Webpage created: July 23, 2017.
Webpage updated: July 23, 2017
EBENEZER METHODIST CHAPEL
Ebenezer Methodist Chapel was situated in Saltash Street, Plymouth. It is still in existence as the Plymouth Central Methodist Hall.
When the congregation outgrew the Wesley Methodist Chapel, which itself had been built to relieve the pressure on the original chapel in Mud Lane, they started to look around for a site for a larger chapel. In 1809 the Old Town Gate was demolished and this opened up the chance of purchasing land outside the congestion of the Town.
The site they chose, possibly because no-one else wanted it, was the former burial ground of the plague victims. The land had been purchased in 1633 by a Mr William Rowe and had changed hands several times before it fell into the ownership of Captain Fanshaw, Commissioner of the Royal Dockyard at Plymouth-Dock.
On Friday June 14th 1816 the foundation stone was laid by the Reverend William Burgess, who in his remarks said: 'The Trustees have unanimously agreed that the chapel shall be called the Ebenezer -- the stone of help -- God hath helped us and He will continue to help us'. A little boy was placed upon the stone that day and christened Ebenezer. The site was surrounded by trees in which there was a well-stocked rookery. The trustees publicly warned everyone against attempting to destroy the birds and even sought and obtained an apology from one unlucky sportsman for infringing those regulations.
Ebenezer Wesleyan Chapel was opened for worship on September 24th 1817, the ceremony being undertaken by the Reverends Thomas Roberts, Josiah Hill and S Drew. Two men dressed in long black cloaks were employed by the trustees solely to prevent unauthorised persons from occupying the gallery pews.
The collection taken on that opening day amounted to £209 15s 5¾d. On the following Sunday it was just £8 15s 3½d. Additional income was derived from providing graves, which brought in 15 shillings in June 1817 and 10 shillings in September 1817.
The cost of constructing the new Chapel was given as £6,350 but there were no facilities for a Sunday School.
Some major work was carried out in 1860. This involved the removal of the staircases outside the chapel and turn it into an enclosed vestibule, allowing the inner porch to be fitted up with an additional 70 pews. The children's seats which were in the end gallery were also to be removed and replaced with open seating. This would then be used by the military at Sunday morning services and free on all other occasions. It would accommodate about 90 worshippers. The plans were prepared by Mr Foster of Plymouth and the contractor was to be Mr Vernon, also of Plymouth, whose tender of £690 was accepted.
Renovation work was carried out in 1892 and a lecture hall and classrooms were opened on Wednesday January 22nd 1908.
The Chapels congregation fluctuated over the years until a disaster struck a sister Chapel in Ebrington Street. On the night of Sunday September 12th 1937 the New Wesley Chapel was destroyed by fire and its congregation moved to the Ebenezer, albeit in the firm belief that their own Chapel would be quickly rebuilt.
As it turned out, the Reverend W E Chivers thought differently and persuaded everybody that it would be better to create a new Mission Church right in the centre of Plymouth, at the Ebenezer Chapel. There was a lot of debate on the subject but eventually this idea was accepted and on Sunday April 16th 1939 the Ebenezer closed its doors in preparation for conversion. The Minister, the Reverend J Leslie Nix, led a day of special events to mark the occasion: a Farewell Rally at 3pm; a Re-union Tea at 4.30pm, presided over by Doctor Rosa Bale; an Organ Recital by the Ebenezer's long serving organist, Mr David Parkes, at 6pm; a United Farewell Service at 6.30pm and finally Holy Communion at 8pm.
During the conversion, the pulpit, some of the wooden pews and the organ from the school room went to Wotter Methodist Chapel. Services were held in the school rooms while the work went on.
Finally on a gloriously sunny Wednesday May 1st 1940 the new Plymouth Methodist Central Hall was opened.