A collection of 25 photographs, mostly of Brethren individuals, but including two group photographs and one of Merrion Hall; a roll book of those attending the Hall and two photocopies of Sunday School roll books; a collection of printed items including histories of the Hall, a copy of an annual report and a collection of newspaper cuttings relating to the Hall.
Merrion Hall Dublin Collection
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
Merrion Hall was built as a result of the 1859-60 revival in Ireland. J. Denham Smith (1817-1888), a pastor from Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire), moved to Dublin, where he began preaching at the Metropolitan Hall, Lower Abbey Street, rented for this purpose by the solicitor William Fry (1822-1906). Together with Henry Bewley (1804-1876), they decided to build a new building to act as a centre for evangelism throughout the country. In 1862 the site in Lower Merrion Street was rented, and a building, to seat 2500 people, was designed by Alfred Gresham Jones. Merrion Hall opened on 26 August 1863.
The Hall's primary purpose was to be a place for evangelistic meetings, and Henry Grattan Guinness, George Müller and Dr Barnardo were among those who preached there; but an assembly also met to Break Bread there from soon after its opening. In 1878 the Hall became the property of the assembly.
In 1913, the year of the Hall's Jubilee, the Hall was holding a regular Sunday evening evangelistic meeting - attended by what was considered to be one of the largest Protestant congregations in Dublin - as well as the Sunday morning Breaking of Bread, children's meetings, prayer meetings, bible classes and missionary meetings. The Hall was also involved in evangelistic work among the Police forces.
The First World War and subsequent political unrest led to decreasing attendance. In 1922 the Hall was occupied by the military, and later a nearby mine blast necessitated repair work on the building. Attendance further diminished as a result of the Second World War, and the post-war growth of Dublin, which resulted in a population living away from the city centre, meaning that members had to travel in from the suburbs to attend meetings.
Evangelical work continued to be carried out, however. Regular open air meetings were held in Lower O'Connell Street, and the assembly engaged in house-to-house visiting, distribution of tracts, outreach with a Gospel Caravan in the summer, displaying of scripture text posters and a recorded telephone ministry.
Eventually the attendance fell to such an extent that the assembly decided to move to smaller premises. In 1988 they bought a former school in Irishtown and moved there; the assembly, now mainly consisting of elderly people, continued to meet there for some years, eventually closing down in 2006.
Merrion Hall was sold to the Eastview Property Company, who planned to convert it into office space, retaining the front facade which had been listed for preservation. A fire on 2 May 1991 destroyed much of the building, with the exception of the facade. The building was subsequently rebuilt as the Davenport Hotel.
The collection has been arranged into five series:
- Roll Books
- Printed Booklets
- Annual Reports
- Newspaper Cuttings
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open to any accredited reader.
William Gilmour. Additional material relating to the Hall was donated by Edmund Fry in 2008.
Conditions Governing Use
Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.
A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.
Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.
The photographs in the collection decorated the walls of Merrion Hall until its closure. They were then held by William Gilmour who donated them to the Christian Brethren Archive at the John Rylands University Library in 2006.
Location of Originals
The photocopied items were kindly loaned to the Library by Edmund Fry.
David J. Beattie, 'The "Brethren" movement: its rise and progress. Article LV: Dublin and Merrion Hall' The Believer's Magazine, New Series, vol. 39 (1938), pp. 232-4.
Jubilee year: brief history of Merrion Hall, Dublin, 1863-1913 (Dublin, 1913)
'Merrion Hall, Dublin' Precious Seed, vol. 61 no. 2 (May 2006), p.17.
Tim Grass, Gathering to his name: the story of open brethren in Britain and Ireland (Milton Keynes: Paternoster Press, 2006)