The assembly that meets at Riverside Gospel Hall has a long history in the town of Bandon. In the years 1830 to 1840 there was a curate in the parish of Bandon in the Episcopal Church named George Bellett.
It is recorded that the "clear expositions of the Truth propounded from the pulpit by George Bellett", marked the beginning of a work in the consciences of many to whom he ministered; and although Mr. Bellett never left the denomination to the end of his life, a good number of those "whom he led into the light and liberty of Scriptural Truth" were not able to support him and these believers in the Lord Jesus Christ saw the truth of "Gathering unto the name of the Lord Jesus Christ alone and had to separate themselves from Mr. Bellett and the denomination. Thus began the story of the local church that meets in Riveside Gospel Hall up to the present day.
About this time a movement had gathered pace in this country and elsewhere, when many students of the Bible began to question the Truths of Holy Scripture. These believers could see from such studies that organized religion had wandered very far away from the New Testament teaching about how a local church should gather and be administered, and the truth of the gospel had in many instances been lost in the midst of organized religion.
Mr. George Bellett, had a brother who was one of these men. He was Mr. John G. Bellett and he is universally accepted as one of the earliest Irish exponents of the rediscovered truths of the simplicity of a New Testament church.
The first records of this new assembly in Bandon go back many years. An old assembly pass-book recounts the expenses for rent, coal and other commodities, with its first entry falling under the year 1843.
During what is known as the Kerry Revival which commenced approximately in the mid 1860s, preachers from that county would visit the assembly in Bandon and it is recorded that "very few of the first generation of believers were left in the meeting", as many had died. However through the preaching of these visiting brethren, under the blessing of God many more were saved, baptized and added to the assembly.
A well known preacher of the time, a Doctor Tregelles who was a distinguished Bible scholar also encouraged the assembly by his visits. In the 1870s onwards many more distinguished Bible teachers visited Bandon. Among them were Mr. F.C. Bland, Mr. Richard Mahoney, Sir Robert Anderson and too many more to record here. Such gifted men helped to stimulate and build up the little assembly for the glory of God in Bandon and the district. Many of the meetings were held in the Town Hall and a wide circle of people were reached and productive blessing was the result. Down through the years since those early days, God has had His watchful eye on the little assembly, keeping and preserving it from many an attack by Satan who desires it's destruction.
The meetings of this assembly were carried out in private rooms, hotel rooms and as stated above in the Town Hall. The Sunday school, which began very early in the assembly's history was carried out in the ballroom of one of the town's hotels.
The number of children attending the Sunday school at that time fluctuated between fifty to ninety children and in the 1900s the pattern continued but numbers at times exceeded one hundred. From the records it can be seen that a number of students came every Sunday of the year, never missing a Sunday for years on end. In fact at this present time (2009), there is a lady now in her seventies living in Watergate Street, Bandon, who in fourteen years never missed one single Sunday and had to walk one mile there and back! In those days Sunday school was held for the fifty two Sundays of the year, except when Christmas day fell on a Sunday!
In early 1893 a building was gifted to the assembly for its activities. This building became known as Bridge Place Hall. This hall (converted into flats today) is prominently situated on the Bridge in Bandon. The new hall was opened by a series of gospel meetings. Series of meetings for the teaching of the Scriptures, for the preaching of the gospel and special children’s meetings have always been a feature of the assembly's activities.
Many missionaries have visited over the generations from the four corners of the Earth and there has always been a great interest amongst the believers in the assembly in missionary work abroad.
In the 1960s the Presbyterian Church just across the way from Bridge place hall, was closed and put up for sale and the elders of the assembly at the time decided to purchase it for the assembly. Bridge Place Hall was sold and the name Riverside Hall was decided upon for the "new" building. The assembly moved to this new venue and met there for the first time for the Lord's Supper on Sunday August 9th 1964. On the day before the 8th of August the first wedding for the Bandon assembly was held in this new venue, as up to now all weddings associated with the assembly were held in Cork Gospel Hall, as Bridge Place Hall was not suitable.
Over time this building became a liability for the assembly, as it was in need of major remedial works. And so again a move was decided upon. This time a site was purchased in Allen Square, and building work commenced in 1997. The work was completed on the 5th of July 1999 and a beautiful new Hall was opened.
During all of these years the work of the Lord has continued. The Sunday school continues and we praise the Lord for growing this work over the years. Other activities including the preaching of the Gospel continue, and the vision of the early brethren continues to be the focus, that is to "continue steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" Acts Chapter 2 verse 42.
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