Where Halford’s and Currys now sit in Stepney, the offices of Charrington’s Brewery once stood. The heir to this empire was born in Bow Road on 4th February 1850 and duly christened Frederick Nicholas Charrington. In due course he joined the family business and the stage seemed set for a life of comfort and prosperity. He seemed to have everything that a young man wished for. He had a pleasant disposition, was reasonably clever and extremely wealthy.
At the age of 19 having read the Gospel he had a conversion experience and became a Christian.
About a year later as he was walking through Whitechapel and saw a poorly dressed woman with her children trying to get her husband to come out of a public house and give her some money for food. The husband was furious and came out and knocked her into the gutter. Fred Charrington went to help and was also knocked to the ground. When he looked up he saw his name on the sign above the pub and decided that he wanted nothing more to do with the brewery business. He went home and told his father that he was leaving the family business to devote his life to helping the poor in the East End.
Fred Charrington opened a school, led a fight to clean up the Music Halls, became an ardent worker for the Temperance Movement and a member of the London County Council for Mile End. However, the real work began on his thirty sixth birthday when his Great Assembly Hall in Mile End was opened. This magnificent building held five thousand people and was crowded on Sundays when poor and destitute people sat down for tea prior to the evening service. The great hall was also a hive of activity during the week with a Coffee Tavern, Bookshop, and numerous activities taking place.
Mr. Charrington led a modest life yet people were drawn to him and thousands found a new life in Christ because of him. He died in the London Hospital in January 1936 so was spared the pain of seeing his Great Hall bombed and destroyed in 1941. In accordance with Mr. Charrington’s Will Tower Hamlets Mission was registered with the Charity Commission under a Scheme dated July 1938.
During the period 1936 to 1958 when a new Church Church and Hall were built under the War Damage Scheme some work was carried out using part of an undamaged area of the Great Hall.
The new Church and Hall was opened in 1959 and the work of Tower Hamlets Mission expanded. For nearly thirty years services were held in the church and work to help those in need of shelter, clothing and food was carried out in a Day Centre situated in the Church Hall. By 1985 people were coming to the Centre with needs far deeper than their obvious ones of physical hunger, cold and homelessness. They had lost roots, family, jobs and real friends. Almost all had health problems; physical or mental or both. Many had been drawn into addictions; drink, drugs, gambling – seeking escape from the traumas and tragedies of their past.
Because so many of those coming to the Mission had addiction problems and needed specialised help it was decided that they needed help beyond just shelter and food. Plans were put in place to convert part of the Church Hall into a 7 bed residential home. This accommodation was to become know as ‘Charis’ (from the New Testament Greek word for Grace) which opened its doors to its first residents on 5th May 1988. Because of its immediate success plans to extend the home were put in place in 1990. The extended Charis (16 bed) included a Second Stage and was opened by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton.
Since that time, much work has gone into the actual therapy programme. However, more facilities were still needed. In 1996 the Church was demolished to make way for a Third Stage (9 rehabilitation flats) which would be known as ‘The Charis Terrace’ and a chapel to replace the Church. The Charis Terrace opened on 1st July 1997 and the chapel was opened by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the 11th July 2002. A further 3 flats were opened in October 2011. A small education and training centre will be open soon.
All developments throughout were funded by Grant Making Trusts, Foundations and other organisations.