Heritage and History
The Building 1920’s – 1975
Community Central Hall is the name of both the organisation as a limited company development trust and the building at 304 Maryhill Road Glasgow. Built in 1924 as the Central Methodist Hall by public subscription the 22,000 square feet building, with “C” Grade Listing, was even then seen as an anchor in the community, place for “social intercourse” (Lady Gilmore, 1924, Opening Speech).
The Church was refurbished in 1966, and latterly hosted the World summit of the Methodist Church. With rising costs and falling congregation it was briefly reformed into a training venue, but in 1976 the decision was made to close. By this stage the building was well used by a large variety of community and self-help voluntary groups. Together they formed an action committee and successfully persuaded the Strathclyde Regional Council to buy the building for community use. In 1977 CCH was formed and have operated the facility as a community managed centre ever since.
The Community Campaign 1975-76
In 1977 several parts of the building were in a state of disrepair and it took the following decade and creative use of schemes like the Manpower Services Commission to bring the building back into full use. As services developed within CCH more and more space was retained by the organisation and by 1991 the building boasted a nursery, and after school service, a day-care centre, a café, meeting rooms and halls, along with a plethora of community projects and initiatives, aiding the regeneration of the Maryhill corridor. By 2000 the organisation had around 100 staff, and numerous volunteers.
CCH – 2006 – Present Day
In 2005 CCH appointed its first Chief Executive and following a strategic review and reorganisation became a Development Trust seeking to provide vital local services and generate sustainable income. A rolling programme of small works was commenced to provide additional letting space. In 2008 the building was chosen as the venue for the first joint Scottish/UK Public Inquiry, and with support from the Scottish Court Service received a £360,000 refurbishment. In 2009 the Board of Directors formally committed to seeking outright ownership of the building to secure long term development and refurbishment, and protect the building for future generations.
This year Community Central Hall celebrates its 40th anniversary.
The Lewis Organ
Pipe organs by T.C. Lewis, and subsequently, Lewis & Co. Ltd., are a breed of first-class instruments which found niches in various prominent Glasgow venues during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Thomas Christopher Lewis began his career as an apprentice architect, then in about 1860/1 in partnership with John Tunstall and John Whitaker, he founded an organ building business. In 1866 the firm moved into a new factory in Ferndale Road, Brixton, and London.
As well as organ-building, some bell-founding was carried out. In 1884 the firm began trading as a limited company – Lewis & Co. Ltd. By about 1900 T.C. had left the firm, which continued trading as Lewis & Co Ltd. The same high standard continued. A merger took place in 1919 with Henry Willis and Son, who moved into the Ferndale Road works, the names being combined into Henry Willis & Son and Lewis & Co. Ltd. In 1925 the Lewis name was dropped.
In Glasgow, perhaps the most well-known Lewis organ is the magnificent 3-manual instrument at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
Another fine Lewis organ of similar vintage is at the University of Glasgow’s Bute Hall.
The Lewis Organ at Community Central Hall
One Lewis organ, which had been overlooked for several years, is the 3-manual instrument in the Reid Hall of Community Central Hall, Maryhill Road. This is a fine and impressive-looking instrument, in a Victorian pipe-rack design, with tracker action for the manuals, and charge pneumatic action for the draw stops, toe pistons and pedal organ. It was originally built in 1889 for Free St John’s Church (later known as St. John’s United Free Church), in George Street, and when the church closed in 1923, the organ was transferred and rebuilt by Henry Hilsdon at the new Methodist Central Hall, Maryhill, now Community Central Hall.
During 1969 the organ was professionally cleaned and overhauled by Glasgow organ builder, James MacKenzie. When the building ceased to be owned by the Methodist Church, it was taken over by Strathclyde Regional Council and converted into the Community Central Hall. Several years later, unfortunately the interior of the organ was badly vandalised, with the result that the 2-rank Mixture on the Great, and the pneumatic tubing for the pedal board had been taken. Several pipes, (at least 18) were removed from the sound boards, and badly damaged. Before the theft and vandalism occurred, James Mackenzie would visit the organ periodically, to keep an eye on it. On discovering the loss and damage, he felt it was a waste of time to continue providing this free service. Not long after that, a fund raising initiative was launched, to help finance repairs and replacement pipes. However, interest in the scheme dwindled, and any money raised was ploughed into paying the annual insurance for the organ.
John Power has the title of “Custodian” of the organ and has relentlessly campaigned and fundraised and overseen repairs to the organ and volunteered to try and raise some interest in a restoration project.