Webpage created: July 23, 2017.
Webpage updated: July 23, 2017
HAM STREET WESLEYAN METHODIST CHAPEL
Ham Street Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was originally in Ham Street until that became part of Ebrington Street. The Chapel was between North Street and Gasking Street.
When both the old Wesley Methodist Chapel and the more modern Ebenezer Methodist Chapel both outgrew their accommodation, the Methodists took the decision to erect a new building on a site in Ham Street previously occupied by six small houses and North Street House, the home of the late Mr Fox.
In consideration of a payment of £1,208 from the local authority, the trustees gave up some of the site they had purchased for £2,824 in order that North Street could be widened from 12 to 30 feet and Gasking Street from 16 to 30 feet.
It was estimated that the cost of the site and the structure was to be £11,000 and the building would seat 1,100 worshippers (of which 800 seats would be free), with 800 children in the Sunday School. The architect was Mr H J Snell, of Plymouth, and the contractors, Messrs Blatchford & Sons, of Tavistock, took up the contract on March 27th 1877.
The foundation stone of what was to be known as the New Wesley Chapel was laid on Wednesday September 12th 1877. At 2.30pm the Ministers, friends and Sunday School children gathered at the Ebenezer Chapel, from where they marched to the new site, where the stone was laid by Mr E Allen of Ivybridge using a handsome silver trowel presented to him by the senior circuit steward, Mr T Bunker. Various local newspapers and commemorative documents were placed in a bottle beneath the stone.
A second stone was then laid by Mr E James and a third, on behalf of the ladies, by Mrs Spooner. Mr P Gentle laid a stone on behalf of the Sunday scholars, many of whom then came forward to lay purses containing their individual donations on top of the stone. This apparently amounted to an amazing £69 16s 7d, which compared very favourably to that collected on the first three stones of £169 0s 4d.
As usual, the day concluded with tea, in the Ebenezer School, and a public meeting in the evening, at which Mr J Smith presided.
It was constructed at a cost of £18,000 and was planned to be opened in September 1878 but adverse circumstances caused many delays in the construction and it was, in fact, opened on Wednesday May 21st 1879. A prayer meeting was held at 7am, followed at 11am by the Dedicatory Service and luncheon in the school-room.
The frontage of the Chapel was enclosed by a semi-circular line of ornamental railings, within which were planted shrubs. Extending along each side of the building was a dwarf wall. Entering by rather lofty gates, supported by piers, each of which was a single block of limestone, access to the Chapel was by means of a broad flight of granite steps. It was built of dressed local limestone but with a Portland stone Corinthian portico supported upon six columns. The dressings, columns and cornices were also of Portland stone. The doors in the wings flanking the central block gave admission to the stairs up to the gallery.
Inside, there was a large entrance vestibule leading to the two doors into the Chapel itself. This was well lit by twenty-four windows on either side and three more at the end of the building. The pure white of the walls and ceiling contrasted with the straw-coloured pitch pine fittings. The main hall, which measured eighty-four feet in length by fifty feet in width, sloped by 18 inches towards the rostrum at the far end, which was supported on four carved arches. The organ loft was to the rear of the rostrum, over the vestries. These comprised a large room intended for society meetings and a smaller, minister's vestry to the left. There was also a room for the choir and the access to the organ loft.
The arched frame of the organ loft was semi-circular, suitably moulded, and supported on each side by a shaft of richly-veined marble, springing from a boldly carved corbel of freestone. Mr Trevenen, of Plymouth, was responsible for all the carving throughout the building.
Messrs Moon & Sons supplied the organ at the cost of £500 and although it was not yet fully tuned, it was played at the opening service by Mr J E Moon. The instrument was a full tone manual, from CC to G and had 27 sounding stops, with a three rank manipule. The great organ also benefited from a a third large scale, the psaune, plus harmonic and saube flutes.
Two large school-rooms were provided and although they were partially below road level, they were well lit. The main room was 70 feet in length by 50 feet and could accommodate some 500 children. The other room was for the use of the infants, about 120 in number, and measured 37 feet by 23. There were also several classrooms. A separate staircase led directly from the school to the children's gallery over the entrance vestibule.
One of the buildings that formerly stood on the site was retained as a lodge for the chapel-keeper.
An extension to the Sunday School was opened on Wednesday November 25th 1897. In the basement were three rooms for the use of the caretaker, along with the heating apparatus for the Chapel. There was also a large room measuring 38 feet by 27 feet which was to be used on Sunday evenings to provide a school for the poor and neglected children. On the first floor was another room of similar dimensions, with a raised platform, which could accommodate 250 children along with three class-rooms of 16 feet by 15 feet. The second floor was a lecture hall for 250 people: it was expected that this would be used by the young women presently meeting in the Chapel. There was also a church parlour, 32 feet by 23 feet, with ladies' and gents' cloakrooms.
The Ham Street Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was destroyed by fire on Sunday September 12th 1937, after which the congregation moved to the Central Hall. It was never rebuilt and remained as a significant ruin after the Second World War, giving rise to the myth that it had been destroyed during the Blitz. During the 1950s the school-room in the basement became Selleck's Wesley Restaurant, run by Messrs Hill, Palmer & Edwards Ltd.