The Glad Tidings Mission Hall was a religious building in Viaduct Street, Weatherfield. The sixth Mission Hall in Weatherfield to be built by the Mission committee, Glad Tidings was used as a place of worship by local Nonconformists, its Sunday services conducted by a visiting preacher.
Glad Tidings was constructed in 1902, the same year the houses in Coronation Street were built. Though the chapel's main entrance was in Viaduct Street, the hall and vestry extended to Coronation Street, and the vestry, a small flat home to the Mission caretaker, had its own side entrance and address of 16 Coronation Street. From 1937 to 1968, when the Mission was demolished due to dwindling congregations, Ena Sharples held the unpaid position of Mission caretaker.
The Hall itself had one floor and was largely wooden, except for a brick front porch. The roof was of corrugated iron. The Hall had a stage but the location of the Mission meant the room didn't get much natural light - the viaduct adjacent to the building blocked the sun through the two stained glass windows.
In the early part of the 20th century, Glad Tidings was an integral part of the lives of the residents of surroundings Streets. The turn of the century was a time of rapid industrial growth and as streets like Coronation Street were built, missions were set up in areas with large communities. On Coronation Street, the Mission stood beside Hardcastle's Mill, and it was seen as the moral duty of the missionaries to convert the heathens of the factory, as well as the Street residents and punters at the Rovers Return Inn. It first opened in 24th December 1902, serviced by lay preacher Cedric Thwaite and caretaker Gladys Arkwright.
For many years, the Mission was a mainstay of the Street, although as time went on fewer residents attended the Sunday services. By 1960, the Mission committee was reacting to dwindling congregations by closing several of their Mission Halls, including the Bold Street Mission, which merged with Glad Tidings in 1965, giving Glad Tidings a stay of execution. During the 1960s, Glad Tidings was often used by the community for meetings and clubs. Despite being the chairman of the Mission committee and then-preacher at Glad Tidings, Leonard Swindley supported the move, and organised several gatherings including the Over 60's Club, with a trip to Blackpool for the club members later that year.
In 1962, the residents formed the Mission Hall Players and put on a production of Lady Lawson Loses, a play produced by Swindley and performed on Christmas Day. As the decade progressed, the Mission was used more and more for functions including children's parties, a fashion show, a fancy dress party, a playgroup, and more productions. The final straw for disapproving caretaker Ena Sharples came in 1966 when a community centre opened in the Mission, run by social worker Ruth Winter. Ena resigned from her position as caretaker, returning only when the centre had vacated the Mission.
The Mission was finally closed in 1968 when the Council bought the land and the building with a compulsory purchase order. The Council, seeking to redevelop the area, demolished both the Mission and the factory and constructed a block of Maisonettes in their place.
The two-roomed flat nicknamed the vestry was home to the Mission caretaker, Glad Tidings's only full-time resident. The job of the caretaker was to look after the building. In exchange for their services, the caretaker was given accommodation, free coal and wasn't asked to pay rent. Five people held the position from 1902 to 1968: Gladys Arkwright, Ena Sharples, Emily Nugent, Albert Tatlock and Jed Stone.
Gladys Arkwright was the Mission's first caretaker. A widow, Gladys was devoutly religious, and was known to deliver sermons in the Street so that she could be heard by those who did not attend the Sunday services. She died in 1937 when Billy Chad pushed her aside while she lectured him about God, and Gladys cracked her head on the cobbles. Ena Sharples, who had just become a widow herself, took over the position and moved into the vestry with her daughter Vera. As well as caretaker, Ena was the Mission's harmonium player.
Ena remained in the vestry until 1968. Although she looked upon the Mission as her own private domain, opposing any attempt by outsiders to use the building, Ena was unhappy with such modest living conditions and frequently complained to Leonard Swindley. Ena was a regular drinker at the Rovers, much to Swindley's disapproval. In 1960, Ena broke down when Swindley called at the snug in the Rovers while charity-collecting and caught her drinking there. While Ena recovered in hospital, Martha Longhurst helped out at
the Mission unofficially. Ena thought Martha was after her job and made an effort to get back home as quickly as possible.
Albert, Jed and Emily all held the position briefly, during a time when Ena walked out of the Mission to defy Swindley or when Swindley sacked her, only to reinstate her when either no one else would take the position or when her replacement found the job unbearable.
In 1963, Ena came back from a wedding to find the vestry had been vandalised. It had been wrecked by Michael Butterworth, who had stolen builder Len Fairclough's key, causing Len to lose a building contract.
Ena was greatly concerned with the increasing use of the building for functions, and made no secret of her opinions. During an out-of-control dance held in the hall in 1966, thugs threatened Ena and Lucille Hewitt in the vestry, but were soon sent packing by community centre organiser Ruth Winter.
Ena was forced out of the Mission in 1968 when it was bought by the Council.
In December 1966, Ena's daughter Vera Lomax came to stay with her. Ena discovered that Vera had a brain tumour and was dying, but couldn't bring herself to tell her and felt helpless as she watched her daughter's life ebb away. Vera died in the vestry the following January.
In 2004, newsagent Norris Cole became convinced that The Kabin - built in the same spot once held by the Mission vestry - was haunted by Vera's ghost. Norris, Rita Sullivan, Blanche Hunt and Betty Williams held a séance in the stockroom but the 'ghost' later turned out to be dampness.
- In February 1961, the residents of Coronation Street were evacuated to the Mission Hall when a gas main exploded behind the houses. The residents spent the night together in the large hall. Ena Sharples, annoyed at the inconvenience, refused to look after the residents and warned them not to bother her.
- The Mission also had a spacious cellar, used during the two wars as a place to evacuate the locals. In September 1964, the Street residents were again evacuated to the cellar when an unexploded bomb was found in Albert Tatlock's backyard at 1 Coronation Street. The incident brought back memories of wartime evacuations for the residents.
- The vestry's address, 16 Coronation Street, is the current address of Websters' Auto Centre.
- In some 1960 end credit sequence, the Mission's entrance was erroneously shown to be next door to the Rovers Return Inn in Coronation Street. Although the Mission hadn't yet been seen (the entrance on Viaduct Street first appeared in Episode 5), its position across the Street was established in dialogue in Episode 1. The Mission's incorrect position in the end credits did however match the position of St. Mary's Church relative to the houses in Archie Street, the real world street in Salford which served as the inspiration for the look and layout of Coronation Street.