Feb 4, 2018 : 02:53
Christine NIcholls said ...
I was in the same year as Jean Brown, Janet Beale and Margaret Nimmo. I remember a Maureen Plummer and an Avril and Stella Hitchcock who were a few years older than me. Eric Phillips was in my class at Royal Hill School and I remember his brother Peter who married Hazel Beale and sister Mavis who married Geoffrey Holmes. I kept in touch and visited Miss Duggan who married late in life to Joe Godfrey. They lived at Kingsdown nr Dover and when Joe died she moved along the coast to Broadstairs.
I am amazed at all the people who have found this page since I first wrote.
Sunday, Feb 4, 2018 : 07:37
Sarah Wright (nee Bettles) said ...
Chris, I have just found a photo of you on the steps of the Hall King George Street at the Centenary on 31st May 1975. You are with my Aunt, grandmother and siblings (Paul, Alison and John) and are sporting a white tie and stripped knitted tank top! I remember your family especially your sister Rosemary.
Christine, my Aunt was Jean Brown, sadly she died of cancer twenty years ago.
Monday, Feb 5, 2018 : 00:40
Christine Nicholls said ...
Yes Sarah, I did know about Jean, such a young age as well. Contact with Miss Duggan always kept me well informed. I liked Jean very much, in fact we both married in 1964. I remember Jean's mum inviting my friend Ann and I to spend the day with Jean during the school holidays. We were always made to feel welcome and included although our parents did not attend The Hall. Likewise the Nimmos held a group for the young people in their home on a Friday night and afterwards Mr Nimmo would drop us home in his van.
After I married and my children were at school, I worked voluntarily at Brook Hospital two days a week on Mollie's ward for about two years.
Monday, Feb 5, 2018 : 04:17
Tom said ...
"I am amazed at all the people who have found this page since I first wrote."
Me too! It's fascinating the memories it has brought out .. Maybe I should try adding pictures of some more halls.
Wednesday, Feb 7, 2018 : 01:31
Christine NIcholls said ...
In view of the recent death of Billy Graham, I did not feel that I could let the moment go without recollecting a visit we made from The Hall in the 1950's.
It was such a memorable event. We met at The Hall in the early evening and filled a coach that had been hired for the occasion and travelled to the venue. The crusade was awesome, and as a young teenager I had never seen such crowds and was overwhelmed by the whole experience. The singing was magnificent and filled the whole stadium People with tears streaming down their faces responded to Billy's appeal that night and a few in our group committed their lives to Christ. As we waited for them to return to the coach we continued to sing the hymns and did so all the way back to Greenwich. Wonderful memories!
Thursday, Mar 1, 2018 : 05:51
Tom said ...

Thanks Christine, that's really interesting! I've heard stories from some in my 'slightly more exclusive' branch of meetings who attended BG's rallies in London. They all only had positive things to say about it. That might not be a surprise of course, but to me it was slightly surprising to hear they'd even gone, given the historical reluctance of Brethren to engage or associate themselves with other Christian endeveours, especially 'popularism'. I remember reading an article in an old periodical (talking around 1870s now) where one young man chided another for going to hear a well known American preacher who was visiting - I guess probably D.L. Moody - because it was taught that those who God had shown 'the light' shouldn't go along with those who hadn't been. This is still taught in some places today.

Friday, Mar 2, 2018 : 17:49
Christine NIcholls said ...
How fascinating, did they believe that they were the only ones in "the light?" I must say I never experienced anything like that. In fact after the Billy Graham crusade several of us teenage girls were encouraged to joined the S.E. London Youth for Christ and sang in the choir each month. However, I do remember an emphasis on male and female being taught separately. The young men were encouraged to preach, but never women, with the women being required to cover their heads in meetings. It was also the same in society at that time with men regarded superior to women, especially in the workplace with regards to position and wages. It was something that at that time had not been challenged.
Fortunately, I had a Greek neighbour who explained many of the original biblical texts from his Greek translation, and I have spent time in Bible College. In consequence, I now believe women have total equality with men and I don't own a hat!
Tuesday, Mar 6, 2018 : 05:04
Tom said ...

Yes essentially they believed they had been shown more light so were then responsible to live in the good of what they knew. Along the whole spectrum of different strands of 'Brethren' though, how this might work out in practice is quite varied. King George Street Hall was part of what we call the 'Open' section, which in general is far more comfortable with associating with other believers, though in some places (e.g. Northern Ireland) less so, and I believe the stricter Gospel Halls today would still discourage their members from visiting other churches etc. In my own fellowship a few have been part of The Gideons for example, though many still would be not supportive of that. Well I think the 'head-covering', and distinctive roles for men and women, is one of those things that defines what makes a place 'Brethren' or not :) So we still practice it of course but hopefully the sisters don't consider themselves anyless equal because of it!

Thursday, Mar 8, 2018 : 16:45
Christine NIcholls said ...
Thank you for that information Tom. Yes, King George Street Hall was Open Brethren, and Alfred Bettles was a member of the Gideons as I remember him coming to our school and giving out red covered copies of the New Testament.
I will certainly be reading up more on the Brethren history. I must say that my childhood had a tight boundary around it and revolved around my school which was in King George Street, and teaching at The Hall, which also took care of my social activities. When I started work I was ignorant of the big wide world and certainly not streetwise but this is something that I have never regretted.
Friday, Mar 9, 2018 : 01:41
eric horne said ...
In the 40's My sister Verena Horne attended King-George St Hall and was very much in love with a Ray Oliver there, Ray often visited our home and was much loved and respected by us and by me as a christian role model. Called up for the navy he was badly injured at the Oran landing and came home only to die from his injuries. Verena, devastated joined the WRENS and was posted to Alexandria for the rest of the war. There she met a New Zealand army captain . It was a very happy and succesfull marriage with two daughters and a son but she never forgot Ray as her first love. She died last year. During the bombing of London and the V1 and V11 campaigns I nightly prayed that if I were killed I would be with Ray. I think Ray had a sister, Barbara and they may be interested in Verena' story.
Tuesday, Apr 14, 2020 : 12:02

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