As an assembly, Cromwell Hall Christian Fellowship has been in operation for more than a century. We are aware that meetings were taking place in Levenshulme, just before World War I, in a room over a shop that many remember as Estelle Modes, which sold gowns. Today that shop is a Cash Converter Store, and the room above is office space.
Below we present a potted history of some of the events that have shaped Cromwell Hall Christian Fellowship throughout its lifetime.
By early 1913, Christians were holding meetings in a rented room over a shop at the corner of Stockport Road, and Cromwell Grove in Levenshulme. While the shop fronted on to Stockport Road, the entrance to the upper room above was actually in Cromwell Grove, hence the name of Cromwell Hall. Many Assemblies and Gospel Halls have taken their name from the road which they are on.
Nothing much is known during the war or for several years afterwards, although it was a small fledging assembly. By the mid 1920s, the assembly was really struggling, and help was given from the nearby assembly meeting at Moorfield Hall, Heaton Moor. As the 1930s dawned the assembly was beginning to grow, albeit slowly.
Mr. Percy Smith the leading brother in the assembly at the time, asked Mr. Tom Shepherd, who attended Moorfield Hall, if he could possibly help out at Cromwell Hall for a couple of weeks, while he, along with his wife went on holiday to Bournemouth. Mr. Shepherd agreed. Mr. Smith never returned to Manchester as during that two week break, he was taken ill with pneumonia and subsequently passed into the presence of his Lord and Saviour. While his death coincidentally enabled Mr. Smith to fulfil a rather strange life-long ambition to be buried in Wimborne Road Cemetery in Bournemouth, it equally left Mr. Shepherd with quite a predicament - Cromwell Hall now needed him permanently, but he, with his family, was settled at Moorfield Hall. After much heart searching Mr. Shepherd decided that the family would transfer to Cromwell Hall. This began the hall’s long association with the Shepherd family.
Through gospel work, the assembly was built up, only to be faced with further difficulties when in 1939, war was once more declared. It was during the war that Mr. Shepherd’s son, Neill, a General Practitioner, married Barbara Waterhouse, from Bramhall, Cheshire. Over the subsequent six years of war, the assembly maintained a very weak testimony, until the returning forces swelled the ranks. Over the next ten years or so, there was great blessing. Possibly what some had witnessed on the front line especially in relation to lost comrades, who were also spiritually lost, gave those who attended the hall the zeal to evangelise the area fervently, with Neill taking a vital lead.
The assembly at long last started to grow. In the early 1950s, John and Grace Wyatt, moved from Huddersfield into the area and joined the company in Levenshulme. They were warmly welcomed, as both of them were prolific musicians and loved music. Many people will not forget his tuning fork, which he struck at the start of every hymn, as he was the precentor! In 1973 John and Grace established Charnwood Nursery and Family Centre in Heaton Moor.
Week after week, the small primitive room above the shop, with a coke stove in the middle of it, for heating in the winter, would be packed beyond capacity until it was overflowing - being more than punctual for a meeting was quite a necessity! By the mid 1950s there was growing desire to relocate into larger premises, and the assembly began to pray regarding this matter. It was thought that raising funds to enable such a move would be difficult, as many attending were not that affluent.
Picture of Estelles Modes (on far left of row of shops) above which Cromwell Hall Christian Fellowship used to be situated.
Group of ladies outside the entrance to Cromwell Hall above Estelle Modes taken circa 1957 just before the relocation.
Finance, however, was no barrier to God. The shop underneath the hall had by this time changed hands, with the proprietor trading under the name of Estelle Modes, selling prestigious gowns and dresses for ladies. The business, just like attendance at the assembly above the shop was also booming. More space was desperately needed to store stock, not to mention the requirement of a sewing room to make new garments, and so the assembly were given notice to quit the room.
The owner of Estelle Modes could not wait until funds were available and a new hall was built or purchased, and so from the start of 1958, the assembly were forced to move into temporary accommodation. This was initially in the Wesleyan Mission which had closed down, situated on the corner of Chapel Street and Rostron Street and indeed was where the assembly had hoped to settle; however the size of the building made many uneasy about purchasing the property. After approximately six months at the Wesleyan Mission, the assembly once more relocated, this time on to the main Stockport Road, hiring a room in the Town Hall. Midweek prayer meetings were held at the Baptist Church on Essex Street; the road later being renamed as Elmsworth Avenue.
