Carlyle regarded the Reformation as a seminal event in the history of modern
Europe, the starting point of an ongoing stage in human development. Reformation
Protestantism gave birth to a more general and pervasive spirit of ‘reformation’
that Carlyle identified with the moral destiny of all individuals and
communities. These qualities were epitomized by heroic figures such as Luther
and Cromwell but they were also embedded in cultures that responded productively
to the ongoing challenge of reformation. Having traced the history of the ethos
of reformation through English Puritanism and in the commitment to
transformative action or ‘work’ that gave rise to Britains emergence as a
leading industrial and imperial power, Carlyle brought this reinvention of the
Reformation to bear in his critique of the counter-reforming tendencies in early
Victorian society that he saw as posing a profound threat to it.
Methodist Central Halls were built in most British towns and cities. They were
designed not to look like churches in order to appeal to the working classes.
Entirely multi-functional, they provided room for concerts, plays, film shows
and social work alongside ordinary worship. Some contained shops in order to pay
for the future upkeep of the building. The prototype for this programme was
provided in Manchester and opened on Oldham Street in 1886. This article offers
a first analysis of it as a building type and looks at the wider social and
cultural contribution of the building. It continues the narrative by discussing
changing use and design during a twentieth century that witnessed the widespread
contraction of Methodist congregations.