History of Bere Alston United Church (formerly Independent)

HISTORY OF BERE ALSTON UNITED CHURCH
(FORMERLY INDEPENDENT, CONGREGATIONAL AND UNITED REFORMED CHAPEL)

 

The chapel in the early 1900s

The first chapel to be built in Bere Ferrers parish was the Independent Chapel in Fore Street, which was dedicated in 1811. This chapel has been known by various names — Independent, Calvanist, Congregational, United Reformed and now Bere Alston United Church. It is still on its original site and almost the same building. It was the 42nd Congregational chapel to be built in Devon, the first being built at Chulmleigh in 1633.

The following is an extract from the indenture of 1810 when the Congregational Chapel came into being: (take a deep breath!)

By indenture of 24th September 1810, made between William Hill of the first part, John Williams of the second part, Mary Stephens, spinster (she was actually a widow. AP), of the third part and the Rev.William Rooker and twelve others, trustees, of the fourth part, reciting that a society of persons dissenting from the Church of England, residing at or near the parish of Beer Ferris, had entered into a subscription for the purpose of purchasing the piece of land afterwards mentioned, and for erecting a chapel for the worship of Almighty God in the manner thereinafter expressed, and had given their subscriptions as a donation for that purpose, and paid them to Mary Stephens, to be applied accordingly, in consideration of 15l paid by Mary Stephens and 5s paid by the trustees, a piece of land, part of a garden belonging to a messuage and tenement called Marythorn, alias Marathorn, situate in the same parish, containing by admeasurement 74 feet in length, and in breadth 56 feet for the space of 18 feet and 34 feet for the remaining 56 feet of the length, the breadth of 56 feet to begin from the road thereinafter described as the boundary, and more particularly therein described, was granted to the trustees without impeachment of waste, for a term of 1,000 years from the date of those presents next ensuing upon the trusts thereinafter mentioned. It was also witnessed that the said Mary Stephens, in consideration of 5s paid by the trustees, agreed that the sums of money subscribed and paid to her for the purpose aforesaid should be applied for the purpose of erecting a chapel or meeting-house on the piece of land demised, and the trustees should stand possessed thereof when erected, upon trust, to be used for the worship of God, or in somewise relative or pertaining thereto, and that the worship of God therein should not be the channel for diffusing any other doctrines than what are generally contained in the doctrinal part of the Articles of the Church of England, with power and direction to the trustees to remove the minister of the chapel for the time being whose opinions and doctrinal sentiments should not generally accord with the doctrines generally contained in the Articles of the Church of England, and upon further trust to remove from the pastoral charge of the congregation assembled in such chapel any minister not elected and having the approbation of a majority of the subscribers and regular communicants of the congregation, with a proviso that the election of a minister and the power of removing him and appointing a successor should be always vested in such majority, and that the trustees should have no power to interfere therewith unless as aforesaid, except a power, in the event of the congregation of the chapel diminishing so as not to appoint to themselves a minister, to send from time to time, as they should think fit, a minister to preach and perform divine service in the chapel, provided that his doctrinal sentiments should generally accord with the doctrines above mentioned, and with a power to the trustees for the time being, when their number should be decreased to five, to appoint new trustees, so that the number should constantly amount to thirteen persons.

(The Charities of Mary and Jane Stephens, set up in 1811 and 1814 were to be for the benefit of the chapel.)

 

EXTRACTS AND INFORMATION FROM THE CHURCH AND ACCOUNTS BOOKS OF THE INDEPENDENT CHAPEL, BEERALSTON

The Independent Chapel in Beeralston was opened August 14th, 1811, when a sermon was preached in the morning by the Rev.Herbert Mends, and in the evening by the Rev.Joseph Turnbull. This Chapel was supplied for several months by the Rev.Joseph Turnbull and afterwards by the occasional assistance of the Rev.J.Hook and others. The Rev.William Whillans began to preach here June 28th, 1812, and on May the 10th, 1815 he received an invitation from the subscribers and others to become their Minister.

