The fourth of July 2016 was the 120th anniversary of the opening of the Wheatsheaf Hall in 1896. Here’s a little extract from an account written at the time which gives a flavour of the importance of the event to the local community.
“The rebuilding of the Wheatsheaf Hall recalls the early days of the public library movement in South Lambeth. It is now 12 years Mr W S Caine, the well-known temperance reformer, set to work to establish a mission centre in this locality. Long did he hunt the district for some suitable premises, and at last found an old villa in Wheatsheaf Lane, standing in a small garden, a survival of the day s when Vauxhall Gardens occupied the site of the gasworks, and Wheatsheaf Lane literally ran through corn fields.
Here Mr Caine gathered round him a band of workers, and social and religious work was started straight away, societies, reading rooms and guilds began to flourish until the premises had to be considerably enlarged and now an entirely new hall is being erected.
Within the boundaries of the district covered by the Wheatsheaf Hall there is a total population of 21, 668. For the spiritual needs of these people there are eight places of worship, great and small, church, chapel and mission hall. These seat less than 2,500.
Mr Caine had the attendances of these counted on a favourable Sunday evening, and the total was less than 800 of which two fifths were at the Wheatsheaf Hall.
In the same area there are 38 public houses, some of the largest in London. From 6 toll, one Saturday night recently, a larger number of persons entered one of these public houses than was to be found in all the places of worship the following Sunday evening.”