Paignton (Palace Avenue) Methodist Church

Palace Avenue, Paignton, Devon, United Kingdom

War and Peace

1910 - A time to weep

King George V's coronation celebrations were hardly over when the new minister, the Revd T Arthur Bailey was welcomed in 1911. Membership stood at 152. During this ministry it was increased by 36. In March 1914 it was noticed that "two Sunday evenings in succession had witnessed penitents at the communion rail."

The Revd Bailey was a man of many parts. He introduced the Wesley Guild. Mr F E Craze and Mr L Morrish became secretaries in addition to their many other offices. They organised events like the County socials. Newcomers would entertain the Devonians in the style of their home county. Later the 'Janners' reciprocated with a farm supper, complete with hams hanging from the rafters. Naturally, junket and cream featured in the meal. When one remembers that Fred Craze was manager of the Palace Avenue branch of Deller's and John Morrish had a high class grocery store in Winner Street, the success of the venture is not so surprising.

Many of the members were self employed business men. When the Circuit Quarterly Meeting met at Palace Avenue in June they were served with strawberries from the garden of Mr Simpson and cream from the Hick's dairy. These men were just as generous with their time, bringing their business skills into their church offices. All were men of principle. That they were highly successful in their business life was in no small measure due to their integrity.

The clouds of war loomed overhead as the Revd Williarn Holford brought his wife and son to Palace Avenue. He must have realised something of the trial which would face his congregation when he started a young men's Society Class. They met on Sunday mornings at 10.00. So many boys went from that class into the services. The marble memorial in the church lists those who made the supreme sacrifice. Of those who came back to continue their service to the Lord were Vic Farrant, Frank Foale, Fred Green, Walter Bourne, John Sutton and the Harvey twins.

Meanwhile, the church served the community. The Quarterly Meeting of September 1917 saw a protest from Palace Avenue, Victoria Park and Union Street at the Assessment. It has a familiar ring. At this time the organist was paid £2.1.8 per month and the organ blower £1 a quarter. The chapel keeper earned £7.6.9 per quarter. Seat rents produced £70.2.0 in 1917. The following year the Easter collection was £4.13.1 and for Harvest, £15.8.1.

By the time the people were rejoicing at the declaration of the armistice, a new minister was occupying the pulpit. The young widower, the Revd Holmer Keall and his 3 year old daughter were taken to the hearts of the people. A Sunday school teacher, Miss Gertrude Morgan, became his second wife. She played an active role, running a junior Society Class for girls and presiding over the weekly sewing meeting.

Family life resumed as men came home from the war. Sunday school outings still brought great excitement. A tram ride to Babbacombe, or a charabanc to Kingskerswell. Foale's field was also a favourite. Coal carts were scrubbed clean to transport the children. Traditional teas included tuff buns with cream and strawberry jam and gallons of lemonade.

These outings are recalled by Miss Olive Stidworthy and her sister Mrs Amy Southgate. Granddaughters of Alfred referred to earlier, they are pictured opposite with their parents and older brother and sisters. The happiness captured in this snapshot taken soon after their father's safe return from the war, was short lived. Emmanual succumbed to the scourge of tuberculosis and the family was left fatherless. It is sad to relate that their story is not an isolated one. Death stalked the streets in many guises which would not be recognised today.

The trauma of the trenches did not go unrecognised. Consideration was given to the men who were now trying to resume normal life. Some had experienced a deepening of spiritual life but others had become indifferent, or had lost their faith altogether. The Leaders, to whom psychology was probably an unknown science, set about finding ways to help the individual. They determined to "extend the Right Hand of Fellowship" to all. No war had ever been so all-embracing, so bloody, so destructive of body and mind. The task ahead would need delicacy, diplomacy and, most of all, dedication if these sons and daughters were to survive.

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

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