On the 13th August 1815 a Church was formed in this place, to whom the Lord’s Supper was at the same time administered by the Rev.William Rooker of Tavistock. When the Church was formed the members of it agreed (in token of which they held up their hands) affectionately to request the Rev.William Whellans to undertake the Pastoral oversight of them in the Lord. On September 13th 1815 the Rev.William Whillans was ordained Pastor of the Independent Church, Beeralston. The Rev.Mr.Cope of Launceston introduced the work and asked the usual questions. The Rev.Mr.Burn of Stonehouse offered the ordination prayer. The Rev.Mr.Mends of Plymouth gave the charge from 2 Timothy: 4,5. The Rev.Mr.Rooker of Tavistock preached to the people from Phil: 1,27. The Rev.Mr.Winter of Saltash concluded in prayer. The Rev.Mr.Shepherd of Torpoint preached in the evening. Messrs.Hart and Mends prayed.

Mrs.Mary Stephens of Hewton, who died August 14th 1814, was buried in a vault in this chapel, August 17th, by the Rev.William Rooker. This solemnity was accompanied with prayer, an address and singing.

The Lease of the Chapel House was given to Mr.Burn of Bodmin, Cornwall, December 28th 1815.

Miss Jane Stephens of Beeralston, who died June 16th 1818, was buried in the same vault with Mrs.Mary Stephens of Hewton, June 20th, by the Rev.Mr.Willans. This solemnity was accompanied with prayer, an address and singing.

The ground for the chapel is 76 feet long from the Beer road, 56 feet wide, including 2 feet in Jane Channon’s garden. The enclosed garden on the south side of the chapel was taken to rent by Mr.Whillans at Ladyday 1817. The money advanced by Miss J.Stephens was £15. The garden is for the use of the resident minister till the money is paid. 4th May 1811.

Trust Deed of Beeralston Chapel. Trustees:
1. Rev.William Rooker, Tavistock
2. Rev.Herbert Mends, Plymouth
3. Rev.Judson, Plymouth Dock
4. Rev.Thomas White Windeatt, Totness
5. Rev.Richard Cope, Launceston
(All Dissenting Clergymen)
6. Thomas Wilson, Islington. Gentleman.
7. Thomas Baron, Bodmin. Upholsterer.
8. Richard Wills, Calstock. Gentleman.
9. Richard Derry, Plymouth. Linen Draper.
10. Thomas Wideatt, Jnr., Tavistock. Clothier.
11. John Stephens, Beerferris. Gentleman.
12. Lavington Evans, Ashburton. Tanner.
13. William Burd, Okehampton. Gentleman.
Power when reduced to 5 by death or declining to act to nominate others.

28th November 1811. Deed of Gift by Mrs.Mary Stephens and Miss Jane Stephens, of £400 to be invested in the 5% Navy Annuities.
1st October 1812. Bequest under the Will of Mrs.Mary Stephens, £100 to be invested in the 5% Annuities.
21st October 1814. Deed of Gift by Miss Jane Stephens of £600 5% Navy Annuities.
24th April 1815. Deed of Disclaimer of the Trust of Mr.Richard Derry.
23rd June 1816. Deed vesting the furniture now in the house occupied by Mr.Whillans in Trustees.

The house in which the Minister resides was given by Mrs.Stephens for that purpose, and was subsequently conveyed by the Rev.W.Whillans, by a Deed to Trustees, for the same end. The Deeds are in the possession of Alfred Rooker, Esq., of Plymouth.

In the year 1818, in consequence of the increase of the congregation, it was resolved to increase the accommodation by erecting an end gallery in the chapel, and at the same time to rearrange the pews, in two aisles being made instead of one central aisle. The chapel, from its commencement to 1820, had no pews, but only forms fixed with back rails and planked floor, and one alley in the middle with stone pavement. In 1820 the chapel was pewed all over at a cost of £20, with two alleys. John Maynard had the contract, and upon complaining that it had been too cheap was allowed a further 18s. and himself to give twelve months credit!

At the time of passing the “Tithe Commutation Act”, a warm dispute arose between the Incumbent of the Parish (i.e. the local Rector) and the farmers, the result of which was a large increase in the congregation at the chapel. This increase proving to be lasting, it was resolved, by the congregation, to enlarge the chapel by adding 20 feet to its length. This was effected in 1831.

In 1949 there was a large increase in membership of the church, which was probably due to an outbreak of cholera in 48/49 which brought many people to God.

By reason of increasing infirmities Mr.Whillans felt it to be his duty to resign the pastoral care of the church, which he did on the 25th March 1854 after a ministry of 42 years. The pulpit thus became vacant and was for a while supplied by the Students from the Western College.

