Wesleyan, United & Primitive Methodists (Inc: Bible Christian Chapels)

During much of the 19th century there were five independent Methodist denominations or "connexions" in England. Three of them united in 1907 to form the United Methodist Church, while there was a final union in 1932. The Wesleyan church was spread across the country but the others were more regionally based. For example the Primitive Methodists were strongest in the midlands and north but wealthy members retired to the south coast of Devon, which encouraged the establishment of a chain of their chapels in our sea side towns, (with thanks to Roger Thorne FSA)

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It is said that Methodism in Torquay was introduced into the area by John Henley who, with his brother Edward went to Exeter to hear John Wesley preach. Upon returning home he used his front parlour at his house in Barton as a preaching place. It is thought that a small thatched chapel was erected at some stage Then this little chapel, tucked away just off Fore Street, Barton, was built and is said to be over 200 years old, it has been called the "Mother of Wesleyan Methodism". In 1883 this chapel and its counterparts in Torquay itself came under the Teignmouth circuit which extended from Torquay right up to Dawlish and included over 20 different places

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Edward Henley was responsible for bringing Wesleyanism to Torquay proper and at first used a room in George Street. In 1807 a small chapel was built in this became known as "The Chapel in the Meadow" its entrance was in Swan Street, today the site is totally built over. Edward's daughter started a Sunday School in a room on Warren Hill but in 1850 moved to the same building as Mr Pengelly's schoolroom. In 1853 the small chapel in the meadow was given up for a far larger building in Rock Road. The photo above shows all that remains of the Wesleyan Rock Road Chapel, When built it was highly visible but subsequent redevelopment of Fleet Street meant it was hidden from view. It was a big place with seating for 1000 people, In 1859 schools were added (was next door to the British School on the Congregational page). After a period of 25 years it was decided to branch out from Rock Road.

A newspaper advert in the  :-

Western Times - Saturday 06 August 1881

TO be SOLD by Wednesday, August 10th the
MODERN FITTINGS of the Rock-road Wesleyan Chapel,
Torquay comprising Seating of the Chapel and
Galleries for 700 people, Pulpit and Communion Rail, 10
good new Columns, about 300 feet of 3 inch Hot-water
Pipe, Boiler, &c. Cost over £700. Price £70. If not
disposed of by above date the whole will be Sold by
Auction.—Any communications to be addressed to Mr.
G. FRADD, Auctioneer, Union-street, Torquay

I cannot find, at the moment when the site was finally abandoned and the buildings demolished, for many years the premises were used as a laundry and were still standing in 1963.  The Sunday School moved to Union Street in 1878. There are  plans in hand to build on the site (2015)

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In order to meet the needs of the eastern part of town several members of Rock Road Chapel obtained a site in Babbacombe Road, next door to the TNHS Museum, and on 7th January 1874 the new Wesleyan church was opened. This building could accommodate 900 people It was put up for sale in 1987, and was bought by the Elim Pentecostal Church, and is now a Church of the Living Waters

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Another new Wesleyan Chapel was deemed necessary and a site was obtained in what was then Lower Union Street, and the memorial stones were laid on 6th November 1877 and it was opened in 1879- on the right of this photo. The school rooms which were next to this chapel opened in December 1878. The combined buildings had a frontage of 110 feet. The chapel would seat 1000 people, and the schools would accommodate 300 children.

This building was destroyed by fire in 1926 and then rebuild.

In the early seventies after discussions with the congregation at Belgrave Congregational Church and the congregation at the Market Street Primitive Methodist Chapel it was decided to dispose of the Union Street and Market Street sites and to rebuild a complete new church on the Belgrave site- This came to fruition as Central Church (see Congregational Page for picture)

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A Picture of the church just before demolition in the 1970s

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A nice interior view of the Chapel

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The local preachers at the Union Street Wesleyan chapel decided that the growing district of Chelston needed investigating and they decided to establish a Society there and so in 1887 the first services were held in a room over a stable in Walnut Road, after a couple of changes of venue including a house called Mapledene and a newly finished empty house Richard Mallock granted them a lease on a piece of land and Chelston Methodist Church at the bottom of Huxtable Hill opened in 1893, it comprised a chapel seating 500, and still in use today

Victoria Park Wesleyan Chapel, was built in 1864. The area (known then as Boston Fields) was used for temporary housing for people displaced from the poorer areas of the town following a cholera outbreak in 1849, at this time the houses were timber built but were later replaced by rows of stone built terraced houses. Still in use today and the area is now known as Plainmoor

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The Primitive Methodists were an off shoot of the Wesleyans and their first local society was founded in Babbacombe in 1863. The foundation stone of this chapel was laid in June 1868 and it opened in October of the same year. There is a large school room underneath. This building has had a varied career, being used by the "Brethren" in 1961 and today is a Children's Nursery. The building is known  as the "Kingsway Hall"

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Market Street Primitive Methodist Chapel. The Primitive Methodists first held their meetings in a prayer room in Union Street, then buying the old Baptist Chapel in Temperance Street in 1863 which they opened on 26 July of that same year. They then purchased a large house in Market Street and in 1877 the foundation stones were laid, the new church opening in 1878. Later a hall and other ancillary buildings were erected at the rear.