During their short stay in the Wesleyan Mission, it was decided to embark on building a new hall, with the help of assemblies throughout the country. With the rented room being incorporated back into the business, Estelle Modes, and not used as a separate building, the name of Cromwell Hall was available to be transferred to the new hall, which it was; hence the new hall was not called Marshall Hall or Levenshulme Gospel Hall.
Once all possible sites had been considered, late in 1958, a piece of land in Marshall Road, which had never been built upon was selected. This was despite reservations that in order to reach the new hall, many Sunday School children would have to cross Stockport Road, which was becoming increasingly busier.
The land for the new building in Marshall Road was subsequently bought, by a newly established charitable trust for the promotion and encouragement of the Christian Faith, namely the work of the Church meeting in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ at Cromwell Hall, Levenshulme. Even before building work could commence, the assembly had received an unsolicited offer to purchase the land for residential development. Nothing but a House of God was going to be built there!
Picture of folk outside the present Cromwell Hall Christian Fellowship shortly after opening.
Picture of Sunday School children in the present Hall.
The local newspaper at the time reported,
“Work on a new £5,000 building is now well under way at Marshall Road, Levenshulme. This building - the new Cromwell Hall - is expected to be completed and opened sometime this summer.
“More than 40 years ago, a few Christians rented a hall at the comer of Cromwell Grove and Stockport Road for the purpose of preaching the Gospel. Cromwell Hall was born.
“Since then, it has sought to return to the ‘kind of simplicity found in the churches of New Testament times’.
“At the end of 1957, it was necessary to leave the Cromwell Grove premises and, since then, plans for a new and better building have been drawn up. In the meantime, meetings have been held at Levenshulme Town Hall.
“The new hall in Marshall Road will have accommodation for about 200 people and is being built entirely from voluntary subscriptions, without recourse to the usual methods of raising funds.
“The total cost of the building and its furnishings is expected to be just over £5,000 and the Christians who will meet there emphasise their belief that ‘God dwelleth not in temples made with hands’ and that the church is not the building but the company of Christians who meet there.”
Building the new hall was just like any other building project - fraught with problems! Work began in Spring 1959, but not until after the assembly learnt that the main contractor was experiencing financial difficulties and was forced to transfer the contract to one of his sons.
Although Tom Shepherd and Benjamin Waterhouse put a great amount of effort and work into the new building, especially as Mr. Waterhouse was the main architect assisted by his son John, neither gentleman saw the completed building. Both were called to their respective heavenly homes during the period that construction took place.
Would, after all these setbacks, the hall be ready for September? It needed to be - a wedding was due to take place.
The Heavenly Contractor and Architect oversaw all the work, and the new Cromwell Hall was opened over the weekend of 5-6 September 1959, the weekend before the wedding. It is understood that Mr. Fred Hughes from Birmingham was the speaker.
Despite earlier concerns, attendance by the youngsters at the Sunday School in the new hall continued to flourish. Week by week skilled Gospel preachers were invited by Neill Shepherd, enabling people to hear and accept the message of salvation. Assembly activities included an annual week-long gospel campaign.
By the mid 1960s, only five years later, the assembly was desperately in need of an additional room for Sunday School work, a crèche for the younger families during meetings and also space to counsel those who expressed an interest in the gospel message. Plans were drawn up to extend the south west corner of the hall, providing the badly needed room, and so Cromwell Hall was enlarged.
The assembly continued to grow. Many students, both believers and non-believers, attended. Those who were not Christians at the start of their studies, were by the end of them.
The closure of Mill Lane Gospel Hall in Northenden and also Moorfield Hall increased numbers at Cromwell Hall even further. It is understood that the assembly prayer list of 1972, listed the names of approximately 100 adults, not to mention children, though many on the list were housebound and unable to attend the meetings.
Many families and young people continued to attend the varied activities that the hall had to offer, including Coffee Mornings, children’s clubs, as well as house parties. All these activities resulted in great blessing.
The building was altered once more in 1992, when, as a result of a spate of vandalism, the rear bicycle parking area was enclosed.
Picture of Cromwell Hall Christian Fellowship.
Picture of the rear bicycle parking area in process of being enclosed.
In 2003, ‘Christian Fellowship’ was added to Cromwell Hall, at the same time as a popular monthly Coffee Morning commenced and was a point of contact with the local community. The Coffee Morning ran for approximately a decade with many folk from the local area attending.
Today, like many other assemblies and churches, the decline in attendance, not to mention Levenshulme’s multi-cultural and multi-ethnic population, Cromwell Hall Christian Fellowship faces many challenges. Over sixty years after the hall was built, the small congregation of 15 still maintains a testimony.