Bere Ferrers Bible Christian/Methodist Chapel

Bere Ferrers Chapel

The chapel is the white building on the left of the picture. (It was regularly white-washed.)

A causeway connects the village (behind us as we look at the view) with the church and

other buildings in view. There used to be fords as we look further upriver to connect with

the Maristow and Plymouth side of the river.

In June 1868 the Bere Ferrers Bible Christian Chapel was dedicated. Previously to this, the members of this church met for worship in the kitchen of Bere Barton, where the farmers were John Williams and Joe Trevethan. The earliest records show that the kitchen was used in September 1851 and there were 23 members. By 1856 membership had increased to 90, possibly due to the opening of a mine. The numbers were stationary until 1860, when they gradually decreased to 40 by June 1865, increasing again to 72 in 1868. (How did they all fit into the kitchen?) The following report, headed Beeralstone, comes from the Bible Christian Magazine of 1850: (It appears to confuse Bere Ferrers with Bere Alston, not separating the two. Also, the parish was actually called Beerferris!)

This was an ancient Borough, sending two members to the House of Commons, previous to the passing of the Reform Bill. It contains a population of more than two thousand persons. There are several silver and lead mines in full work in this parish; which induced some of our members from Cornwall to remove here some years ago, and this led to our commencing preaching here about five years since. But as the place for preaching was obscure, but few people attended at first, and as most of our local preachers were living at a distance, when the weather was unfavourable the friends had to conduct their own services. Messrs.J.Williams and J.Trevethan, having taken the Beer Barton (Beer Ferrers. AP) and coming there to reside, although two miles from Beeralston, were able to render considerable assistance toward helping forward the cause of God there, as well as opening their own house for the preaching of the gospel. This operated as an impetus to our causes in both places. During the winter 1848-9 the Lord graciously poured out his Spirit, and a great many people were converted...

The foundation stone of the chapel was laid on 18th July 1867 by John Williams; Mr.Hill, the minister of the Independent Chapel at Bere Alston, amongst others, “offered prayer” and about 400 people were present. Records alter from Beer Barton to Beertown in June 1868. In 1873 the numbers were back to an average of 25 to 30. The following report, headed 'Bible Christian Chapel, Beer Town' - which was another name for what is now Bere Ferrers - appeared in the Western Daily Mercury on September 16th 1869 following the opening of the newly-added schoolroom:

Beertown, which is very pleasantly situated on the river Tavy, near Maristow, was yesterday the scene of more than usal excitement. The parish of Beer Ferris consists of Beeralstone and Beer Town, which are about two miles apart, and whilst the former has for some time possessed a chapel, the other up to within the past 12 or 18 months has not been so fortunate, the Dissenters in the place, who were principally Bible Christians, being obliged to worship in the farmhouse of Beer Barton.

Some years since an effort was made to build a chapel in Beer Town, but through some means or another it failed, and things remained as they were till about two years since, when another, and what proved to be a more successful, attempt ws made. A piece of land on the southern extrmeity of the Shute Coombe estate was kindly given bu the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe, and on it was built a very pretty chapel, which was opened for public worhsip in April 1868. The chapel was built from the designs of and by Mr. Knight of Gunnislake, and it is capable of affording accommodation to about 240 persons.

The children in the town have hitherto received their education in a small and inconvenient school room attached to the Church, but a large and commodious school roo, has now been added to the Bible Christian Chapel which will hold between 80 and 100 children, and it is intended to procure a certificated schoolmistress to officiate there. The school room, which is well lighted and ventilated, is 30 feet long by 18 feet broad, and its opening yesterday was celebrated by a bazaar in aid of the funds for paying off the debt on the building account. The aggregate cost of the chapal and schoolroom has been about £500 fo which sum about £250 was raised previous to yesterday, when the bazaar, etc, realised £50, so that there now remains a sun of about £200 to be cleared off.

The chapel is quite a pleasing addition to the town, and it is a prominent object on going up the beautiful river Tavy. Great preparations were made, as it was expected that about 200 or 300 Bible Christians would come up from the Three Towns, for whose accommodation the river steamer Fairy was run from Devonport, but the expectations were far from being realised, as only about forty or fifty came from that direction, which is chiefly to be accounted for by the unsettled state of the weather. The members of that denomination in the neighbourhood, however, made up for this disappointment by mustering in very strong numbers at the bazaar, and at the tea meeting and service in the chapel in the evening. The bazaar was held in the schoolroom, which presented a very pretty appearance, the stalls being well filled with articles, both ornamental and useful, the majority of which were the work of and were contributed by ladies in the district, whilst some of the articles were sent from London, Plymouth and Devonport.

