Some parts of London have been lost forever because new buildings have replaced old ones. Others are lost in plain sight because not enough people know about them – such as the former Pelham Mission Hall on Lambeth Walk.
Built in 1910 to a design by architects Waring and Nicholson, it was a church with an open air pulpit – still there at the front of the building – named after Francis G Pelham, rector of Lambeth from 1884 to 1894. It was constructed on the site of the earlier Star Mission Hall, which was originally what has been described as a “beerhouse” about which little is known. The foundation stone of the Pelham hall was laid by the Archbishop of Canterbury of the time.
It is almost the last physical trace of a bygone era of poverty-tinged Cockney pride. In those days, Lambeth Walk had over 100 market stalls run by costermongers who sold surplus food and other things at discount prices. The song that glorified the street, The Lambeth Walk, was once a global hit.
But like the pawn shops that used to temporarily ease the hardship of local residents, there is no longer a call for the hall’s original purpose. It has moved on from saving souls and today is the home of Morley College’s Henry Moore Sculpture Studio, which describes the building as “well equipped to provide a creative space for our sculpture courses including metalwork, clay life modeling (kiln fired), wood and stone carving, bronze casting and mould-making”.
There is a palpable buzz of creativity as you enter this extraordinary building. The outside looks slightly faded but its attractions have increased as others on the street have, aside from the base of the King’s College London Maths School, become commodified. The pulpit now houses an outlet for the fumes from the kiln (the interior pipework can just be seen in the right hand photo above).
I recently posted the photo of the hall at the top of this article on Twitter. I was astonished that it attracted well over 150,000 views, which is rather more than I usually get. Many who commented on it were in awe of the beauty of the building, which I often pass during my walks around London, even if they thought it was in need of a wash and brush up. Thanks to social media it is getting more of the attention it deserves.
On London strives to provide more of the kind of journalism the capital city needs. Become a supporter for just £5 a month. You will even get things for your money. Details here.