Webpage created: July 23, 2017.
Webpage updated: July 23, 2017
TABERNACLE / OLD TABERNACLE
The founder of the Congregational movement in Plymouth was Mr Andrew Kinsman, who was born in Tavistock on November 17th 1724. Having discovered God through reading the collected sermons of the Calvinistic Methodist, Mr George Whitefield (1714-1770), who he was fortunate enough to meet in 1744, he left home and walked the fourteen miles to Plymouth. There, while still only 19 years of age, he set up shop as a grocer, his father's trade, at number 6 Breton Side.
He started to invite people to come to the small back room of the shop to hear him read a sermon. This became a daily event and as the number of listeners grew, he came to the conclusion that he needed to erect a building solely for this purpose. In the meantime, he and his followers met in one of two rooms in the Town that were licensed for independent worship on October 2nd 1744. One of the houses belonged to Mr Richard Barrett and was situated in the parish of Saint Andrew's while the other was the home of Mr John Stevens and was in Charles parish.
The Tabernacle, or "temporary shed", was built in the garden at the rear of his shop and was opened in 1745. The building was paid for by public subscription although Kinsman, during his lifetime, regarded it as his own property. However, in his will he left the meeting-house on trust for the use of the congregation and their successors but this was contested by his eldest son and the will was set aside.
Whitefield preached at the Tabernacle on February 15th 1749 after journeying from Kingsbridge in south Devon.
Kinsman also used to preach at Devonport and in 1751 he secured a room in Queen Street that became known as the Lower Room. When, in 1771, he made over his grocery business to his eldest son, he moved to Dock, as it was then known, and developed this congregation.
The entrance way to the site of the Tabernacle still exists in Breton Side, between two shops opposite the former Salvation Army Hall, now the snooker hall. It was formerly spanned by a wrought iron nameplate "The Old Tabernacle".
Capable of seating 400 people, the building measured 96 feet by 38 feet.
It has already been mentioned that Kinsman left the Tabernacle to the congregation. He died on February 28th 1793 and probate was granted to his widow, Joanna Kinsman, on September 11th. However, his eldest son, who inherited the remainder of the estate, took umbrage at the intention of the pastor in charge to get married. As a result, he took possession of the building by locking the Chapel and sitting at a window armed with loaded pistols. Thus it was that in 1795 the congregation were evicted from their own place of worship and they dispersed to other chapels in the Town.
In 1797 the former members of the congregation met to discuss erecting a new chapel in which they could once again worship together and their story is continued in the New Tabernacle.