Salem Chapel


Starks-chapel-small.jpg - 34427 Bytes


I think the best way of conveying the origins of this chapel is to reproduce the following from White's "History of Torquay" published in 1878-


"The late Mr. Robert Stark was born at Chelson April 17th, 1788, and was brought up in the doctrines of the Church of England. After his marriage in 1814 he joined a body of dissenters of the Calvinistic persuasion, and having a large knowledge of the scriptures, for he was a very studious man, he was occasionally called upon to occupy the pulpit. In the course of his researches he found that he could not accept the orthodox method of interpretation. His original views led to an estrangement between himself and his co-workers, and the result was that he left them. Mr. Stark, however, held meetings at his own house to search and discuss the scriptures; friends increased so much that a room used as a Freemasons' Hall was taken, and subsequently the chapel was built [Erected in 1839 according to 1851 religious census of Devon]. In 1832 Mr. Stark was accidentally led to the acquaintance of Mr. Wilkinson (the first mayor of Exeter after the passing of the Reform Bill, 1832), and much to their mutual surprise they found that they held similar views on religion.  In 1836 Dr. Lee's Dissertation on Prophecy was lent to Mr. Wilkinson for his perusal. The plain statements there made of the fulfilment of all prophecy filled him with equal surprise and delight, and he immediately wrote to inform his friend of this fresh corroboration of the truthfulness of their views of scripture doctrines from the hands of the most learned man in ancient languages in the world. The work was forthwith procured by Mr. Stark, and eagerly perused, and although there were points of difference in detail, he found that the broad principle of the past Second Advent of Christ was therein clearly stated, and both he and Mr. Wilkinson wrote to Dr. Lee, sending him some of the tracts they had published; this led first to a correspondence by letter, and afterwards to a personal interview with the learned Professor, from which all three derived the pleasure which any would feel at meeting with those with whom they can perfectly accord." Mr. Stark died August 9th, 1854, and in a few years afterwards his chapel was closed."


The 1851 Religious census of Devon also records that the total sittings for this chapel were about 250 with an average sitting of between 150 & 200. The attendees were known locally as the "Starkites"


The chapel was for many years used as the Torquay School of Art- known also as the Vivian Institute. In recent years it has been used as a bar, and is currently undergoing a complete renovation- again its use is going to be as a bar


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