On the 7th May 1854, the Rev.William Hill, then Minister of the Countess of Huntingdon Chapel, Bodmin, Cornwall, at the request of the church visited them with a view to settlement, and having supplied the pulpit for 4 Sabbaths was invited to undertake the Pastorate. Mr.Hill commenced his stated labours on the 9th July 1854. On the occasion of his public recognition as Pastor of the Church on the 20th December following, two services were held. In the morning a discourse on the nature and constitution of a Christian Church was delivered by the Rev.A.Hampson of Devonport. Some questions were proposed to the minister and prayer offered by the Rev.John Trevor of Plymouth. In the evening an address was given to the minister by the Rev.John Pyer of Devonport, and to the church by the Rev.Eliezer Jones of Plymouth.

The minister’s residence - the freehold of the church - being in a dilapidated state, it was resolved at a meeting held on the 22nd April 1859 that a new residence be built and that the following gentleman form a Committee to carry the resolution into effect:
R.S.Jackson, Esq., Surgeon, Chairman & Treasurer
Rev.W.Hill, Secretary
Capt.Thomas Foote of South Hooe Farm
Mr.George Borley of North Hooe Farm
Mr.Henry Withycombe of Hole Farm
Mr.James Sampson of Beeralston
Mr.S.D.Skewes of Beeralston, Chemist
It was an instruction to the committee to procure, if possible, a new site for the house. But after earnest endeavour to do so they had to report their failure, when it was determined to proceed with the building on the old site. Plans and specifications having been prepared by the Rev.W.Hill, the tenders of Mr.John Bray of Calstock, Carpenter and Mr.John Staddon of Calstock, Mason, were accepted for the sum of £227, the committee undertaking to provide stone and sand and the haulage of all materials. The foundation of the new house was laid August 21st 1860 and the minister and his family came in June 14th 1861. The entire cost of the house, which was papered and painted during 1863, was £301. The Treasurer having a balance in hand of about £15, it was resolved to vote £5 to the Sunday School Library and the remaining £10 was spent in repairs done to the chapel and providing lamps to supercede the candles by which it was heretofore lighted.

In the Western Daily Mercury of the 30th June 1860 there is the announcement of a bazaar being held by the chapel on the 11th July. It was to be held at Clamack (Clamoak) by kind permission of Mr. Jackman. The Emperor river steamer had been engaged to carry parties from Devonport, Saltash, Cargreen and Calstock at moderate charges. A tea would be held on the following day. The proceeds were to be for the rebuilding of the minister's residence. A band was to be in attendance.

In 1867 there is an intriguing entry for 'turning the seats to the Head of the chapel.' Cost £5 9s 7d. At that time the chapel had oil lamps, but still used candles as well. In 1887, when the schoolroom was added, two Sankey hymn books and two Congregational hymn books were purchased. The 'Good Templars' were regular users of the school hall.

Really intriguing is the fact that over 100 people became members during 1867 - mostly during May. If anyone can shed light on this I would be most grateful! Was there illness locally again, or was it down to an enthusiastic minister? Whatever it was, wouldn't it be lovely for it to happen again!

In the year 18?? it was resolved to reslate the western side of the chapel, which was done by Mr.W.Fuge, Mason, for the sum of £14. In 1871 the church determined to build a schoolroom on the site of the vestry and the courtyard in front of the chapel. The work was contracted for by Mr.H.T.Wilcocks of Beeralston for the sum of £164. The mason’s work was done by Mr.W.Curner. Before the lower room in the school building was finished, the committee entered into a fresh contract with Mr.Wilcocks for £125 to lay down a new floor and reseat the chapel, and with Mr.Curner to take down and rebuild the S.W. end of the chapel and put up a new ceiling. The wall to cost 5/6d per perch. The cost of Mr.Curner’s work was £36 12s 6d. The foundation stone of the new schoolroom was laid by Miss Catherine E.Hill on the 14th April 1871 and the chapel was re-opened for worship on the 22nd May 1872. Rev.Charles Wilson, M.A., of Sherwell Chapel, Plymouth, preached on the occasion — morning and evening.

[On Thursday May 23rd 1872 the following account of renovation work appeared in the Western Daily Mercury:

" About nine months since, in consequence of the dilapidated state of the Congregational Chapel, Beeralston, it was decided to thoroughly renovate it at a cost of £400. The chapel was built at the commencement of the present century by Miss Mary Jarvis (sic. Mrs Mary Stephens is the name I have. AP), who, at her death, left an endowment of £50 per annum on the chapel, and a free house for the support of the ministry.

