The Methodist Central Hall has gone but we still have a landmark?

This last stretch of this week’s history of the London Road brings us from Osnaburgh Parade to the junction with The Avenue.  The view used to be dominated by two large buildings – the Methodist church and Central Hall and Over’s Department store.

By the time that Richard and John took over after the death of their father Richard Parnell Over, the firm had expanded considerably and a new furniture emporium was built in 1900.  Unfortunately, it was destroyed by a fire in 1907 and a replacement commissioned from the Poulter brother’s architecture firm.  This is the elegant building you can see in the bill from the 1920s – together with the smaller original shop which still stood at the top of the hill.  The firm continued to use two buildings until they combined both sides of the business and moved it to Park Street in 1965.  According to Gordon Wellard, the Cam stream actually runs beneath the new building – I wonder if that’s true?  It is now occupied by Primark.

The Methodists had originally built a small chapel in the Frimley Road but they sold this to the Baptists (where, I believe, it still exists behind an 1870 extension) and used a small cottage near the Agincourt until they could raise the money to build something bigger.  In 1879 they opened a new chapel and carried on saving – by 1913 they had enough to built an even bigger church and the original one became the Central Hall which other groups and societies could hire.  In 1990 these buildings were demolished and replaced with a dramatic apartment block.  The congregation joined together with the United Reformed community (whose own church had been demolished for redevelopment) and High Cross church was opened in Portesbury Road.

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