A novelty as regards bazaars, and one that shows that the donors' hearts were in the work in hand, was presented in the shape of sheep, geese, fowls, ducks, a pig, etc: the four sheep and the pig being given by Messrs. Trevethan and Williams of Beer Barton. Mr.Trevethan, jnr, of Beer Barton rendered efficient and praiseworthy service during the day in connection with the bazaar. The ladies who presided at the stalls were Mrs.Hill, Beeralston; Miss Wills, Shute Coombe; Miss Roseveare, Beeralston; Miss M.Trevethan, Stone; Miss Proctor, Beer Town; Miss Bloye, Hallowell; Miss E.Doidge, Beer Town; Miss Horn, Parsonage; Miss Tribble, Beer Town; Mrs.Thomas, Beeralston; Miss Honey, Beeralston; Miss Coram, Beeralston; Miss Mayard and Miss Peek.

About 250 people attended the bazaar and tea, and at the service in the evening Rev.J.Tremelling of Plymouth preached.

Rev.Arthur Beddow, in his history of Bere Ferrers, stated that although it met in a Methodist building, the school was always a Church of England school. (He also stated that the school opened in 1877, which is not quite accurate.) Two old ladies remembered being at the school and that the Rector, the Rev.F.T.Wintle, visited the school every Monday morning, but did not teach. In 1896 it moved to a new building, the land being given by the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe. The school was built of stone from a quarry in Vinegar Hill. In September 1933 the school closed and became the Church Hall.

During the Second World War, evacuees made their home in the schoolroom. Once upon a time, that schoolroom was filled with children worshipping each Sunday, often learning their songs or Scriptures for the annual Anniversary Services, held in June.

The Bible Christian Church belonged to the Callington Circuit until 1910, when it joined the Tavistock Circuit and was known as the Methodist Church. In 1920 they purchased a new harmonium to accompany their worship, their harmonium having become inadequate for their needs.

Some interesting dates from the record books:

1922 Renovation work carried out on the chapel. It was reopened in September.

1934 First mention in accounts book of a bill for electricity, which was for 7s. The bill for the wiring of the electric lighting cost £18 13s 8d. It was decided that the cost of installation of electric heating woudl be too expensive, so 3 Valor oil heaters were purchased.

1941 £6 5s 6d received from the War Damage Commission. The Trustees were asked for permission for a boys' club to be run in the schoolroom, but they did not approve of one evening per week being given to purely secular amusements and suggested founding a Guild of Christian Endeavour for them instead. A request was made that the schoolroom be heated by electricity, but this was also turned down by the trustees as they thought it warm and comfortable with the Valor stoves.

1946 Annual Church outing was to Goodrington by train. (Later outings were by bus to Looe, Teignmouth, Paignton, Exmouth, Bude, etc.) The Sunday School pupils were given chocolate at Christmas - and even Easter eggs at Easter on occasions. (Don't let your children today read that!) A New Year tea was held each year.

1947 Renovation work carried out.

1949 The premises were registered on the New Modle Deed as from the 3rd July 1950.

1952 The offer of the organ from Bere Alston Congregational Church was turned down.

1953 Suggestion of a youth club turned down. A Wesley Guild to be formed instead. In the same year it was agreed to have community hymn singing before the service.

1954 There were only 17 members. The time of the service was moved from 5.45 to 6 p.m. to suit preachers travelling by rail. One of the stewards to close the service to allow preachers to have time to catch the train back!

1962-3 Donations received towards the cost of a 'modern convenience'.

1967 Seat rents were still in existence, although only the names of one couple and one other member are mentioned. Back in 1920 there were only two names.

In 1968 the Centenary service was held on Trinity Sunday, June 9th. Many attended this service, and among them was the Rector and members of the Church of England. An electric organ was installed in time for the service and the building was decorated in blues and pinks for the church and pale lilac and pale green for the schoolroom. Further services were on June 5th at 7.15 p.m. (when about 15 other churches joined in An Evening of Praise and Thanksgiving, led by the Superintendent Minister Rev.W.Galloway-Smith, aided by the Rector Rev.A.J.C.Beddow, followed by supper) and the following Sunday at 6 p.m. (with the same reverend gentlemen in attendance with special singing by the Bere Alston choirs and the Bere Ferrers Choir).

1982 The number fo members had fallen to four.

1984 The Chapel was used by the members of St. Andrew's Church whilst their building was being renovated.

The chapel was famous for its Sankey evenings right up until its closure, the singing - at least in latter years - being followed by a pasty supper. The first Sankey Evening mentioned in records was in 1956, after which they were held twice a year.

1992 The chapel was sold.

Ann Parsons