About 20 years since, when the present minister (the Rev.William Hill) was appointed pastor to the chapel, the building was anything but in good condition, and there was no school attached to it. About ten months ago a school was built on a piece of ground belonging to the trustee, and the work of renovation of the chapel was proceeded with. The wall at the back of the pulpit, and the ceiling, was in a very dangerous state, and this had to be taken down and rebuilt. In the place of the old-fashioned high pews, those on a modern principle without doors have been substituted, and a railed platform, springing from a raised dias, has taken the place of the old pulpit. The work was entrusted to Mr.Henry Wilcocks, of Beeralston, and it has been carried out to the entire satisfaction of the congregation. During the carrying on of the improvements, services were conducted in the new school room, which is upwards of fifty feet long, with offices attached.

Towards the cost of the works, £350 was collected prior to their completion, and £25 of the deficiency was raised yesterday, leaving a similar sum as debt. The manner in which the congregation have assisted in the work cannot but be very gratifying to the pastor. The re-opening services were held yesterday, and were well attended. In the morning a steamer left Millbay and North Corner for Holes Hole, which is about a mile from Beeralston, but from some unaccountable circumstance very few availed themselves of the trip. A large number of visitors, however, from the neighbouring villages attended the services. Sermons were preached morning and evening by the Rev.Charles Wilson, M.A, of Sherwell Chapel, Plymouth. At the morning service the preacher took his text from the 20th chapter of St.John, part of the 17th verse — “Go to my brethren, and say unto them I send unto my father and your father, and to my God and your God.” In the course of a very impressive discourse, Mr.Wilson pointed out that when our Lord uttered the words of the text, notwithstanding that He had been forsaken and denied by His disciples, He addressed them as His brethren, but before He had only termed them His disciples and friends. The first remark suggested by the words of our Lord was that the message affirmed the closest relation between Him and those who trusted in Him. The text also affirmed the relation which existed between the disciples of Christ and God. Christ in His teaching endeavoured to impress upon His hearers a true conception of God, and it was the duty of the church to do this. Those who were connected with that church should, now that it was restored, make it their great work to endeavour to create in men’s minds a true impression of the character of their Heavenly Father. In conclusion, the rev. gentleman remarked that it must be highly gratifying to them to know that their place of worship had been restored and that nearly the whole of the amount of the cost had been raised. It was a testimony of the great love the congregation had for their church.

The text in the evening was taken from the 2nd Hebrews and 3rd verse, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation.” At the conclusion of the services collections were made on behalf of the funds." ]

In 1873 the committee entered into a fresh contract with Mr.Wilcocks and Mr.Fuge for the completion of the lower schoolroom, that work not entering into the first agreement The contract for this was £22 10s. In addition to the contract work, the chapel was furnished with lamps, a stove and covering for the aisles, the outside of the school painted and tables, etc., provided.

I found a delightful snippet in the Tavistock Gazette of the 15th November 1878: "The friends held their annual tea on Monday. Attendance was very good and by the liberality of the people the tea was entirely free of expense. In the evening a lecture was given by Mr.J.R. Eadie of Launceston on 'The Influence of Poetry'. Miss Linstead sang several sacred pieces. ('Resignation' and 'Low at Thy feet' must be heard to be appreciated.)"

W.H.Nall, Pastor, transferred from Barwell, Cambs. He received and accepted an invitation to the pastorate in Dec.1880 and began his ministry on the first Sunday in February 1881. At the Public Recognition some few weeks after, Mr.Jacob Hooper made a statement as to how the union had been effected. Letters were read from Messrs.T.T.Ball and Salisbury Ball, late deacons of the pastor, and from the Rev.Charles Wilson, M.A. of Sherwell, Plymouth. The pastor made a statement as to his faith and hopes. The Rev.T.Clark of Tavistock offered the prayer and gave a fraternal address. The Rev.Professor Anthony,M.A. of Western College gave an address to the Minister and in the evening the Rev.T.Hooper of Devonport gave an address to the congregation under the presidency of Prof.Anthony.

A large committee of management of church affairs had been formed of which Mr.H.N.Lay was the appointed Chairman and Secretary. A new up-to-date Church Book was bought in which to keep an account of the Church particulars and which was in the keeping of Mr.Lay on behalf of the Deacons. When the Pastor took possession of the Manse he received a list of the contents from Mr.Jackson of Clamoak.

