HALL AND THE METHODIST CHURCH
THE FOUNDING OF THE CHURCH
John Hall was strongly committed to the Methodist Church and played a significant part in its growth in the town during his lifetime.
In 1778 John Wesley (it is believed) preached in a room licensed as a meeting house by William Hall, a linen draper. Peter Brames became resident in Dartford in 1789, and opened his house-the ancient Manor House of Charles - for Methodist preaching. On the 17th December, 1791, John Hall married Sarah Stainton, one of the daughters of Peter Brames.
John Dunkin in his History of Dartford, published in 1844, records that John Hall was the principal founder of the first Wesleyan Church in Dartford, in converting two cottages on his premises at the corner of the Priory Lane, Waterside, into a Church, which was opened on New Year's Day, 1794. The Trustees were John Hall, Bryan Donkin and John Edwards (of Lambeth) This John Edwards, who is mentioned in Wesley's Journals, was the grandfather of George Edwards, chemist, who was a great supporter of Methodism in Dartford, and Trustees' Secretary from 1839 to 1874.
Although furnished with a gallery, this building within four years became too small for the accommodation of the usual congregation, and a new building was erected in 1798, at the cost of £700, upon premises adjoining the Manor House of Charles. Congregations continued to still increase, and in 1819 the Church was enlarged at a further expense of £736. The enlarged building seated 450 people. This Church was situated on the East side of Waterside (now Hythe Street), the Smiths' Arms now standing on what was the entrance to the Church yard. The Trustees of the Church were: John Hall, Edward Hall, William Lucas Pearce, Luke Hook, William Hart.
THE CHURCH MOVES TO SPITAL STREET
In 1844, a new Church was erected on a portion of land fronting Spital Street, measuring 60 ft. by 43 ft., with organ loft and galleries for children, in accordance with plans prepared by W. Pocock, of London, built by John Callow, of Dartford. The total inclusive cost of the building was £2,500. A brick in the Church wall is marked: "W.B.D., 1844 " (Rev. W. B. Dennis). The organ was removed from the old Waterside building, improved and re-erected in the new Church. The Church was opened on Tuesday, May 27th, 1845, by Dr. Newton, and the services on the two following Sundays were conducted by Dr. Dixon and the Rev J Farrar; The seating accommodation downstairs was 378. John Hall's sons John and Edward were Trustees of the new church.
John Hall and his family were also closely involved in providing educational opportunities for local people. In 1789 Thomas Lear and John Sheaves occupied two cottages which formed part of the Dartford Ironworks, and in Lear's cottage the first Methodist Sunday School was opened. In the same year, in consequence of the cottage being too small, the Sunday School was removed to the Manor House of Charles, residence of Peter Brames.
The school room mentioned in Dunkin's History of Dartford, erected in
1814 at the north end of Bell's Row, which is now the junction of Hythe
Street and Westgate Road, was demolished, and a new school erected in
1858 on the same site. The school was provided by the generosity of Edward
Hall, son of John Hall, and his sister Maria Robson Hall, who jointly
conceived the scheme and paid for the premises. At the express wish of
Miss Hall it was called Hall Place Girls' School, and carried the motto:
" Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom," Pro.
iv. 7. The total cost of the Wesleyan Methodist day school, including
the furnishing, appears to be about £925.
A second Wesleyan day school, was placed on the ground obtained in Spital Street and was opened in 1838. The fees for education in the new school were one shilling per week for the first-class boys and sixpence per week for the second-class, and, in addition, each scholar was charged one penny per week extra for books. The necessary desks, books and school furniture were bought from the funds of the school. The Wesleyan Catechism was taught, and the preachers were requested to visit the school for the purpose of oversight and examination at least once a week. John Kibbey who was the first headmaster, was engaged at a salary of sixty guineas per year, with the further inducement that if the scholars exceeded sixty in number he was entitled to receive half the amount of scholars' fees above that number. The headmaster also had to act as organist in the Wesleyan Church at Waterside.
In 1841 the salary of the headmaster was increased to seventy guineas per annum, plus such subscriptions as he might collect as organist from a list handed to him, which generally amounted to about £10 per annum.
The boys' day school building was demolished, and a new and larger school building erected in 1868 at a cost of £1,680. The school was built partly on the site of the old one, and on new land adjoining conveyed in 1868 from Edward Hall to the Trustees of the Wesleyan Methodist day school for the sum of ten shillings.