The history of Iron Hall Evangelical Church does not just go back a few decades or even a few hundred years but rather all the way back to the French Revolution of 1562. A bitter civil war broke out between Protestants and Roman Catholics which led to thousands fleeing the conflict to start a new life in places like North America, Germany, the Netherlands and England. One such family who immigrated were the 'Le Pere' family who later changed their surname to 'Lepper' to try to ease their integration into English society. Many years passed until in the mid-nineteenth century, Charles W. Lepper, a descendant of the 'Le Pere' family, was born. As a young man he moved to Ireland to study Law at Trinity University in Dublin which is where he came to put his faith in Jesus Christ as his Saviour. Charles Lepper then moved to Northern Ireland where he started work as a Tea Merchant.
Mr. Lepper then felt that the Lord was calling him to begin evangelistic work in East Belfast and that's exactly what he did. Regular meetings were held for young and old alike until their popularity grew so much that the people involved decided it was neccessary to buy a premises and after a lot of consideration they bought a piece of land on the corner of Thorndyke Street on Templemore Avenue in March 1890.The building quickly became known as the 'Iron Hall' as large segments its construction consisted of corrugated iron.
The work in Iron Hall grew rapidly until the point where it was deemed necessary to invite a full-time evangelist to oversee all the ministries. A man named Mr. Driver was appointed although little is known about his work. He was later succeeded by Pastor Robert Graham from 1909-1916 until he went to work with the Glasgow City Mission in Scotland. W.E. Tocher took over from Mr. Graham and was the pastor of the church during the General Strike of 1919. Tocher was not to be deterred and even held meetings with the congregation bringing their own lamps and candles to hear him preach the Word of God. Pastor Alex Cooke was called to the Iron Hall following Tocher's departure in 1935 and served in the role for three years.
Several years passed until 1939 when a welsh man named T.E. Evans was named Pastor. Evans was a man with a real love from the people of East Belfast and spent large amounts of his time visiting hospitals and prisons. He was also renown for spontaneously bursting out in song while preaching. Evans' ministry overlapped with the Second World War which saw great damage inflicted on Belfast with Thorndyke Street taking a direct hit from German bombs which resulted in the Iron Hall having to virtually be rebuilt. After 25 years in the post, Mr Evans had to retire as Pastor of the Iron Hall due to ill health.
A Scotsman by the name of Jack Mitchell was the next pastor of the Iron Hall. Under his leadership the church became well-known for its sound biblical teaching. Mitchell's preaching led to many putting their faith in the Lord despite the turbulent climate in Northern Ireland in the seventies and eighties due to the Troubles. In May 1987, Pastor Denis Lyle was appointed to oversee the work of Iron Hall. Lyle organised several very successful gospel missions at Iron Hall with the support of several other evangelists which saw many souls saved. During Denis Lyle's term as Pastor, the church formed a partnership with a small assembly in Moreni in Romania and financed the building a church for the believers out there and a special relationship between our two churches still exists to this day.
After eleven years in the Iron Hall, Lyle moved to become Pastor at Lurgan Baptist and a young man named David Legge was named as the church's new pastor. Legge was a naturally gifted Bible teacher and went on to write several books. As the years went by it became apparent that the Iron Hall needed a new building to meet it's needs. God provided a plot of land right across the land from the present building and after the construction, the Iron Hall was officially opened by an elder and life-time member of the church, Bertie Campbell.
David Legge left the church in 2008 to begin a new ministry and in 2013, the well-experienced John Taylor became pastor of the Iron Hall. John and his wife, Christine were a blessing to all the church as they encouraged and challenged all those who attended the meetings. Pastor Taylor later accepted the invitation to become Pastor of Banbridge Baptist.
We have been blessed with a history of godly leadership based on teaching from God's word. We pray that in the years ahead we will continue you to be a light for God's love in East Belfast.
You can view a book made for our 125th Anniversary here.