At the end of the 19th century there was a private school at the Bakery in Bedford Street, Bere Alston; the mistress, a widow, was Mrs.Hill; she was the wife of the late Congregational minister. The children paid 2d per week to come to school.

In 1917 the chapel had further work carried out: hot water apparatus for heating was installed, as was an organ chamber. The lower school room was altered to provide a vestry and offices. 12s per annum was to be the organ-blower's fee. In 1920 250 Free Church Hymnals were purchased for use at 'popular services'.

Church Meeting, May 8th 1919: The Secretary presented the report of the special Committee which had been formed to consider the question of the Manse and certain furniture at the Manse. As to the furniture, it was stated that it had been sold to Messrs.Holmes & Co., of Plymouth for the sum of £60. This part of the report was adopted on the motion of Mr.A.White, seconded by Mr.W.Sherrell. The Committee unanimously recommended the Church to sell the present Manse situated in Fore Street, and to buy “Kenilworth” at Broad Park, the property of Dr.Hill, for the purpose of a residence for the Minister of the Church. Proposed by Mr.Toll and seconded by Mrs.Hatch and carried unanimously that the existing Manse be sold and that the special Committee be authorised to arrange for same. As to the position of the report relating to “Kenilworth”, it was stated that the committee had been made aware that his freehold house was for sale, had made further enquiries and found that it could be bought for £800, but as there were several prospective buyers it was deemed advisable to secure it, and that Messrs.J.Sherrell and S.Hatch had paid a deposit of £50. It was unanimously agreed that the action of the committee be confirmed and that the house in question be purchased from Dr.Hill for the sum of £800. This was resolved on the motion of Mr.A.White, seconded by Mr.W.Sherrell.On the motion of Mr.Wilcocks, seconded by Mr.Drake, it was resolved to ask the Devon Congregational Union, incorporated, to become Trustees for the property when required.

Church Meeting July 17th 1919: The Secretary reported on behalf of the committee appointed to dispose of the Manse in Fore Street that they had sold the property to Mr.W.Squance of Underways, Bere Alston, for the sum of £275.

Church meeting August 2nd 1923: The thanks of the meeting was accorded to Mrs.Toll for the gift of material for making a new Communion Table. Mr. Cording had made the table. A cut glass bowl had been donated for baptisms and a piano had been purchased for the schoolroom.

It is recorded that the church was lit by electricity in the winter of 1923, following the purchase of a Lelley Lighting Set.

1927 saw further electricity developments when the church applied for electricity from the new Bere Alston Power Station instead of using their own equipment. The eventual agreed charge - not agreed until 1933 - was £1 1s 8d per quarter plus 1 1/2 d per unit. Electric lights were eventually installed in the manse in 1929. The ladies' cloakroom at the chapel acquired them in the same year!

In 1931 the behaviour of the young people before the evening service was apparently causing concern. Nothing new under the sun! It was a notable year in other respects - mains water was to be connected to the church and manse.

The church agreed to become affiliated to the Plymouth and District Council of Congregationalists in 1937. The following year there was a caravan mission to Bere Alston.

Records for 1942 show that the number of Deacons at the church had been increased to eight. The Women's Bright Hour was flourishing; an Roll of Honour with the names of those serving in the war was to be placed in the vestibule; the sum of £15 was received from the Evacuation Committee.

1945 saw the formation of a Young People's Guild for those aged 15 to 30. In January 1946 is a note that the Deacons were to obtain a new boiler as soon as possible so that worship could be resumed in the church. A Congregational Guild started on the 6th November. The Band of Hope receives a mention in 1949.

1952 saw the purchase of the organ and pulpit from Totnes Congregational Church for £110. The old organ was sold for £120. The new organ meant that the position of organ-blower was no longer needed. Redundancy in church! An electric boiler was installed for heating purposes - a subject, obviously, that always warmed their hearts! Other renovation work was carried out and the church re-opened on the 29th May. Later in the year it was decided to convert the manse into two flats, one for the minister. It was a rather busy year, as the new minister, Rev Carr, did not want the church to continue to accept a Congregational Union grant - a matter which resulted in the resignation of five deacons, two of whom had served for 36 and 51 years respectively. I note that the minister left the following year.

Pew rents continued until well into the 20th century. This was the norm in all chapels, where members of the congregation would pay a set amount each year for their special seat. (Hence a stranger could well and truly be told off for sitting in 'their seat', presumably!) It was finally agreed to end the system in 1954. Also in that year is mention of the Women's Fellowship, whose motto was 'To help one another and the church'. They had 25 members and met on Tuesday afternoons. (The only difference now is that the meeting is also open to men!) It was decided to form a childen's Pilot's Company in the same year. There was also an Old Folks' Club.

