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News > School News > Carmel Hall - A History in Four Parts by Clive Bartram. Part 2: A Chapel becomes a Hall

Carmel Hall - A History in Four Parts by Clive Bartram. Part 2: A Chapel becomes a Hall

Carmel Hall has enjoyed four different vocations since it was founded back in 1824. Here we examine the second chapter: the transformation from Chapel to Hall

Part 2:   A Chapel becomes a Hall

Carmel Baptist Chapel was now under the lease of St Mary’s, Bourne Street and would remain so until 1959. In this relatively short period of 40 years or so it would witness a lot of change and upheaval. It would see many happy moments and some world-changing ones, but would emerge unscathed into the modern era, whereupon it would be readopted for another totally different role.

But all that lies in the future.  After World War I, Carmel was quickly put to use as a church hall. The most significant event would take place in the early 1930s.    

Following the departure of the Baptist church in 1919, it appears that Carmel lay unused for some years. In the early 30s the architect, Harry Goodhart-Rendel was tasked by St Mary’s, Bourne Street with redesigning their church, including its presbytery on the corner where the Pineapple pub used to stand, and Carmel Hall. Below are some fascinating insights from Mr Rendell himself about this undertaking.

NB The church was thinking of putting a badminton court inside Carmel Hall!


Above: £7,200 equates to about £550,000 today.

The building went ahead.  The ground floor became the main hall and the upstairs did not transform into to a badminton court, alas!  How much of the original building remains under this neo-Georgian facelift I don’t know, but it is this 1930s reincarnation we now know as Carmel Hall.

These stunning photos, which have just recently come to light, show off the beautiful design that Rendel employed, and his generous use of light is something we still benefit from today.

Carmel continued to have a very close relationship with the locals, especially those that lived in the nearby Pimlico community, a lower middle/working class area at the time. Passmore Street (much of which now no longer exists as it sits under St Michael’s Mews) was in particular a great hub of family life and was quite famous for its “play street”, a scheme that meant no cars were allowed at certain times when the children were outside playing. There was nowhere else for them to play you see; just imagine that today! They even had their very own scout and cub group, the 23rd Westminster! More of which later.

During the war, FHS had to close - but its move to the country and the story of its subsequent near-dissolution is for another time. (See the School that Refused to Die by Elsie Quarrie.)  Carmel Hall was used as a bomb shelter during the Blitz, and all those folks from Passmore Street and surrounds would rush for safety when the sirens sounded. One story involved a boy, “little” Bobby Mumford, who lived in Passmore Street and would come to the shelter and entertain all and sundry with his toys and childish ways.  

Above is a map from the War Office in 1945 showing bomb damage to the local area. All damage was fastidiously recorded and photographed, not just for social history but so that chancers could not claim against damage that had never happened in the first place! Note the colour scheme, where black equates to totally wiped out, and then running through from dark blue to red then orange. Carmel Hall was untouched, but as you can see much else was destroyed. The Old School House (red/orange) had its windows and roof blown out, sealing the deal for St Barnabas not returning to the school building after the war. Its subsequent history is documented in previous talks.

One major issue that St Mary’s was always having to face was that the rent for the lease required the church to sub-let Carmel Hall to such an extent that there was little space left in the week for the church to manage its own parochial activities, as seen in the cutting below:

The post-war boom and Carmel Hall’s role is well documented in the local newspaper, the August edition of Westminster and Pimlico News (W and PN).

Below are just a few examples of the myriad ways in which Carmel Hall was used. Here, for instance, in 1955, is an invitation to face the music and dance!


Below: 1953 coronation party inside Carmel Hall. This is the ground floor where the drama studio now lies. You can just make out the windows at the back.

Above: The 23rd Westminster Scout group putting together their jamboree for 1958. Does anyone know of someone who was in this group?

The Winds of Change…

And then in September 1959 this notice appeared in the W and PN, and the next chapter of Carmel Hall’s life was about to begin. But, as they say, that will have to wait until another time.

By Clive Bartram, School Archivist

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