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Church Army Social Centre

Photo of adults attendeing the Church Army Social Centre at the Preston Hall in 1938
Back row: Les Johnson, Edgar Watson, Vin Hawkes, Stan Wright, Frank Bunyan, Harold Jodd,
Ken Summerfield, Les Blowfield, John Westley, Bill Westley.
Middle row: Geo Ashby, Peter Barlow, ? , Frank Palmer, Reg Hooper, Les Mills, Harper, Eb Payne,
Arthur Bray, Arthur Drage, Basil Pollard.
Front Row: Maurice Watts, Gilbert Olerenshaw, Geo White, Geof Northern, Richard Cooper,
Capt. CA Atkins, Albert Liggins, Jack Cockane, William Brace, Mick Cooper

The photo was taken in 1938 at the Preston Hall

The Church Army is a society of evangelists linked to the Anglican Church. The society was founded by Wilson Carlile in 1882 during his time on the staff of St Mary Abbots Church, Kensington, London. As a dynamic and unconventional Church of England curate, his vision was to encourage and enable ordinary Christian people to live in such a way that others would be attracted to follow the teachings of Jesus. Carlile believed very much that the Christian message had to be shared through words and action and he encouraged grooms, coachmen and other working people to witness to their faith in the open air and at packed indoor gatherings.

In the middle decades of the last century, a series of Church Army Captains served in Burton Latimer. Their function was largely twofold: they served in the capacity of a Curate, often taking services at St Mary's Mission Room, at the south end of the parish, and they were largely responsible for running the social facilities at the Preston Hall, which in the 1920s saw the cotinuation of the sort of activities previously arranged under the title of the Church Institute which had been based there.

Church Army caravan and children A gathering of Church Army Captains at Preston Hall, sometime in the 1920s
Church Army caravan and children - 1929
Church Army Captains at Preston Hall in the 1920s

By the time the photo above was taken in 1938, the Church Institute (once one of the names given to the Preston Hall) has become the Church Army Social Centre, though not all activities run at the Hall were exclusively church-related. The Preston Hall served as the town's main billiard hall. The notice on the wall in the photo proclaims that the Centre is "Open to all Adults", even if the people in the picture are exclusively male.

From a 21st century perspective, many of the activities may seem tame and stuffy, but for our forebears, cars were a luxury; there was no television, DVD, video or other home entertainment system; they had to make do with far less. However, one thing which characterised the age was a far greater sense of community, and if people talk about "the good old days", that is often what they are referring to.

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