Paignton (Palace Avenue) Methodist Church

Palace Avenue, Paignton, Devon, United Kingdom

Untying the Apron Strings

1960 - a time to scatter stones

When post war Paignton was being planned by the local authority, the churches were careful to ensure that new housing estates had a spiritual centre. The non-conformists agreed not to vie with each other for representation. When the Congregationalists proposed building a church on the Foxhole council estate, the Methodists were content to support them.

In the fifties it was the building of private dwellings that raced ahead. In the south, the building boom at Goodrington had escalated with the opening of the Standard Telephones & Cables factory in 1956. It became obvious that a new church was an essential part of that scene.

The Circuit took up the challenge. A small amount of cash was available from the sale of the former Zion chapel in Torquay. When a suitable site was finally purchased in 1961, a Trust was appointed.

Naturally, the nucleus of a new Paignton church would be provided by Palace Avenue. For some years, those residing in the catchment area had participated in house fellowship groups. With other interested people known as 'The Friends of Goodrington' they were fund raising. Palace Avenue not only met the financial target set by the Circuit, but held other special efforts, and personal donations were also made. Goodrington took precedence over all Palace Avenue functions over a long period.

From his arrival in 1960, the Revd Raymond V Horn continued to further the work at Palace Avenue. He introduced the Christmas Family Service, and encouraged Easter cantata or Passion plays. As the Circuit Superintendent, he was personally involved in all aspects of the birth of Goodrington. Since it was decided that there should be a resident minister in situ when the church was opened, Raymond Home moved into Goodrington in 1966.

Seventy two members were transferred to the new church. These included many of the younger and most dedicated workers, already holding offices across the breadth of the Society. Their achievement at Goodrington serves to show how much of a loss was suffered by Palace Avenue by their departure. The years of fund raising, coupled with the reduced membership proved to be a great challenge in the coming years.

Another farewell had taken place. In October 1965, Mr and Mrs Frederick Craze left Paignton. For half a century this charming couple, and later their son Leslie and daughter Gwen, had more than filled practically every office open to them.

Fred Craze was manager of Mr Lambshead's grocery store in Palace Avenue. When all four Deller's stores were sold to Chards in 1920, he became manager of Deller's Café then in its tenth year.

He served the community as a town councillor, and was twice Chairman of the Paignton Urban District Council. His Christian values were never compromised in his public life. Sunday observance, total abstinence, and gambling were all subject to his witness. He served at a time when party politics did not enter the Council chamber. Like the other public servants Palace Avenue has produced, party labels could not gag him. It is interesting to note that in the year of Mr Craze's departure, another member of the church was Chairman of the Council. Mr Frank E Martin also served a second term as leading citizen when he became Mayor of Torbay.

On a Sunday in early summer each year, there is an obvious absence of some of the stalwarts. The Sociability Club and friends have gone on holiday. After one particularly happy holiday of their own, Mr Harold and Mrs Mabel Reep agreed to organise a coach tour for others. For the past 26 years now, an average of 30 people have enjoyed tours from the Isle of Skye, to Jersey and all points in between. Mrs Norrie Geake stepped in to assist after Harold's passing. Mabel Reep says that it is a valuable opportunity to get to know one another better. Having laid aside their various church offices, they can relax and enjoy each other's company. Some of them would otherwise stay at home, or face holidaying alone, and they appreciate the work done on their behalf. For several years there was also an autumn break at Sidholme or Treloyan Manor Guild Holiday Centres where a deep sense of fellowship was experienced.

A rest home for the elderly was opened at Seapoint, Adelphi Road. When the charitable trust was formed, Mrs Sadie Benefield was asked to serve. Since that time she has encouraged the church to support the home in many ways. Not only does she continue this contact, but includes in her regular duties assistance at a baby clinic and working in the Oxfam shop.

The minister appointed to succeed Raymond Horne was the Revd R Harvey Field. Sadly, serious illness delayed his arrival by several months. He then took up residence in the new manse in Paris Road. The church members had to prove that all are "ministers of Christ".

The Revd Field used his dramatic talents to advantage. In the pulpit he employed vocal techniques to emphasise his message.

He influenced the long awaited re-decoration of the church interior. The soft terracotta walls now became pale cream and blue. Wilton carpet silenced the aisles, and rich blue and gold brocade covered the Communion Table. With its pinnacles shortened, the reredos disappeared behind blue velvet curtains.

The new decor had a deep impact on the senses and, needless to say, caused a variety of comment. Some deplored the loss of the carved white stone and green marble, while others found the richly textured but simple design produced an overall tranquillity. Few would deny the value of the illuminated cross.

AFTER REDECORATION 1967

AFTER REDECORATION 1967

A further innovation of this minister was the Birthday Party. Members with a birthday during the current month were invited to a social gathering at the manse. This was an opportunity to meet in a sufficiently small but random group.

The 'swinging sixties' seemed to affect the youth club. Formality no longer appealed to the average boy and girl. There was still a small, strong Youth Fellowship. The Sunday School had an average attendance of 65 scholars, supervised by 17 teachers. An active council watched over its affairs.

In 1969 the Revd Arnold Bellwood and his wife Janet arrived at Palace Avenue. No controversy too difficult, no situation either literally or physically too dirty, Arnold Bellwood would be found where he was needed most. One day he might be attending a national council, the next at the local police station or law court, or maybe at a bedside. It could be anywhere - except his own armchair. A fellow-minister, a Bishop or an Abbot was introduced as "my friend and colleague." It was he who innovated the widespread use of Christian names. At first this shocked some people, but the effect of the extended family was noticeable.

Janet Bellwood was a member without par. Her alto voice was an asset to the choir. She also introduced a more modern and spectacular style of flower arranging.

There would be new ventures in the church too. Modern hymns were being introduced. People attending services were less formally dressed. The pace of life was quickening.

THE REVD ARNOLD BELLWOOD AND PALACE AVENUE CHOIR

THE REVD ARNOLD BELLWOOD AND PALACE AVENUE CHOIR

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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