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From Cinema to Church Hall – Inspired Parish Effort

November 1957

South Yorkshire Times November 16 1957

From Cinema to Church Hall
Remarkable Darfield Transformation in 6 Months
Inspired Parish Effort

Saturday was a great day in the history of the Parish Church at Darfield, for it saw the fruition of weeks of tireless effort on the part of the Rector and parishioners, as the newly converted Parish Church Hall (a former cinema) was formally declared opened.

Volunteer helpers

The work of the conversion of Darfield Empire Theatre to a church hall was first mooted less than six months ago after the building had been purchased.

Mr C. A. Carr of “Spring-bank,” Barfield, was chosen as the contractor, and the Rector appealed for local voluntary help. This was forthcoming and during the summer nights members of the Church Lads Brigade and Church Girls Brigade assembled and helped to dig out the foundations after the old naked floor of the cinema had been removed.

In the later stages, voluntary craftsmen such as joiners, electricians and metal-workers, have given unstintingly of their time. In addition, appeals for money throughout the parish have met with ready response from all sides and a sum of £1.500 has been raised by voluntary gifts and social events.

So it was with thankful hearts and the feeling of a job well done, that Darfield and Great Houghton parishioners assembled on Saturday for the service of thanksgiving which preceded the formal opening of the hall.

The Service of Thanksgiving

The church was well filled for the service in the Parish Church,

The lesson was read by Capt, J. E. Lavery (C,A.), of Great Houghton, and prayers were taken by the Von. J, M, Nicholson M.A. Archdeacon of Doncaster. The Rev, W. Howard (Rector) read the announcements,

The Right Rev, C, V, Gerard, C.B.E., M,C, M.A. (Assistant BIshop of Sheffield; preached from the text “Forgetting those behind and `reaching to those before I press to the mark of high calling In Christ Jesus.”

He said the people of Darfield had contemplated with a vista of hope, the opening of their Parish Hall as a social centre side by side with the house of God.

“This occasion.” he said, “has a great and vital significance side by side with the age in which we live.” He hoped the contacts made in the parish would hear fruit as a result of the provision of the church hall.

Following the Assistant Bishop’s blessing the choir, followed by the clergy and Assistant Bishop proceeded through the church to the Church Hall chanting the “Te Deum.”

Opening Ceremony

A heavy downpour of rain might have marred the opening proceedings but it cleared just as the ceremony took place. Hundreds of people assembled as the Rector asked Major A. R. Keeping. J.P., of Wombwell Hall to open the hall.

Major Keeping opening the door said, “To the glory of Almighty God and to the work and service of His Church, in this parish I declare this hall opened.”

The hymn “Now thank we all our God” was sung by the congregation, led by the choir.

Inside The Hall

Over 300 people were then admitted into the hall for tea. Thi, had been catered for by Mrs.  Rollinson of Garden Street and the tables were tastefully set out.

On the platform was the Bishop, the Archdeacon of Doncaster and Mrs. Nicholson the Rev. W. Howard and Mrs. Howard, the Rev. E. G. Brown, Mr. A. Williams (diocesan secretary). the two Church Wardens and their wives, Coun. Walter Brookes, J.P. (Chairman of Dartleld U.D.C.) and Coun. J. Marsden, Capt. J. E Lavery (C.A.) and the contractor, Mr. C. A. Martin, and his wife,

The Rector thanked everyone sincerely for joining them on that auspicious occasion in the life of the parish and also the Bishop. who had come over at such short notice,

He also thanked Major Keeping. In whom, he said, they had a staunch friend at Durileld. He welcomed the Archdeacon of Doncaster, whom he had found a wise counsellor, and the Chilli man of the Darfield U.D.C. and the new Clerk. It was vitally important, he said, that the church and the local authority should have the happiest of assoclations. The local Council were men with spirit who worked very hard and were not always understood.

To Mr Williams he said, “You have been a wise, able and sympathetic helper.” The work would not have been possible without the help and cooperation from the parish. He had been tremendously moved by the response. He had never in any parish before met with such enthusiasm. That the giving had been sacrificial could be judged from the fact that a sum of £100 given anonymously was from an old-age pensioner. Their contractor Mr C A Martin, and refused any profit out of the contract, and electricians and others and worked solidly for three months without any fee.

Altogether £3000 was needed, which £1500 and already been raised and he had no other £1500 will be forthcoming before 1958. They hoped eventually to build up an Endowment Fund of £2000. Mr B Goodall (Rector’s one) said the work began on the whole last April, when the young people did the spadework and chipped the bricks. He presented a cheque to Mr Martin, the contractor, in appreciation of his work.

Mr Goodall read a telegram of congratulation from the former Rector, the Reverend S.A. Casson, M.A.,who is now Rector of All Sainte, Eastbourne.

Mr. Martin expressed regret that the job was not quite completed. He said that when he first viewed, the Empire he felt it was structurally, good but that the task of altering It was a formidable one. However, he had enjoyed the work and he thanked the Church Wardens for their gift.

Major Keeping said it was indeed a great day in the life of Darfield Parish Church. He little dreamed when he used to attend Darfleld Church In the past, in 1949 that one day his dreams would come true and a new church hall would spring up. He notice a cross on the front of the hall. It reminded him that Darfleld had the ancient church at the head, the lovely new rectory on the right, there Parish Hall on the left, and the ancient Cross Keys Inn at the bottom.

The four buildings reminding him of a cross. He was amazed at the work which had been done to transform the building. The gallery had disappeared In addition to that lovely hall, was a canteen, a kitchen: beneath there would be a games room and upstairs a room for reading and meditation. In fact it possessed everything a church hall needed. He prayed they would respect the church hall.

The Archdeacon of Doncaster said the hall was unique, and they had done a magnificent job. They had not waited for a fairy godmother to give them gifts, but had got on with the job and with the raising of the money. In olden days the Church of England was not a church of the people. The responsibility for it lay in the hands of a few. Times are now changed and it therefore must become a church of the people.