Paignton (Palace Avenue) Methodist Church

Palace Avenue, Paignton, Devon, United Kingdom

Sandstone and Stained Glass

1890 - A time to build

The school-chapel was built on a corner of the site, allowing for the church of the future to be erected facing the gardens. It was registered for public worship on the 31st of May 1890, and for the solemnisation of marriage on the 24th July 1890. The signatory was the Revd Edward Ashton Jones. The church was insured for £600 and only seated 200 until the gallery was installed.

The returns for 1890 show an average increase in membership of 3 members each quarter. Seat Rents for the year produced £41.19.6.

The life of the society broadened. Patterns were set. Good Friday teas became an annual and renowned event. In 1893 it was followed by a lime-light lecture by the Superintendent, Revd G Beebee on the subject 'Jesus and Jerusalem'.

Adam, Mortimore and Washington Singer had endowed the cottage hospital. From 1891, an annual Hospital Sunday was held at Palace Avenue to support the work.

Whitsun, Chapel Anniversary, Harvest, Christmas, Watchnight and Covenant Sunday all became regular dates in the diary. Sacrament was still celebrated only once a month, and the Fast Day continued.

There was another 'first' when William Palmer, a 28 year old letter carrier, married Fanny Tucker Heath on the 7th November 1892.

At the Annual Meeting in March 1891, Mr Lambshead read the balance sheet of the building and site, and stated that the full amount had been raised for the first phase with the exception of £4.19.6.

Not daunted by that effort, a special meeting was called in September of the same year to receive a memorial which contained 123 signatures. It read "We the undersigned Seatholders and Members of the congregation worshipping in Paignton Wesleyan School Chapel are of the opinion that it is advisable in the Interests of Methodism in Paignton to endeavour without delay to build the proposed permanent new Chapel." The sum suggested was between £1800 and £2000. Mr Lambshead thought Paignton should aim to raise £250 as a starter, with the Torquay churches doing likewise. A Circuit bazaar was proposed. However, a new scheme at Chelston attracted more interest from the Torquinians. This was a great disappointment to the brothers from Palace Avenue.

There was only £130 in the bank, £300 in reliable promises and a likely £200 from the Connexional Chapel Fund. The staunch Mr Lambshead faltered. He did not think "the Torquay friends were with them", or that they could continue without help. Others disagreed. Plans were submitted by Mr Couldrey and accepted. The Sewing Meeting was as busy as ever, preparing for a spring Bazaar. Little Master Norman Couldrey was in great demand, threading needles for the ladies. It sometimes seems that more walls were built with sewing needles than with bricks and mortar.

A year later the proposed church schedule was sent for District approval. The estimated cost was now £2150, with a mere 10% actually in hand. The budgeted income was very detailed. Dr Pope, on behalf of the Chapel Fund came from Manchester and was pleased with the presentation. He made valuable suggestions regarding finance. It is interesting to note that he would have preferred a central entrance.

Nine tenders were opened in June. They ranged from £1893 to £2270. The lowest tender was accepted on condition that the church would be opened nine months from date of contract. The builder then discovered that there was an omission in his calculations, and withdrew. The contract was then awarded to Mr Samuel Blatchford of Upton for £1991.12.0.

It was about this time that the two sisters who lived next door objected to the line of the building. The infant Paignton Urban District Council refused building permission unless the length of the church was reduced by three feet. This was not the only problem with the staunchly Anglican ladies. To avoid further offence, and with an eye to future needs for a manse in Paignton, an offer was made and accepted to purchase the house. The interest on the money borrowed to finance this transaction would be repaid from rent received in the interim period. The delay in commencing work, caused by the objection, was a great financial blow to the Trustees. They had planned the stone laying ceremony to coincide with Conference, which was being held at Plymouth. With the prospect of several 'big names' being present, it had been anticipated that the coffers would benefit accordingly. Their faith was put to the test.

Mr Lambshead laid the principal stone on 9th October 1895. Others were laid by Miss Bovey, daughter of the Mayor of Torquay and Mrs Taylor. Sunday School scholars who had collected at least one guinea laid stones which bore their initials. The girls were Misses Crispin, Cullis, three Foale sisters, Matthews, Putt, two Simpson girls, and Louise Tout who would become organist one day. The boys were Masters Couldrey, Farrant, Cullis, Foale, Foster, Geriche and Morrish. These were not only the children of very active members, but most of them remained to take office themselves.

Buried under the foundation stone was a bottle containing newspapers of the day. These were recovered during alterations in 1984. The Paignton Echo of the 3rd of October 1895 reported the death of Monsieur Pasteur: Paignton Football played Torquay Athletic at home: Mrs Mills advertised the loss of her feather boa between the Chapel and Winner Street. In the Western Daily Mercury, Spooners were offering Yorkshire woollen blankets at 4 shillings and 11 pence a pair.

After the ceremony 340 people sat down to tea in the Public Hall. This new building was also designed by Messrs Bridgman and Couldrey. Long speeches followed, during which the company was urged to hold all of the services in the church, and not in the hall.

