Story of the Water Lane Hall
The hall, built in 1915 as a Sunday school, was originally the Congregational Church Hall and later became the United Reformed Church hall, belonging to the church opposite on Water Lane. It was known for many years as The Institute. The church hall has always been lively with activity, and hired by a multitude of different local groups.
Read Emily Cole’s detailed history of the building (below).
This independent report, commissioned by Bishop’s Stortford Civic Federation, reveals the origins, architecture, landscape setting and social history of the hall. It sets out the features that create its identity and character, and how it has formed an integral part of the historic character of Water Lane and the Meads.
How Water Lane Hall fits within the town
North Street culture and business area
North Street and Water Lane is the most diverse business area in the whole town. As well as having a very strong historic character, these streets have activity from morning to night-time. Linking into this glorious network of culture and business by retaining Water Lane Hall is a big part of what the ORL scheme should seek to achieve.
Variety of business, relaxation and culture
The businesses here include banks, finance, law and charities. This includes the businesses tucked within White Swan Court and Sworders Yard. The specialist retailers include interiors stores, fashion hire, musical instruments and flowers. The eating and drinking spots include high quality independent and chain restaurants.
Events and gatherings
The area draws large numbers of people to events – The Horn at the Half Moon, the Charis centre, the United Reformed Church (URC) as well as the Water Lane Hall. The De Rosa Music school attracts people to classes; the Charis centre attracts the Women’s Institute and concerts, and St Michael’s and St Joseph’s Churches are part of this dynamism.
This is all held in place by secure shopping anchors – supermarket, Florence Walk, Bridge Street shopping focussed on long-established Coopers. Say what you will, Northgate End parking will serve this area into the future and enables day-long comings and goings.
Mixed use exemplified
Water Lane Hall is part of the distinctive mixture of businesses on Water Lane – a music school, shopping, churches, legal and property services, beauticians, counselling services and pub. We talk of wanting mixed use in lively neighbourhoods – this is mixed use. Very importantly, cultural life and pubs are a good mutually supportive arrangement – this diverse area is animated by the Star pub and the Half Moon pub.
The hall is the fulcrum between Old River Lane and North Street
Facing both east and west, the hall is the single active link between Old River Lane, adjacent to the only public footpath connection. Remove the hall and the path would be isolated within car parking. Remove the hall and there is stark separation between North Street and ORL.