Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: August 04, 2017
Webpage updated: March 30, 2020




Old Laira Road with the Laira Congregational Chapel on the left.
From a postcard.

Members of the Norley Congregational Chapel in Plymouth first started to hold services at Crabtree in a room of a building close to the Crabtree Inn in Plymouth Road.  Later they found a piece of land near the railway at Laira, which had the remains of two walls already in situ.  They put a roof over the top and held a bazaar to pay for the seating.   This was opened sometime around 1857 and the building was later used as the village school.

In 1883 the Laira congregation asked to be joined with the Sherwell Congregational Chapel and one of the results of this union was that in due course they purchased a new site for a chapel on the corner of Old Laira Road and Brandon Road.

The first Chapel

Mr A B Hutchings, the Mayor of Devonport, laid the foundation stone on Whit Monday June 14th 1886.  The Reverend C S Slater, the minister at Sherwell Congregational Chapel, laid a second, inscribed memorial stone.

The Chapel, which could hold 250 worshippers, was to be 60 feet by 32 feet, with two porches on the northern side, and built in the Gothic style to the design of Mr H J Snell, of Plymouth.  It was to be erected by Messrs Tozer & Son, also of Plymouth.  At the west end would be a rostrum, approached by steps on each side, behind which would be the vestry.  The interior would be finished with pitch pine and there would be an open timber roof.  A school hall and five classrooms would be added in due course.  The site had cost 110, the building work a further 770 and further expenditure of 150 was anticipated.  As usual on these occasions, the event was followed by tea and a public meeting.

Laira Congregational Chapel held its opening service on the afternoon of Wednesday December 15th 1886.  After tea a large number of people gathered for an evening meeting.  The choir was accompanied by Miss Rogers at the harmonium.

Moving over the road

A site for a new chapel hall was acquired at the corner of Bramley Road and Federation Road and the foundation stone was laid by Mr E Rooke, the church secretary, on Saturday March 16th 1935.  The silver trowel used in the ceremony was supplied, of course, by Messrs Page, Keen & Page Ltd, of George Street, Plymouth.  The building was designed by Mr Frederick A Wiblin and built by Messrs Wakeham Brothers Ltd.  It was built of brick with monk stone dressings and an arched roof.  The interior was distempered in a deep shade of primrose, which went well with the Columbian pine fittings.  It was capable of seating 500 people.  It was at some point decided to use the new building as the Chapel and to erect another hall alongside.

The new Chapel was opened by Mr Stanley Blatchford, the organist, on Saturday September 14th 1935, their eighty-fifth birthday.   The golden key used to unlock the door was presented by Messrs Page, Keen & Page Ltd, of George Street, Plymouth.  The Reverend W J Lewis, of Sherwell Congregational Chapel, then blessed the Chapel and the organ.  Also present at the opening ceremony were Mr Walter A Wakeham, representing the builders, Mr E Rooke, the church secretary, and Mr T Tapley, the church treasurer, who stated that the cost of the premises had been nearly 5,000.

Mr & Mrs John Blatchford senior paid for the organ from the Princes Street Congregational Chapel in Devonport to be rebuilt by Messrs F Tucker & Son, of Mutley, and re-installed in the new Chapel.  An electric blower was added during the rebuild.   It was played on the opening evening by the organist from Stoke Damerel Church, Mr H Dyer Smith.

A carved oak Communion Table was presented to the Chapel by Miss Hilson on behalf of the Laira Women's Meeting.

The Courtenay Hall

The adjoining Courtenay Hall was partly paid for with 8,000's worth of War Damage Compensation received for the Union Congregational Chapel in Courtenay Street, which was destroyed during the Second World War.  The congregation had to find a further 3,000.  The foundation stone was laid by the Minister, the Reverend J M F Butler, on the afternoon of Saturday September 29th 1956.  The new extension would be used by the Sunday School and youth organisation, enabling the main building to be made in to a permanent chapel.  The architect was Mr J Macdonald Colvin.  Mr John Hanks, the superintendent of the Sunday School, also laid a memorial stone.

Courtenay Hall was opened by Mr A E Glassey, chairman of the Reconstruction Committee of the Congregational Union of England and Wales, on Saturday March 30th 1957.  It had cost 11,000 to build and the builder was Mr G Wakeham.  The Congregational Union had donated 2,000 leaving the congregation to find only the remaining 1,000.  A small plaque was unveiled in the entrance hall commemorating the fact that the Hall owed its existence to the old Courtenay Street Chapel.  The Hall was dedicated by the Reverend F E Quick and was described by Mr Glassey as a place where 'old men could dream their dreams and the young have their visions.'

This Chapel was demolished only a couple of years ago after many years of disuse and has been replaced with the very modern Achievers Day Nursery.