Central Theatre

Located in the High Street, this was originally Chatham's Wesleyan Central Hall. The building opened in March 1908 on a site that was previously occupied in part by the London and County Bank.







The frontage of the Central Theatre is quite narrow, but its upper half hints at what can be found inside. Its impressive surviving
internal architecture is a reminder of its past as one of the many Methodist Central Halls built in British towns and cities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.











Chatham's Wesleyan Central Hall its early years.



From 1932 it was known as the Methodist Central Hall and remained so until it was sold by the Methodists in 1966. It was then used as an entertainment venue and still fulfills that role fifty years later.







WESLEYAN MISSION, CHATHAM (“CENTRAL HALL”)

CN 16 9 05 Chatham Wesleyan Mission at the old London and County Bank and adjoining
house have operated a soup kitchen.

CN 14 4 06 Wesleyan Mission writes to Council. Reconsider now much per foot it was
giving for purchasing land for road widening. Council paying one guinea. Wesleyans want £2.
Council will stick with one guinea.

CN 7 3 08. Opening.

History: 1901: Wesleyan Conference appointed Rev Richard Hall to Canterbury Circuit. V
influential on soldiers preparing to go to Boer War. After 2 years decided to move him to
Chatham.

When he arrived Chatham had no Wesleyan church. Hired Town Hall for Sunday services
& created a successful mission. First service Sept 1903. Mayor Alderman W. D. Driver presided, and
other Councillors there.

Grew until perm site required. At first E End site considered but eventually present site
decided on. Formerly occ by London & County Bank, Chatham’s first. Strong room still intact
under new hall. Bank had a lovely old fashioned garden behind. Then fund raising for the
building.

6 Feb 1907 First sod turned by Hall’s wife then short service. Next few months foundations dug
out.

17 4 07 Stone laying ceremony followed by public meeting Town Hall.

Opening: Architects: Gordon & Gunton of London. Builder West Bros of Rochester & Strood.

Stands back some distance from street, ensuring quiet. Entrance through large gateway. Iron
gates backed with plate glass. Letters in gold: “Central Hall”. Archway above gates carved in
a design of a shield & anchor (also used in interior). Above this is a balcony where mission
band will play Sun eves before service. Caretaker’s rooms are over entrance hall, surmounted
by a small spire & 2 powerful electric lamps.

Entrance hall paved with grey mosaic. Sides also of mosaic only smaller, with mother of
pearl scattered among the other elements. Bordered with a mosaic pattern in green and gold.
Ceiling consists of several arches, each containing a rosette of electric light which makes it
attractive. Some have mistaken entrance for hall itself!

2 short flights of steps then crush hall that surrounds body of hall running up each side to the
back of the building.

On entering hall, notice floor is raked. Chairs arranged as a horseshoe with good vies of
preacher, choir and band. 1382 chairs in main building. Partition at rear can be opened to
give space for another 200. Chairs made by C Pratt & Son of Bradford. Tip up seats leather
covered with space under for hats. Chairs fixed to floor with sliding catches which can be
moved if necessary.

Exits: 8 pairs of swing doors lead into crush hall. Partition dividing main hall from crush hall
is pitch pine.

Large gallery is also raked. Same door arrangement as body of hall. 4 exits from gallery; 2 at
front and 2 at side of orchestra.

Building lit from roof by beautifully designed windows. Ceiling and walls slightly cream.
Decorations by D John of London.

Under main building are 2 schoolrooms with accommodation for 350 scholars.

At back, ministers vestry, choir vestry and stewards room.

Over crush hall, 4 classroom and ladies room. In basement boiler for 30 radiators. Kitchen
too. Coppers installed to supply soup to poor during bad winters.

Will open next Wednesday afternoon. Mayors etc. Josiah Gunton will give Sheriff of London the
key. Then service Collection too (£8000 still needed to clear Missions debt).

CN 14 3 08: Account of opening.