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.