OLD PLYMOUTH . UK
www.oldplymouth.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: July 23, 2017.
Webpage updated: August 02, 2017

        

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KING STREET WESLEYAN METHODIST CHAPEL

The first King Street Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was on the corner of King Street and Tracy Street.

The original King Street Methodist Chapel in Plymouth.

 

Wesleyan in origin, the foundation stone was laid on Tuesday May 17th 1864 by Mr John Allen of Ivybridge, a great supporter of Methodism in Plymouth.  A Sunday School was established on Sunday July 3rd 1864 in a workshop in Flora Street, where some 250 children were soon being taught by twelve male and female teachers. 

King Street Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was opened with a 7am prayer meeting in March 1866, when about 700 people turned up for worship.  The Sunday School was transferred to the Chapel, where classes were held in the gallery, the vestries and even the front hallway.

The cost of the building including the purchase of the land, together with the magnificent school buildings adjoining, was 11,815.   It was one of the largest Chapels in the country, with seating for 1,583 people, and acquired the title of The Cathedral of Western Methodism.

Premises for the School were provided in 1870 but there were only four classrooms and it quickly became evident that more room was needed.  In 1871 King Street became the foremost Chapel in a new Methodist circuit within the Town.

The memorial stone for the new school was to be laid on Wednesday October 3rd 1894 by Mr T Owen, Member of Parliament, but shortly after the proceedings had begun at 3.30pm, the temporary platform that had been erected for spectators collapsed, injuring 41 people and killing Mrs Mary Rowan.  The ceremony was abandoned.

It is not clear who then laid the stone, or when, but at the opening ceremony in 1895 the stones were evidently in place and the proceedings began with the declaration, unpronounced back in October 1894, that the foundation stone had been 'well and truly laid'.  Similar statements were made by Mr J May Grose, who laid on stone on behalf of the Trustees, and twelve young children of the School, who laid small stones carved with their initials.  The School was unlocked by Miss Green, daughter of the President of the Methodist Conference, the Reverend Walford Green.

Thanks to the generosity of Alderman Sir Frederick Winnicott JP, and in memory of his late brother, Alderman Richard Winnicott, both local businessmen, the Chapel was completely refurbished during the winter of 1935/36 and was re-opened by Miss Violet Winnicott on Wednesday March 4th 1936.  Tea in the school hall afterwards cost 9d.

During the Great War the school buildings were used as a canteen for the military, with Sunday afternoon teas being provided for hundreds of grateful servicemen.

On Friday March 21st 1941 a bomb fell into the courtyard separating the Chapel Keeper's house from the Chapel and the resultant fire destroyed the Chapel and the upper floor of the Sunday School.  It transpired that the Lecture Hall had survived the fire and this was cleared for use on the following Sunday.

After the War it was at first decided not to rebuild the King Street Chapel but use the War Damage compensation at Crownhill.   However, in March 1947 this was changed after much opposition from the congregation.  Unfortunately the Council's rebuilding programme for the City Centre made no provision for rebuilding it on the same site.

The temporary King Street Methodist Chapel

A fresh site was allocated at the western end of The Crescent, where Numbers 11, 12 and 13 had been destroyed,  but it was necessary to move into temporary accommodation first.  The last service in the old building was a Thanksgiving one at 7pm on Wednesday January 4th 1956 and the following Sunday the School met there for the final time. 

Their new location was to be number 5 George Street, one of the former temporary shops erected to provide shops in an otherwise devastate City Centre.  This was to be used for worship on Sunday mornings but the evening services were to be held at the Royal Assembly Hall (a grand title for an equally temporary structure on the site of the blitzed Royal Hotel) in Lockyer Street.  The Sunday was to meet in number 1 George Street and number 7 Westwell Gardens, which were to be known as the Wesley Hall (they were presumably linked).

The new King Street Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was officially opened at 11am on Sunday January 8th 1956.  It was dedicated by the minister, the Reverend Frederick A Rowe, accompanied by the Chapel steward, Mr A Kenneth Cooke, and the secretary of the trustees, Mr L B Spear.  On Sunday January 15th 1956, the entire Sunday School of around 120 children marched behind the Boys' Brigade Band to number 5 George Street.

The new King Street Wesleyan Methodist Chapel

Work started preparing the site for the new chapel on Saturday February 11th 1956.  The foundation stone was laid on behalf of the Trustees by Mr H Lawrence Spear on Wednesday July 18th.  The new building was designed by Sir Percy Thomas & Sons, of Cardiff.  It was built of brick and it had a curved frontage, housing a chapel, a hall and extensive offices.  the contractors were Messrs John Garrett and Sons.

The opening ceremony took place on December 4th 1957, although Miss Mabel Almond was unable to unlock the main door because no lock had been fitted as yet.  She just pushed it open.  The Chapel was dedicated by Dr Harold Roberts, President of the Methodist Conference for that year.  The ceremony was followed by tea at the Central Hall, Saltash Street, at a cost of 1s 6d.

It was another two years before the Sunday School was ready.  Named Asbury House, after Mr Francis Asbury, whom John Wesley had sent to America to found the Methodist movement in that country, it was opened and dedicated on Saturday June 28th 1958.  This building also contained two small flats for the deaconess and a permanent caretaker.

The organ was dedicated on Wednesday July 8th 1959.

The end of the King Street Wesleyan Methodist Chapel

Sadly, this grand and distinctive building has now been demolished and has been replaced with equally distinctive retirement homes constructed by Messrs McCarthy & Stone.

King Street Methodists also started the Millbay Mission, in a small room in an overcrowded block of buildings at 8 Edgcumbe Place, West Hoe Road, next door to the Millbay Rinkeries.  This was in use from the 1880s until the Plymouth Blitz.

 

Photograph courtesy - "Wesleyan Methodist Church: Conference Handbook and Souvenir: Plymouth 1913", printed by Messrs William Brendon & Son Ltd, Plymouth, 1913, courtesy of the Reverend John Haley of Ridgeway Methodist Church, Plympton, and and Mr Chris Crouch, the Property & Facilities Officer at the Circuit Office, Devonport.