The early years of Wesleyans in Tywardreath


As far as known, Wesley on his many journeys, did not visit Tywardreath village. He went from Fowey to Luxulyan along the sand bar on which now stands a goodly portion of Par and St Blazey up the valley to Luxulyan. Maybe there was nothing of particular interest to attract him "up the hill from the beach."

From the records of the Bishop of Exeter, a licence to hold nonconformist meetings in the house of Jonothan Colliver was granted on 3rd December 1800. With this stalwart was associated William Symons, Robert Coliver, John Husband and John Symons. It is interesting to note that on the same day licences were granted to Providence Chapel at Fowey, a house at Polruan and an out-house at Lanteglos by Fowey. Fowey was a move ahead. They had built a chapel.

Tradition has it that despite efforts to acquire a site in the village this quest was unsuccessful. The landowners at that time were the Rashleighs of Menabilly - a pillar of the established Church and Lord of the Manor, and the Tehidy estates of Camborne some 30 miles away. So the young community had to seek a place outside the immediate circle of the village.

Fortunately a spot about 400 yards away was available, where possibly in ancient tmes stood the Manor House of the Chambernown family. Here on 12th November 1330, Matilda Chambernown was granted permission to celebrate divine service in her own chapel for one year. In a lease of 1586 mention is made of "Treesmill alias Chappell Downe". These places adjoin. It was at Chapel Down that the Wesleyans built their first chapel. It may have been erected in "house form" after the style of the Clowesites so that it could easily be converted into dwelling houses when no longer required.

In 1822, Robert Northey bought from Samual Vivian, a miner, the balance of a lease of a plot of land backing on to the houses occupied by Daniel Wob and Isaac Cocking, plus a right of way 3ft wide. The rent payable was 2 shillings and 6 pence per annum. One clause in the Deeds sounds a little unusual - it reads ". . . .if the said Robert Northey shall hereafter happen to build on the said piece of ground . . .he shall carry out the convenants . . ." On 15th July 1828 Samuel Vivian and Willian Northey sold their rights in the gound to a group largely composed of miners and carpenters. The documents declare ". . .upon which a Chapel or Meeting house is about to be built for the use of the Society of Wesleyan Methodists 18ft 6inches by 35ft." Provision is also made for the right to use ladders on the adjoining ground as often as necessary for repairs. An unusual clause stiplulates that as many windows as they like except for only two on the North side.

Up to £350 was borrowed in amounts varying from £200 to £15. The collection at the laying of the Foundation stone was £3 8s 9½d. At the opening ceremony and on thge Sunday following £22 4s 3¼d was given and sums varying from 5/-s to &pouind;10. These sums plus the sale of surplus material brought in the useful sum of £75 15s 11¾d. Clearly some gifts were in kind. At the start, seat rents totalled £29 0s 8d per annum. The original book-keeper was not a great success, so that the accounts up to 21 April 1835 were recapitulated by James Kingdon. At that state the Society had a debt of £300 with cash in hand of £6 14s 8¾d. The new Chapel was opened by Mr Martin.

By 1835 the congregation had outgrown the capacity of the original building, so a gallery was erected at a cost of £43 by Stephen Willock & Sons.

Now that there was a gallery to clean Elizabeth Mitchell received an increase in wages of 10/- (shillings) to the amount of £2 per year.

In considering the financial aspect of Chapels and Nonconformists generally, it is necessary to bear in mind that the members, as residents, were liable for Church rates in addition to the contributions they made towards the expenses of their own Society. Their burden was therefore a double one. Their building was also assessed for Poor Rate and Way Rate, so that their contributions also suffered by being required to pay their portion to the general taxation of the Parish.

Meanwhile the original building at Chapel Down had been reconstructed and the rents were gradually increasing.

Notwithstanding this, and the essential repairs to the cottages in 1843, £100 was paid off the outstanding debt. Another £50 was repaid in 1848 and other sums as and when opportunity offered. Evidently the Society was financially doing well. During the period of the building up of the Organisation and its early growth, James Kingdon managed the financial affairs of the Society. In 1835 he made way for William Bray who handed over his office to George Job after 24 years service.

Up to 1868 the singing was led by instrumentalists and singers. Numerous small items for repairs to flutes, strings for cellos etc appear in the accounts. The singers had an annual tea on which approximately £1 per annum was spent. But in the accounts of 1868 the "Harmoniumist" appears. She a Miss Hannah Daniels who kept a school and later married the Rev Spooner - was paid £1 10s 0d per annum for her services. She was followed by Miss Edith Thomas and then Mr Letcher officiated.

Prior to 1864 a Sunday School was built, as in that year a repayment was made to Miss Rogers of money lent for that purpose.

