Paignton (Palace Avenue) Methodist Church

Palace Avenue, Paignton, Devon, United Kingdom

Spread the Word

1930 - a time to speak

There were changes ahead during this decade. Not the least was the demise of at least three of the early Trustees. Mr John Taylor, Mr Gilbert Tout and Mr William Lambshead all died within a short period. These gentlemen had not stinted the use of their God given gifts.



The most amazing must have been William Lambshead. Continuing his story from an earlier chapter, his Deller's Cafe "gave a new meaning to the word cafe." The suite of rooms gave scope for wedding receptions, balls using three dance floors, two restaurants etc. His two sons, Herbert and William developed the other Deller's Cafes in Exeter and Taunton. His public service was all-embracing. The third Chairman of the Paignton Urban District Council, he was Chairman of the water committee responsible for building the Venford reservoir. He took an active part in constructing Queens Park from marshland and was instrumental in acquiring Victoria Park for the town. He was a committee member of the School of Art, Chairman and Director of the Palace Hotel, first Director of the Paignton Electric Light and Power Company, a Director of the Harbour Company and President of the Bowling Club. Until a few days before his death in March 1932 at the age of 84, he was described as "vigorous and upright".

The cycle of life continued. There were new leaders looking to the needs of a new generation. Mr Harold Hurrell was elected as a Church Steward and Mr John Sutton became Treasurer. From this time on, the church used the title 'Methodist'. The denominational label 'Westerns' disappeared and was eventually removed from the church facade. Only the asymmetrical carving of the stonework remains as a reminder of the original name. From 1930, observers from the other chapels attended the Quarterly Meetings. A debt of gratitude is owed to the courageous people who made the changeover as smooth as possible in the local context, when union came about two years later.

Efforts were being made to integrate with Southfield. It was neither easy nor very successful. There were no doctrinal differences but the two congregations, in their needs and styles of worship were so different. Many people found this period quite painful, despite a common will to unite.

Methodist Union was completed in 1932 and gave impetus to new ideas. Mr Craze thought they should be looking to build a new church beyond St. Michael's to cater for a growing population. This idea was not pursued. One reason given was in consideration of the proposed Brethren Mission at Great Parks. Pew Rents were on the way out. The envelope scheme was adopted and proved to be a great benefit. Senior members still talk with affection about the Revd Norman Landreth who had arrived in 1931 with his talented wife and two sons. He made many innovation's during his five years at Palace Avenue. This was the longest ministry to date, and was highly productive.

After guiding the congregation through Union and the introduction of the new Hymn Book, he promoted the Easter decorations. Senior Sunday School scholars were encouraged to go out on Good Friday to collect masses of primroses. It was not, of course, considered to be an anti-social or anti-ecological pastime in those days. On Sunday evenings there was a Friendship Hour for young people at the home of Miss Lavers. When the group became too large, it moved to the schoolhall, and was later taken over by Miss Margaret Sutton.

The Guild flourished, with over 50 members plus a further 40 in a Junior Guild. Not so lively was the sewing meeting. After half a century of being one of the financial and social mainstays, the needles appear to have become blunt, and it was nearly defunct. The minister saw an opportunity for a fresh start. The Sociability Club was born.

He could not have chosen a better secretary than Mrs Clare Wilkins. This intelligent and lively lady who, during her long lifetime filled so many roles, spent the next 50 years catering for this club. Programmes of a social or serious nature were provided for the 100 strong mixed club. Members took it in turn to provide delicious fare and preside over a teapot. The long tables were covered with white damask cloths. Master Landreth and his chum Eric Tancock attended nearby Brownston School. It was their habit to arrive in time for tea. They were encouraged to do so until the day they let their white mice loose at the tea table, when they were sent home in disgrace.

The Sociability Club became an important feature of the social and financial life of the church. Regular participation by the ministers over the years has promoted the spiritual dimension. The absorption of newcomers and deepening of friendships has provided, and still provides a valuable asset.

Spreading the Gospel was not confined within the walls. Open air services were conducted on the Green after evening worship throughout the holiday season. Young people were encouraged to witness to their Christian experience.

The Quarterly Meeting was ever conscious of outside events. Representations were made whenever legislation or local decisions were contrary to their code of conduct. Football pools, temperance, licensing hours and Sunday trading were all subjects which demanded action.

