Webpage created: August 02, 2017.
Webpage updated: August 02, 2017
MUTLEY WESLEYAN METHODIST CHAPEL
This well-known Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was located on the east side of Mutley Plain, at the junction with Belgrave Road. It no longer exists.
The first chapel for the residents of the Mutley area was described by the Western Daily Mercury in 1880 as 'a little, low-roofed, black building' in the corner of a field on the way up to Mutley Plain from Cemetery Road.
It was originally a stable and carpenter's shop but it was fitted up as a chapel by a Mr Langford at the modest cost of around £50. The building was about 60 feet in length and could accommodate 100 worshippers. It was well ventilated and supplied with gas.
It was formally opened for Divine Worship on the afternoon of Monday November 8th 1869. The first service took place on Wednesday November 10th and was conducted by the Reverend C Haydon.
As was traditional, a tea was provided afterwards, supervised by Mrs Sellick, Mrs Burnard, Mrs Rice senior, Mrs Rice junior, Mrs Langford, Mrs Bruford, Miss Veale, and Miss Spry. In the evening a public meeting was held, which was so well attended that many people were unable to gain admission to the Chapel.
A small group met to worship there until Mr Langford died and interest waned. Eventually a Mr Hawke took over and meetings were re-started, along with a Sunday School. This small congregation was brought to an abrupt halt by a small-pox epidemic, when many local activities were suspended. When meetings re-started yet again, there were only four or five members and only as many children in the Sunday School.
In due course, Mr Hawke was joined by a Mr Mara and together they worked hard to increase the congregation. They must have succeeded for in the late 1870s a collection was made that raised £80. This they used to provide a gallery, and to make the interior more comfortable and presentable. One of the improvements was to plaster the old blue-washed walls, which it seems had a habit of coming off on the black coats normally worn on Sundays. No work was carried out on the exterior because they knew they were there on suffrage. No-one knew who owned the building but they were aware that there was one life on it, that of an elderly clergyman in Cornwall.
By 1880 there were 84 members of the congregation and 130 children attending the Sunday School but sittings in the chapel for only 72 people. The uncertainty over the occupation of the building and the larger band of worshippers gave strength to plans to erect a more permanent structure of their own. A plot of land on Mutley Plain was thus purchased for the sum of £500.
Architect Mr H J Snell, of Courtenay Street in the centre of Plymouth, had been responsible for the design of the chapels at King Street and Ham Street and was therefore chosen to design the new building for Mutley. He submitted several designs and eventually a Gothic building was decided upon, built of limestone with Portland stone dressings. There were discussions about whether or not to erect a spire or simply save £200 or £300 by asking the builder to stop short at the preparation for it. In the event, the tower was built up to the Chapel roof and surmounted with a 'snuff-box'.
Mr P S Macliver laid the memorial stone on Wednesday May 26th 1880 and the Chapel was dedicated on Wednesday October 12th 1881.
When completed, at a cost of a little under £8,000, the building comprised the Chapel accommodating 900 worshippers with, in the basement, a large schoolroom, an infants' classroom, eight other classrooms and the vestries.
The organ was inaugurated on the evening of Wednesday January 11th 1882.
In 1898 a new wing was added containing five rooms, a parlour and a lecture hall.
Finally, in May 1902 Mr A R Debnam started work on constructing the Portland and limestone spire. Although regarded as rather short -- 126 feet from ground to weather vane -- it was considered as being very graceful. The money for it was bequeathed by Mrs Jabes Shepheard of Ford Park, upon her death in 1900.
The Chapel was also to be fitted with electric light and redecorated before it was to be re-opened in May 1903.
A falling congregation brought about the Chapel's demolition in the 1980s and it has since been replaced with a block of shops and offices.
|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.|