The work went ahead throughout the winter of 1895-96. Mr Blatchford and his staff, which included his three sons, travelled from Upton each day by horse and cart. Loans were raised. Banks respected these gentlemen of honour, requesting no sureties. The final tenders were agreed. The local furniture maker and auctioneer, Mr Robert Waycott, quoted £157.17.6 for the seating. A small-bore hot water heating system was installed by Hill and Drummond of Liverpool, sixteen air inlet and two large extractors by Boyle of London took care of ventilation, and gas lighting completed the services. Bathstone work was executed by Delafield and Pollard of Paignton. The organ, brought first from Polsham Road to the school-chapel, was now installed in the transept.

New Public Worship Certificates were issued in June 1896 stating "the Wesleyan Methodist Church, being a substitute for the building named Wesleyan Methodist Chapel." This is the first time the title 'church' appears.

On schedule, the church was officially opened on Wednesday, the 1st of July 1896. The event was reported in the Paignton Observer as "quite a holiday for the town" with all denominations attending. The total cost, including a gallery and all fittings was £2557.15.6. Lunch, served in the schoolroom was followed with long speeches. Then, the door was unlocked by Mrs Lambshead using a silver key given by Mr Couldrey. After the service, tea was served to 400 people in three relays. The evening service was fully attended. The Mayor of Torquay, Alderman Bovey said that the building was not only erected to look at and meet in, but for the purpose of God's glory and saving of souls. He suggested that the Society had that aim in view and it would then be their earnest endeavour to support the ministry by doing all they could to lead others to the truth.

The leader column in the Paignton Echo congratulated the Wesleyans, saying that it not only added another most handsome and imposing public building, but indicated the growth of population and wealth. It went on to say that a few years before, a denomination that only partly filled a back street, small building now required the largest ecclesiastical building in the town after the established church - and that it also occupied the best site in town.

Just one week later, the first wedding took place. Scotsman John Manson Ramsay, a forgemaster, married Miss Agnes Lambshead. She was the second daughter of William. The church was filled with plants and ferns loaned by Mr Burridge and Mr Rossiter, a market gardener. The church overflowed, and a crowd gathered outside. The bride wore an elaborate gown of white satin, made by Daw's of Victoria Street. The bridesmaids' hats were supplied by Rossiter's of Palace Avenue, next door neighbours of the Lambshead's. The Trustees presented the couple with a Bible and hymnbook.

The church settled down, ready to build up the spiritual life while reducing the heavy debts. Seat rents brought in a steady income. A seating plan was displayed in the vestibule and indicated the seats reserved for visitors. Collections were made every Sabbath for connexional and local funds.

The first church anniversary took place on the 4th of July 1897. There was a sacred concert on the pier, an edifice designed by the ubiquitous Mr Bridgman. The augmented choir and orchestra were conducted by Mr G Tout. The Sunday school treat took place at Luscombe Castle Park near Dawlish. In the school room, the gallery was removed and a platform was erected.

Church membership continued with a small but steady growth. The Society Stewards were Mr Tout and Mr Farrant, the Poor Stewards Mr Dawe and Mr Maker and the Chapel Stewards Mr Codner and Mr Cullis. The church's contribution to Circuit funds was set at £22.1.8 per Quarter.

The rest of the decade was a financial struggle. Without clearing off the various loans, the Connexional grant was not forthcoming. More time was pleaded. The Circuit seemed reluctant to assist. One bold venture took place on August Bank Holiday 1897, and the following day.

Mr Paris Singer graciously lent his house, Redcliffe Towers, and Mrs Singer opened the event. The Paignton Echo commented that she was "not of that community, but held an open mind." A guide book showed the layout of events both indoors and out. The drawing room held fancy stalls. The sewing one was presided over by Mrs Couldrey. There was a Busy Bee, fancy and general, china and many more. Downstairs were provisions, poultry and dairy, flowers and fruit. Ice cream proved very popular. The entertainment highlight was a camera obscura. Outside was a working model with mill, tunnel, gondola and swings. The miniature zoo was full of children dressed as animals. The grounds contained numerous other attractions, such as cocoanut shies. There is no record of the winner of the men's hat trimming competition! The Paignton Volunteer Band played, in addition to the musical accompaniment at the afternoon and high teas. A grand concert took place in the evening and the show continued until 10.30pm.

On Monday over one thousand people passed through the gate. It must have been Paignton's major Bank Holiday event. Proceeds were £97.12.2, with a further £35 on Tuesday. Compared with the Christmas Bazaar of 1895 which raised £160, the profits were surprisingly small. It is to be hoped that the publicity brought another kind of reward to the hard working, hard playing Wesleyans.

In June 1899 Mr Lambshead put a proposition to the Circuit Trustees. Palace Avenue would guarantee £300 if the Circuit would raise £200. The only response was a special Trustees meeting to consider ways and means. A new Minister, the Revd E Sholl Richards, would be stationed at Paignton. The Circuit agreed to assist with furnishing 9 Madiera Terrace. Gas was installed, walls papered, and the house painted inside and out. The Paignton Manse was ready for occupation.

These were not easy years. The membership which stood at 90 in June 1898 plummeted to 72 by December 1899. It would be interesting to know what message the new Minister gave at the Watchnight service as the people prepared themselves for the twentieth century.





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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