OLD PLYMOUTH . UK
www.oldplymouth.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: July 04, 2017.
Webpage updated: July 04, 2017

        

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TREVILLE STREET UNITARIAN CHAPEL

It is thought that the original Treville Street Unitarian Chapel was erected in about 1700.

In 1762, following the death of the Reverend Henry Moore, a serious dispute arose when the congregation appointed the Reverend Christopher Mends as pastor but the trustees appointed the Reverend John Hanmer instead.  The former was a Trinitarian while the latter was an Arian.  The argument ran for two years and was finally settled when the Court of King's Bench ruled in favour of the Reverend Mends.  During this time his congregation had been meeting at the Huguenots' chapel in How Street but after the settlement they returned to Batter Street and the Unitarians took over the Treville Street Chapel.

A New Chapel

By 1831 the premises in Treville Street were 'in a ruinous condition', causing the then pastor, the Reverend Israel Worsley, to tender his resignation on March 25th (Lady Day) 1831.  Within a month plans had been drawn up by Mr John Eastridge Adams and an agreement signed on June 6th 1831 with Mr John Symons for the demolition of the building and the construction of a replacement no later than March 25th (Lady Day) 1832.  His tender was in the sum of 694 8s.

Traditionally square in shape, the main entrance was to the south, in Chapel Court, off Treville Street.  Two other doors in the eastern wall gave access to and from the burial ground adjacent to Norley Street.  Inside, the main body of seats faced northwards, ten rows on the left, nine rows in the centre, divided down the middle of the rows, and eight rows on the right, next to one of the side doors.  Against the north wall there were two sets of six rows facing inwards to the pastor's position in the centre.  A gallery ran around three side of the building, accessed from stairways just inside the main entrance.

It was opened on May 13th 1832 and on June 10th 1832 the Reverend W J Odgers was invited to become the new pastor.  Under his guidance rapid progress was made.  A Sunday School for Girls was started in March 1833 and this was followed by one for the boys in May 1836.  Only four years after its construction, on Saturday July 17th 1836, the new building was threatened with destruction when fire engulfed the adjoining premises of 35, 36 and 37 Treville Street.

Following the introduction of the Marriage Act on July 1st 1837, the Chapel registered with the Quarter Sessions on Tuesday October 10th 1837 to enable marriages to place there.  The first marriage took place in the Chapel on Wednesday February 6th 1839, when the Reverend Odgers officiated at the wedding of Mr G Northey, of Tavistock, and Miss Nichols, of Plymouth.  An organ was installed during December 1843.

For a couple of years, between 1903 and 1905, the Chapel was without a minister and the services were conducted by lay preachers.  The congregation dwindled considerably but when the Reverend J H Belcher took over in 1907 it began to revive and Sunday evening services were reinstated.  One of the Chapel's oldest members at that time was Mr A Saunders Harris JP, who had been its treasurer for some sixty years.

During the Blitz of March 1941 the Treville Street Unitarian Chapel was destroyed  and the congregation were forced to move around the City, first to the Synagogue Hall, then, with bombs still falling all around them, to a large room in Miss Drew's house 10 Thorn Park, Mutley.  Finally they managed to rent a small house at number 17 Houndiscombe Road, where they managed to hold at least one service every Sunday for the remainder of the War.