In 1958 a further communion table was donated, presumably to replace the previous one. The width of the aisles was apparently causing problems at weddings and funerals (the church was registered for weddings in the 1920s) and widening was discussed. This was still being discussed in 1961, when it was proposed that 15 inches be taken off the side pews. This was done, together with other restorative work. The memorial plaques (to the two original ministers and Mary Stephens) were moved to the back wall. Despite work being done on a large part of the building, in 1962 part of the vestibule fell down and had to be repaired with plasterboard! It was proposed in that year that the church be left open from 10-4 for prayer each day.

In 1964, when the memberhip was at 44, it was agreed that full fellowship, including the right to vote, was to be accorded to Junior Church members. Concern was expressed that a well at the back of the property, from which the church was entitled to draw water, had been locked, and the matter was taken up with the landowner. t was also recommended that the manse be sold. This was done in 1965, and Lyndhurst in Station Road purchased in 1966 as a replacement.

From May 1966 the Congregational Union of England and Wales became the Congregational Church of England and Wales.

In view of the current debate on public transport it is interesting to note that in 1967 it was proposed that "in view of the present state of public transport, only car owners should be appointed to Bere Alston for exchange of pulpit services"! Obviously not a good year, as there were also reports of mice in the church.

'The Informals' was formed in 1968. This was a committee comprising members from the Methodist, Anglican and Congregational churches in Bere Alston, which hoped to hold fortnightly joint services, followed by a social.

In 1969 the manse moved again, this time to Broad Park Road.

1970 was a notable year - the one in which the union of the Presbyterian and Congegational churches was due to take place - becoming the United Reformed Church. It was also notable for the Bere Alston Church as it had a visit from the Plymouth Central Hall Choir - including a choir member who went on to become a member of the church some 25 years later - and who created and wrote this web site!! Life is interesting! In the same year the now familiar boiler became oil-fired - but the jacket was delayed by the postal strike in 1971.

Appended below are some additional facts which may be of interest.

In the 1820s the doorkeeper was paid 14s per half-year. (In those days one of the duties of the doorkeeper was to keep dogs - which were allowed in church then - under control.) There are frequent mentions in accounts at that time of the purchase of strings for violin and bass viol. Candles were a regular purchase, together with snuffers. An interesting entry in 1825 was 2s 3d for beer for the masons! Singing books were purchased for 4s in 1830 - but it seems a music book didn't follow until 1833! An harmonium was purchased for £18 in 1856.

The chapel was originally set back from the road with a pull-in area for horse and trap, etc. but on the building of the school room (see above) it fronted immediately onto the road without pavement - probably less of a problem in the 1800s than it is nowadays!

Sankey hymn books were purchased for the chapel in 1894 for the huge price of 6s 11d! Also ranking among the payments to be wondered at was another huge sum of 6d paid to Mr Sleep in 1908 'for carriage of box to and from field for tea in May'!

The first manse was where the present Post Office is and was there until the end of World War II.

During the war, purchases included blackout material and extra war insurance. One of the groups meeting in the church was called 'Potato meetings'. Any information would be appreciated!

It was in 1989 that the Bere Alston Methodist and United Reformed congregations united in the existing United Reformed Church building and subsequently became the Bere Alston United Church. The Methodist Church building in Bedford Street was considered to be in need of too much repair work to be viable and was subsequently sold for conversion to a private dwelling. At that time both congregations were relatively small and consisted largely of older folk. A couple of years later numbers had fallen still further and there was a question over the future of the church.

In 1993 the congregation took a great step of faith and agreed to have the Fore Street building completely renovated. The cost was immense, but with grants and fund-raising it became possible. At about the same time there was a large influx of younger families with children and the membership has continued to grow since then. The renovation work was completed in 1995. The church owes so much to those few 'older' members who prayerfully took that step of faith. Without their prayer and faith the church would almost certainly have closed.

They have since purchased the cottage next to the church, which is now a cafe and meeting place called Hope Cottage.

For photos of some former ministers of the church, click here.

For photos of the church before and during renovation work in 1993, click here.

Click here for a list of members from 1815 (the first members) to 1911, together with dates and some additional notes.

There are baptismal records from the earliest times (the earliest being copies) and a list of members.

Ann Parsons