Monday, 2 March 2015

YMCA Centre Opens In Luton

Plait Hall, Waller Street, Luton c.1870-1880 [Z1306/75/17/27]

Tuesday 2nd March 1915:  A new YMCA centre for soldiers was formally opened at the Plait Hall in Waller Street, Luton yesterday evening by Brigadier-General H.H. McCall, the Commanding Officer of the 2/1st North Midland Division. The building had been commandeered earlier in the war and had previously been used by the military authorities as stores. The hall was decorated with flags and crowded with soldiers for the grand opening. The band of the 6th Notts and Derby Regiment played the National Anthem and other selections. The Mayor welcomed the men on behalf of the borough of Luton. He hoped they had made up their minds to have a good time in the town and commented on how their predecessors, the 1st North Midland Division, had behaved like gentlemen. With their departure the town had lost a lot of good friends, and he hoped the soldiers now present would feel as their 1st Division had done that Luton was their second home. The Mayor also congratulated the YMCA on the splendid work they were doing all over the country.

Mr A. K. Yapp,  Secretary of the National Council of the YMCA also gave a stirring speech, reviewing the work of the YMCA in England, in the Colonies and at the Front. He believed the Plait Hall to be ideal for this purpose, and stated it had never been put to a use which would be of greater benefit to the nation. There were now some 300 YMCA centres in all parts of the Kingdom, as well as in parts of Northern Europe, with the buildings used including old public houses, a menagerie, and even a piggery. The General, in declaring the hall open, asked the men to show their appreciation by using the hall as much as possible – surely it would be better to play billiards and other games, or read the papers there, rather than hanging about the streets and public houses. The Secretary of the YMCA emphasised the Christian nature of the organisation and a short service was conducted by the Chaplain. Facilities at the hall include billiard tables, games such as chess and draughts, materials for writing letters, space to read more-or-less quietly, and a temperance bar. Concerts, sing-songs and other entertainments will also be held at the hall

Source: Luton News, 4th and 11th March 1915

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