Up until recently the House on the Hill’s official name was Christ Church Hall – and it was just that – a church hall. But since the revitalization of the building, from 1997 onwards, the hall has become home to the Christ Church Project, bringing the whole of the community together to use the facilities the building offers.
Felling already has its own Community Centre, but the House on the Hill is offering a different product, and hopefully is complimenting the service already offered by Felling and Brandling Community Centres.
Today Christ Church Hall under its new name of House on the Hill is in some respects getting back to what the building was used for way back in the late 1800s – a place for the community to visit and use.
In 1866 Christ Church Felling was founded, the main contributors to the building work and furnishings were Hugh Lee Patterson, Robert Robey Redmayne and John Marriner. Gifts provided to the Church by wealthy businessmen included, a Holy Communion Plate given by Giles Redmayne, William Watson Pattinson furnished the Church with its organ and the grand stained glass window in the West wall was paid for by Sir Lowthian Bell.
Christ Church Hall dates back to 1894 when the Felling Church Institute decided to build the “Felling Church Institute And Working Men’s Club.” The building was officially registered as a society on April 14th 1894 under the Friendly Societies Act of 1875.
With the opening, came a rule book, issued by the Church Institute explaining what the House on the Hill site was to be used for, and the conditions that members had to abide by.
Below are some examples from the guide:
1894: The Rule Book for the Christ Church Hall.
The Registered Office shall be, The Church Institute, Sunderland Road, Felling, in the County of Durham. The objectives of the Society are for the purposes of social intercourse, mutual helpfulness, mental and moral improvement and rational recreation of its members by means of Reading Rooms, Library, Classes, Lectures and Debates.
The Management if the Society shall be conducted by a Committee which shall consist of a President, Vice-Presidents, Secretary, Assistant Secretary, Treasurer, Librarian and ten members.
Each member shall contribute to the Society one penny per week, or if paid in advance a shilling per quarter, or four shillings per annum. Donors of £5 and upwards shall become members for life.
General Meetings shall be held at 7:30pm on the first Wednesday of each month. The Reading Rooms shall be open from 9am to 10pm on all days except Sundays.
The use of the hall has varied over the many years its been in service.
During the Second World War the building was requisitioned by the now defunct Felling District Council to use as a temporary mortuary if any casualties were sustained during bombing raids on Gateshead. Dated 27th August 1939 the council clerk sent a letter to the then Christ Church Reverend, J.R Lindsay:
Christ Church Hall, Sunderland Road, Felling
The Council proposes to “earmark” the above premises for use as a temporary mortuary in the event of a war emergency.
The terms under which the premises will be taken over will be governed by the Regulations to be issued by the Government in such event.
It will, however, be necessary for access to the property to be available at any time and it may, after inspection, be necessary to carry out certain works in the premises.
I shall be very obliged if you will inform the Church Council, in due course, of the action contemplated by the Council.
T Myrddin Barker
Clerk of the Council
On a happier note, after getting married at Christ Church, the hall often hosted the wedding reception afterwards. The hayday era being the 1920s through to the late 1970s, although there was a decline in this use during the 1980s and 1990s, more recently the hall has been again used for wedding parties .
Also in the 1950s and 1960s dances were held at the hall for the “younger generation” although no alcohol was permitted in the building, a good time was had by all who remember these events – and apparently the main hall had “a great floor for dancing.” Something it still has – as the wooden floor is still intact.
In the 1980s the building remained in use for many Church events and the hall did still host the occasional wedding party. As the 1990s beckoned, the hall’s old heating system became unusable, and a decision to close the building was taken.
In 1997 the Christ Church Hall was badly damaged by vandals. It had, even after being boarded up, become a meeting place for unsocial cliental. Some may have thought that would be the beginning of the end for the Church Hall, but firmly focusing on the future, Revd. Trevor Davidson saw the potential of the building, and with the help of the Christ Church congregation, a number of organizations and members of the community, the new era of the newly renamed House on the Hill began.