Paignton (Palace Avenue) Methodist Church

Palace Avenue, Paignton, Devon, United Kingdom

In the Beginning

1800 A time to be Born

Slavery had been abolished; the Duke of Wellington was fighting the Peninsular War; Napoleon invaded Austria; Spencer Percival was Prime Minister and Thomas Jefferson was President of the United States of America; Isambard Kingdom Brunel was 3 years old; Joseph Sanders and William Wood lived in Paignton.

Who were Sanders and Wood? They were Wesleyans. Sanders applied for a meeting house certificate for the house of William Wood. The year was 1809. There was a strong Wesleyan presence at Barton, where a chapel had been built in 1802. The Word had spread across the bay to Brixham, and open air meetings were held on the quay. Either of these sources may have influenced Joseph Sanders to make his application.

The next certificate, issued on behalf of the Bishop of Exeter, was dated 8th May 1824, for the house of John Footman. He was a naval man, serving on HMS 'Royal George' at the time of his marriage to Paignton born Elizabeth Dalton in March, 1809. They lived in Fisher Street with their two sons, William and John. John senior was born in Middlesex in 1777. Since he became a Greenwich pensioner, it is likely that he had served during the Napoleonic War sea battles. It may have been injuries which qualified him for a pension. Perhaps he was one of those put ashore at Goodrington for treatment in the naval hospital, and there met Elizabeth. He eventually moved to Winner Street and lived to a ripe old age.

Matthew Henry Churchward received the Sacrament of Infant Baptism on the 4th of May 1845. The son of Thomas and Maria, he was born on the 18th of March in that year. The family lived in Winner Street where Thomas was in business as a cider merchant.

Matthew's is the first entry in the Paignton Wesleyan-Methodist Baptismal Register. It is possible that earlier baptisms were recorded in a general register which was usually carried from town to town by the Minister.

It would be more than twenty years before the Torquay Wesleyan Circuit came into being. Meanwhile, the Teignmouth and Newton Abbot circuit would continue to provide preachers'. It was quite common for the laymen to walk the twenty-odd mile round trip on a Sunday, preaching at three services en route.

Stone steps behind a house in Winner Street led to one room used. This is where Howard Terrace, or numbers 57-67 stand today. In the true Wesley tradition, a few were gathered for mutual comfort and to encourage one another to grow in grace. Their fellowship included the Lovefeast, which continued to be a feature of the Circuit Plan for a further 50 years. A simple meal of plain cake and water, the sharing of the two-handled Loving Cup and personal testimony were elements of the celebration that John Wesley recommended "In order to increase .... a grateful sense of all God's mercies .... that we might eat bread as the early Christians did with gladness and singleness of heart".

Recollections of those early meetings were recorded about fifty years later (in 1896) when some of those present were still worshipping with the Society.

Just a few doors away from the Meeting house, lived 25 year old Mr Deller, the Paignton born son of a labourer. Already as a plumber, painter and glazier, he now opened a store. He could not have known what part that action would play in the future of Methodism in Paignton.

Winner Street was one of the most densely populated areas of the little town. The cob-houses were a constant fire hazard. There were several workshops and stores and two Inns.

Most of the water supply came from a leat which originally irrigated the 13th century vineyard on Wynered or Winner Hill. The ambitious system was nearing the end of its mile course from Westerland. By aqueducts and leats it wound its way through Blagdon and Great Parks before disappearing into an underground culvert at Primley. It surfaced again at the west end of Winner Street, on its journey via the vicarage garden to the corn mill in Littlegate Road. Here it supplemented the natural spring from Well Street before flowing down to the sea.

The 1840's were hard years. A succession of poor harvests and potato crop failures brought suffering and distress. Nevertheless, from its small beginnings the little housegroup was gaining support.

Copy of Certificate

A copy of the certificate issued for the Bishop of Exeter, registering a place of worship.
Dated 8th May 1824

Copyright © Sylvia Tancock 1990 (Reproduced here with the permission of the Author)
If you wish to use any of the material please contact us first to obtain permission.

Something To Sing About

The Story of Methodism in Paignton in the Wesleyan Tradition

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