When Alfred Hall (right) joined us in 1907 at the age of 34, he had already established himself as one of the foremost Unitarian thinkers of his day. After school at Boston Grammar School, where he won a scholarship, he took his Arts degree at Owen’s College (the forerunner of Manchester University), then to Manchester College Oxford where he did his Unitarian Ministerial training and finally to Berlin University as Hibbert scholar (the Hibbert Trust is a Unitarian foundation providing scholarships).
Following his doctorate, he settled on his first ministry at the Octagon Chapel, Norwich, during which time he married Amy, the daughter of John Sudbery of London. He left Norwich to join us in Newcastle where, in 1910 he had published his book, “Fifty Points in Favour of Unitarianism”. The book was revised and republished through several editions under its title familiar to Unitarians of a certain age, “ The Beliefs of a Unitarian”.
Of more direct interest to us is his short history of the church published in 1922 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the founding of the church as a public institution, following Charles II’s Declaration of Indulgence, which removed the penal sanctions against Nonconformists. Alfred Hall remained with us throughout the First World War, and it is through his Calendar notes that we can track the young men of the church as they enlisted, and sadly for some, gave their lives in that conflict.
It is perhaps not surprising that in 1918 he felt the need to move on, and he was appointed to Upper Chapel Sheffield, where he remained until 1939. During his time there he was one of those responsible for the formation of the General Assembly in 1929, and he served as President for two years, 1932-34, the only person to have had the distinction of serving two terms of office as President. He was subsequently honoured with the Presidency of the International Assciation of Religious Freedom (IARF). He also found time, between visits to the US and continental Europe, to advise us on how best to word our Memorial Stone for the new church in Ellison Place.
When he died in 1958 it was remarked that nobody knew how he ever managed to be on time for appointments because he could not walk through the streets without stopping again and again to greet people he knew who would go on their way enriched by his unique and broad-based ministry, that extended so far beyond his own congregation.