With the increasing popularity of its services the acommodation was again found to be insufficient. In 1876 another gallery was built, this time around the sides of the building making the first floor roughly horse-shoe shape. The cost £74. Opportunity was taken to alter the seating arrangments so that the whole congregation faced the preacher instead of the seats downstairs facing towards the middle. A Communion rail was also added, so the Chapel was brought up to date in all respects.

Over the whole period the cottage property at Chapel Down added its contribution to the funds, despite improvements. In 1839 two new clomb ovens were purchased and fixed. Total cost £1 1s 8d. But when the rents fell to £2 18s 9d it was clear that something should be done. After paying a thatcher £1 15s 8d, the rents again shot up to £22. The cottages were so delapidated that they could not be let. In this period appears the first payment of Income Tax This together with tithe, poor rate, and way rate added £2 5s 11d to the outgoings.

Loveday Pearce, a well respected village woman, shared in the general prosperity. Her wages for cleaning rose by 1/- a year to £2 3s 0d.

By 1881 an organ had been installed. A plot of land owned by the Trustees in another part of the village was sold to Captain Yeo which no doubt contributed largely to the cost of this instrument. The organist received £10 a year, the blower 30/-d. The next year saw a rise in pew rents to £50. Still the cause flourished. By 1888 a major renovation scheme was undertaken. What exactly was done is not disclosed but the cost of £153.13s 8d even for a mid-Victorian scheme was ambitious. Still the faithfull were rewarded. An innovation then appears in the record for the first time - subscriptions and a Bazaar amounted to £145 a sum which only left £8 to clear off. A greater degree of comfort at services was evidently thought advisable as in 1894 over £53 was spent on heating apparatus which functioned for over 50 years.

During the decade 1870 to 1880 the local mines gradually closed down for various economic reasons. This period coincided with the popularity of emigration to the New World. Many miners went abroad to seek their fortune. Some found it and among those who did, one remembered the Chapel of his youth (Mr Hitchins). He left £100 to the Trustees, subject to his wife's life interest. The old lady lived to a great age so the actual receipt of the money by the Trustees was unduly delayed. But it was to come. It was a nucleus around which the members and congregation could build their efforts again to renovate their chapel.

This time new seats were provided, a new pulpit. The roof was raised to improve the acoustics, a new front to the building and the reconstruction of the entrance. An ambitious scheme but not one which they were afraid to tackle despite the cost of £784 18 1½d. So in 1907 the Chapel took on a new look. It became the Wesleyan Church and so remains. But the ground floor on the North side of the Church was still without windows. The sheds for cattle and implements still rested agsinst the Chapel wall, and the only approach to the rear of the premises was by the right of way as in the original lease of 1828.

It is interesting to note that until 1840 the Courts would not accept as evidence registers of births, baptisms, deaths or burial entries made in Nonconformist records.

Well Street Chapel c1910

Well Street Chapel c1910

Well Street Chapel & Sunday School

Well Street Chapel & Sunday School in the background

Recruits to the Sunday School were attracted to both non-conformist denominations by the Sunday School treats. Attendances on Sundays were more numerous and the Anniversaries drew near. The Wesleyans had for years a stalwart member at Kilgogue, one of whose fields was put at the disposal of the children and friends for the afternoon. The Sunday School Anniversary Services were held on Whitsunday, and the tea on the following Tuesday, Whitmonday being already traditionally booked by the Chow Bacon Club. After perambulating the village headed by the St Blazey Prize Band, the cavalcade would, with banners flying in fine weather, adjorn to Kilgogue. But the weather, often unsettled, had to be reckoned with. Tea in a field with no shelter available, was an uneviable situation in the rain, so a "Weather Committee" was appointed. These worthies, generally three in number, met outside the Police Station at 7am, and after considering the direction in which the weathercock on the Church tower was pointing, the strength of the wind, the coulds, the recent behaviour of their corns etc, a decision would be arrived at, or in case of lack of agreement, deferred until 8am. Early instructions were necessary to the wagonner if the tables, trestles, forms and all the necessary impedimenta were to be transported almost a mile and erected in their proper places. Woe betide the Weather Committee if their judgment was at fault.

Following the death of Mr Scobey of Kilgogue the tea was held in the Sunday School or the adjoining field. After the scholars had each been issued with a Saffron bun weight about 1lb, and provided with as much tea as they wished, adults and the public would be served with bread and butter, saffron cake, splits with jam and cream. Price 6d, children 4d.

Having given the saffron bun about an hour to settle the Scholars ran races for pence, much to their joy, and the entertainment of their parents and friends, but the best individual speds were not always forthcoming. The excitement and Sunday best clothes detracted from the normal ability to stay the course. Being sick was a part of the proceedings. Nevertheless a good day was had by all.

Jubilee Tea 1887