Conway Hall Ethical Society
Conway Hall, now numbered as 25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL
|Architectural style||Art Deco|
|Address||25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL|
|Country||England, United Kingdom|
|Construction started||February 1928|
|Inaugurated||23 September 1929|
|Cost||GBP £28,485 (1928)|
|Owner||Conway Hall Ethical Society|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Frederick Herbert Mansford|
|Main contractor||John Greenwood Ltd|
|Conway Hall History PDF|
The Conway Hall Ethical Society, formerly the South Place Ethical Society, based in London at Conway Hall, is thought to be the oldest surviving freethought organisation in the world, and is the only remaining ethical society in the United Kingdom. It now advocates secular humanism and is a member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union.
The Society has its origin in 1793 in a congregation of nonconformists known as Philadelphians or Universalists. William Johnson Fox became their minister in 1817. In 1824 the congregation built a chapel at South Place, in the district of central London known as Finsbury.
In 1929 they built new premises, Conway Hall, at 37 (now numbered 25) Red Lion Square, in nearby Bloomsbury, on the site of a tenement, previously a factory belonging to James Perry[disambiguation needed], a pen and ink maker. The original name, South Place Ethical Society, was retained until 2012.
Conway Hall is named after an American, Moncure Conway, who led the Society from 1864–1885 and 1892–1897, during which time it moved further away from Unitarianism. Conway spent the break in his tenure in the United States, writing a biography of Thomas Paine. In 1888 the name of the Society was changed from South Place Religious Society to South Place Ethical Society (SPES) under Stanton Coit's leadership. In 1950 the SPES joined the Ethical Union. In 1969 another name change was mooted, to The South Place Humanist Society, a discussion that sociologist Colin Campbell suggests symbolized the death of the ethical movement in England.
In November 2012, the name was changed to Conway Hall Ethical Society, although the signage on Conway Hall still bears the original name (as of November 2013).
In November 2013 Elizabeth Lutgendorff was elected Chair of the Conway Hall General Committee, becoming the youngest chair in the society's history.
The main auditorium can hold 300 plus 180 in a gallery. Wooden panelling and acoustic plaster was used to give the hall excellent acoustic qualities. This made it very suitable for the performance of music and there have been regular recordings and concerts there. The ceiling of the auditorium was glazed and this made it very light and airy for the time. It opened in 1929 and has continued in use since.
The Sunday Concerts at Conway Hall can be traced back to 1878 when the Peoples Concert Society was formed for the purpose of "increasing the popularity of good music by means of cheap concerts". Many of these concerts were held at the South Place Institute but in 1887 the Peoples Concert Society had to cut short their season through lack of funds. It was then that the South Place Ethical Society undertook the task of organising concerts under the first Honorary Secretary Alfred J. Clements and Assistant Secretary George Hutchinson[disambiguation needed] who continued to run them under the name 'South Place Sunday Concerts'. The thousandth concert was played on 20 February 1927, and the two-thousandth concert was held at Queen Elizabeth Hall on 9 March 1969. Clements was the Honorary Secretary for over 50 years, from 1887–1938.
In 1929 the South Place Ethical Society had the Conway Hall purpose built for them and with the exception of the war years, the concert seasons have continued. The concerts have now been organised by the Chair of Music, Giles Enders and Artistic Director, Simon Callaghan.
Frank A. Hawkins served as Treasurer of the Sunday Concerts for 24 years from 1905 until his death in June 1929. He collected nearly 2,000 pieces of sheet music of principally classical and romantic chamber music, which were bequeathed to the Society. The collection has been catalogued by composer and instrument combination and is held on the Conway Hall premises.
The journal of the society, which records its proceedings, is the Ethical Record. The issue shown for December 2012 was volume 117, number 11. This edition outlines the procedure which took place for the historical change of name the previous month.
- Ethical Movement
- National Secular Society
- British Humanist Association
- Rationalist Association
- Sea of Faith
- International Humanist and Ethical Union
References and sources
- Jeaneane D. Fowler (1999), Humanism: beliefs and practices, Sussex Academic Press, p. 27
- Colin Campbell. 1971. Towards a Sociology of Irreligion. London: McMillan Press.
- "British Listed Buildings".
- I. D. MacKillop (2011), The British Ethical Societies, Cambridge University Press, pp. 69–70
- Cole, Hugo (March 12, 1987). "Passionately Progressive". Country Life.
- Meadmore, W.S. (1927). The Story of a Thousand Concerts (1887-1927). London: South Place Ethical Society. p. 5.
- Hawkins, Frank V. (1969). The Story of 2000 Concerts. London: South Place Ethical Society. p. 42.
- "Music - Conway Hall". Conway Hall Ethical Society. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
- Moncure Daniel Conway, Centenary History of the South Place Society : based on four discourses given in the chapel in May and June, 1893. London/Edinburgh : Williams and Norgate 1894
- MacKillop, Ian (1986). The British Ethical Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-26672-6
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Conway Hall.|
- Conway Hall Ethical Society
- Conway Hall Ethical Society, Registered Charity no. 251396 at the Charity Commission