Palace Avenue was becoming known as a great preaching centre. The Revd Landreth's sermons were regularly quoted verbatim on the front page of the local papers. His own fine contribution was complimented by the great names in Methodism he invited to occupy the pulpit.

The congregation was pulling its weight. In 1933 -

  • Mr Winter was thanked for painting the parlour, and -
  • Mr Beer for framing the plans [He was an art dealer with a shop in Hyde Road], and -
  • Mr Ricks [of Mortimore Ricks] for a new clock, and keeping the clocks in order, and -
  • the Boys Club for redecorating the Schoolroom

While some of the painting was sub-contracted, a response was made to a request from the Rotary Club to give work to the unemployed. Since many townspeople were suffering hardships, the harvest supper was replaced with a tea, and gifts, including all the fruit and vegetables, were made to the poor and unemployed.

The church was valued at £16000. Membership would soon reach 300 and the Sunday School had 116 scholars. Although the formidable iron railing gave an appearance of a 'closed shop', this was not the case. The church was open daily "from 08.00 till sunset, for prayer and meditation".

The property was in need of attention. A proscenium arch was erected in front of the stage, while complaints about the church were many. The pulpit needed additional lighting, the church needed decorating, it was draughty, there was difficulty in hearing. The recommended remedy for the latter was a notice in the pulpit requesting the occupant to speak up!

At the farewell arranged for the Revd Landreth in 1936, tribute was paid to his achievements. He was described as well informed and zealous. He had entered into town affairs and supported the YMCA. Together with the Vicar, he conducted August Bank Holiday Sunday services on the Green. He was remembered as a "wise and cheery counsellor, a faithful pastor and a preacher of origination and power.''

Time for a change. So popular had Mr Landreth been that one might have thought he was impossible to follow. The Lord knew better. Palace Avenue was fortunate to be served by the Revd Bernard Harvey. Like his predecessor, he was blessed with a wife ready to use her talents in His work, and two sons.

The latter years of the thirties saw many changes, both within the church and in the world outside. A monthly newsletter, 'The Record', showed events to suit all ages. The new Book of Offices, authorised at the 1936 Conference, was put into regular use. Choir outings by charabanc still favoured Hay Tor, Lydford or Looe and Polperro, with a cream tea absolutely essential. Miss Sutton's Young Leaguers were raising money for National Children's Home & Orphanage with the sale of 'Sunny Smiles'.

Morning Sunday School was not proving popular. The Revd Harvey replaced it with Junior Church under Mr Philip Bethel. Afternoon school was graded and there were Bible Classes for both young men and women. The minister pleaded for co-operation between parents and leaders. He said that some parents regarded Sunday School as a dumping ground.

He had served as a missionary in China and was able to inspire overseas mission support. He also begged for extra financial effort to support an evangelist, and for campaigns to be organised. Special collections were made for relief in distressed churches in Wales, where the suffering was particularly acute.

It must have been a great joy to the minister to conduct the valedictory service for the Revd Leslie Craze on his departure to India. Mr and Mrs Craze's son was the first member of Palace Avenue to candidate for the ministry.

A decision was made to commence building the proposed new church at Preston within two years. A target of £500 was set by Palace Avenue as their share. Membership now stood at 333 and the life of the church was making definite progress. The services were advertised in two local papers and the hoardings at West End and Dendy Road were discontinued. The depleted Wesleyan china was replaced with the green and gold banded design.

There is evidence of the good relations with other denominations, especially in a request from the Vicar to use the church for the overflow during the Bishop's visit.

And seat rents were finally abolished.

A great event of this period was the Bicentenary of John Wesley's conversion. It appears to have been a much more low-key celebration than the 250th. Nevertheless, the fine heritage of Class Meetings, lay-leadership and personal salvation was not ignored. Special services were held on Sunday 22nd May, and another on the actual anniversary Tuesday the 24th. The Trustees' comment was "a service is sufficient"

Clouds were appearing on the horizon. There was talk of war. In February 1939, the ARP were looking to establish their depot on the premises, without seeking consent. By June, a list was being compiled of men joining the Militia, in order that they would be cared for spiritually,

The Revd Harvey was a Chaplain in the Reserves. He was called up for service on the last day of August. Mrs Harvey took over his Fellowship Class.

The country was at war.


dated March 1938

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.

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