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History

Victoria Hall Methodist Church
Victoria Hall Methodist Church
Victoria Hall Sheffield
The Foundry Sheffield
Victoria Hall Sheffield

The present day Victoria Hall stands on the site of the previous Norfolk Street Wesleyan Chapel opened and consecrated in 1780 by John Wesley. He described it as "one of the largest in the Kingdom" and presented the new building with a set of silver communion vessels. Despite substantial renovation and the introduction of new vestries in 1875 at a cost of £6,000, the building was demolished in 1906 to make way for a more distinguished and larger structure. The old building closed for the last time on 13 May 1906.

On 26 September 1906, the foundation stone for the new Victoria Hall was laid followed by a celebratory lunch at the Cutlers Hall. The Hall opened on Thursday 24 September 1908 with the final cost being in excess of £40,000. Whilst this was a huge sum at the time, the Wesleyan mission cleared the debt within three years. The total expenditure included the outlay for extra land with Sheffield entrepreneur Thomas Cole donating land for an enlarged site for the new church. The new Hall was originally designed by Waddington Son & Dunkerley but much of the design was re-worked by William John Hale (1862-1929) in 1908. Hale blended Gothic and Arts and Crafts styles and was instrumental in designing the large Baroque top to the tower. The carved decorations on the hall are by Alfred and William Tory and portrayals of the Wesley brothers are integrated into the design.

The new hall was part of the Forward Movement of the Methodist church inspired by Hugh Price Hughes who called for a national religion which preached to the poor and resulted in the building of Central Halls in most of Britain's large cities. One of the Hall's first accomplishments was to set up the Sheffield Mission Labour Yard in Joiner Lane off The Wicker. This tackled the high level of unemployment of the time and by June 1909 had provided 5,903 days work to almost 6,000 men. The yard closed in 1915 as the First World War reduced unemployment to virtually nil. The Hall has always had strong connections with Trade Unionism and in September 1909 the Trade Union Congress held its annual conference at the hall, since then various unions have held meetings there. In the Hall's early days the surrounding area was densely populated and thousands of young people attended Sunday School, Scouting, Girl Guides and Boys Brigade.

During the First World War, the Hall opened its doors to care for members of the armed forces and after the end of the conflict the Hall received a visit from King George V and Queen Mary during their visit to Sheffield in 1919. The king presented medals to the returning soldiers from the platform in the sanctuary. During the years of the Great Depression, the Hall served free breakfasts to needy children and distributed food parcels as well helping the unemployed. Prior to the completion of the Sheffield City Hall in 1932, the Victoria Hall was the leading concert venue in the city with many leading orchestras playing concerts there. In the Second World War the hall survived the Sheffield Blitz air raids of December 1940, with The Messiah being sung to an audience of over 200 people on the Sunday after the raids. On 9 May 1941 part of Victoria Hall was converted into a rest hostel for the Forces with 20 beds, later expanded to 35.

True to its history, the present Victoria Hall retains vigorous connections with the life of the city. The Methodist Congregation continues to both worship and serve the city from here. It also houses the offices of organisations such as Age Active, Assist, City of Sanctuary, Faithstar, Sheffield Central Deaf Club, Sheffield Methodist District Office, the Urban Theology Union and The University of the 3rd Age. The Sunday Centre provide food and support to the city's homeless communities on a Sunday afternoon and the hall is also used by any number of other charitable organisations offering a wide variety of activities, classes and social opportunities. The main hall is a popular venue for choral, instrumental and other events and South Yorkshire's finest amateur orchestra, The Sheffield Philharmonic, is headquartered here for weekly rehearsals and the majority of its concert season performances.