J. C. Dinham, the well known Victorian photographer was in charge of the music here. Dry rot and troubles with the heating system were discovered in the 1970s and the building was finally abandoned in 1973 when the heating system failed, the congregation joining the Union Street Chapel. The site was sold , the chapel demolished and a block of flats erected on the site. Part of the money from the sale was used to help build the new Central Church

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Another denomination, called the Methodist New Connexion, was based in the urban midlands and north, and their single chapel in Devon was due to just one wealthy member, who retired to Torquay. Joseph Hepworth (1834 - 1911) left school at ten and worked in a mill but after moving from Huddersfield to Leeds he founded the well known men's clothing business. In due course he became a Liberal alderman, a JP and Lord Mayor of Leeds. He was a leading member of the Methodist New Connexion and an office holder in the Woodhouse Lane MNC Circuit. When he retired to Torquay for his health he found no New Connexion chapel there so he bought the independent Mission in Innerbrook Road and in 1904 installed a retired Methodist Minister. This was the only MNC chapel in Devon and private enterprise at that! However his old circuit valued him so much that, when he moved to Torquay, they would not release him so he maintained his membership and offices, which were discharged by his son. The Innerbrook Road chapel was opened by Mr Levi Powell in October 1897 as an undenominational "People's Mission" with 250 seats. It was built of red sandstone and white brick. Despite attracting good congregations of working class people at first, finance became a problem as "it was loaded with debt". In May 1903 Joseph Hepworth bought the premises and it became a New Connexion chapel, with a succession of ministers. Happily the old congregation kept coming. In 1908 he paid off the outstanding debt and gave it to Trustees. It was extended in 1909. For some time before it closed it was used as a "Children's chapel" run in association with the Zion Methodist Chapel, Torre. It closed in 1936, after the second Methodist Union of 1932, which resulted in too many chapels. It was sold to Torquay Town Council in 1944. After closure it was used as a schools' kitchen. Above the door is an inscription "The People's Mission 1897" and on the extension a stone "Laid by Mrs Hepworth of Hazelwood Torquay 14th April 1909".

The above is copyright Roger Thorne FSA, and used with his kind permission.

This building was later used as a fitness centre, now converted to residential use.

In 1906 several smaller branches of Methodism became the UNITED METHODIST Churches and this then brought the Bible Christian Chapels under the Methodist umbrella


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Samuel Jory leased the land in 1862 from Sir Lawrence Palk and opened, in 1863, this little Bible Christian Ebenezer chapel in Western Road, St Marychurch. It could seat 100 people and had two small classrooms and a vestry. In 1906 it became a United Methodist chapel. It continued in use until being put up for sale in 1954. For many years it formed part of the premises of the Lowndes Pateman businesses, and in 1990 was converted into two houses.

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The Bible Christians established themselves in Torquay in the 1840s and in 1849 opened a little chapel in what was called Masons Row (now Laburnum St). In 1864 the new ZION chapel was opened on Torre hill. In 1905 had approx 200 members. Became a United Methodist chapel in 1906. This building was also sold off in 1954 and went into commercial use, there is nothing left of the inside, the galleries and all the fittings are long since stripped out and a large commercial roller shutter door fitted. Was used as a tyre depot for years and is now used by a firm of motor mechanics.

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To the rear of the Zion chapel was erected a schoolroom , infants room, three vestries, and a Manse for the minister. This photo shows the school rooms which are still standing



During 1935, thanks to the Rev Carr of Abbey Road Congregational Church, the first non-conformist services were held in Shiphay- these took place in the tennis pavilion in Banbury Park. A building fund was started two years later and the site for a Methodist church was purchased. On 16 May 1938 the site was dedicated, again WW2 interfered with the plans. After the war, when building development started and roads were widened and new ones laid out , part of the site was lost. It was then considered too small and so it was sold and a new elevated site purchased, just off Collaton Road- access was going to be a problem until new roads opened up access  to-


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St Andrews Methodist Chapel, Shiphay,

The foundation stone being laid on 31 December 1952 and the church opened in September 1953. Built more in the style of a church hall, presumably to get optimum use out of the building. Still in use

For a short time a similar building, known as St George's, was in use in Fore Street, Watcombe, built in 1954 as a replacement for both the Barton Chapel and the Western Road chapel. Quickly fell into disuse and demolished, the land now used for housing

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