Hall, David Henry (1873–1940), clergyman, scholar, and promoter of housing reform, was born 21 May 1873 in Dromore, Banbridge, Co. Down, the son of Henry Hall, schoolteacher and organist, and his wife, Helen (née Kingham). Educated at Dundalk and Santry schools, he had a distinguished career at TCD, where he was senior exhibitioner (1896) and science scholar (1897), and graduated BA (1898) and BD (1901). Following ordination in 1901 he was curate at St Mary Magdalen church, Belfast, until 1905, when he became deputation secretary of the Hibernian Bible Society, a position which he held for thirteen years. His enthusiasm, learning, and organisational powers, as well as his magnetic preaching style, bore fruit in an increased interest in the society in all parts of Ireland, as well as earning him recognition in London. Hall studied the Bible intensively in its original languages. He retained a deep interest in the work of the society and later became its honorary secretary.
In 1918 Hall was appointed to St Barnabas parish in Dublin's East Wall area. It was here that, recognising the physical want of his parishioners, he engaged in the pioneering work in housing which gained him considerable prominence and earned him the title of ‘the building parson’. Horrified by local poverty and wretched housing conditions, he brought his great energy to bear in seeking a practical solution and, in doing so, founded the first public utility society in Ireland. He called a public meeting, following which, in January 1920, the St Barnabas’ Public Utility Society was established. Funds were raised through the issue of loan stock and shares, with Hall personally making calls and preaching charity sermons, to complement newly established state assistance to voluntary housing associations. Eventually over 170 houses and a recreation ground were provided and made available to people of all faiths.
Believing in the value of making every person pay for their own house, Hall devised a gradual payment method. On his advice this tenant-purchase system was subsequently applied by Dublin corporation at several schemes, including nearby Marino. He actively promoted the utility society concept, inspiring copies throughout Ireland, where over 17,000 ‘self-help’ houses were completed in the 1920s and 1930s, and also in England. Although he gained prominence from his housing scheme, Hall's chief activity was as a pastor. He saw the provision of decent homes as necessary to create conditions conducive to mental, moral, and spiritual health. His inspired citizenship gave an important lead which was recognised as remarkable and significant at the time, bringing together people from across the social, religious, and political spectrum at a time when such ecumenism was rare.
After eleven years at St Barnabas parish, from 1929 until his death Hall served as a devoted and beloved pastor in the parish of Glenageary. He became canon of Christ Church cathedral in 1931, served as prebendary of St John's, and was a member of the cathedral board. Recognised as a wise counsellor, he was also a member of the diocesan council and was a diocesan nominator. His continuing interest in housing matters is reflected in his membership of the coordinating committee of the Citizens’ Housing Council, which produced two reports on slum clearance in Dublin (1937, 1938). He also served as a director of the Association for the Housing of the Very Poor from 1927 and was president of the Linenhall Public Utility Society.
Hall married Olive Edith, the daughter of Robert and Alice Botterill of Newgarden, Tuam, Co. Galway, at Tuam cathedral on 24 September 1901. They had two sons and a daughter. He died suddenly 27 February 1940 at his home in Glenageary. Memorials are located in North Strand church, Dublin, and St Paul's church, Glenageary.