The first Wesleyan Chapel in Teignmouth was in Chapel Street in 1819 using a chapel that had already been built. It was the coming of the South Devon Railway Company in 1843 that caused our Church to be relocated to its present site of Somerset Place in 1845.
The present Church was designed by the architecht R B Best and possibly built by Hitchins of Torquay at a cost of £1,500
In 1851 the Rev George Barnley reported to the Census Offficer that Somerset Place Wesleyan Church had an attendance of 125 in the mornings, 78 in the afternoons and 207 in the evenings with a Sunday School of 61. Teignmouth had a population of 5,500
On 15th September 1859 an Affidavit was signed stating that the building had been used for public worship prior to 30th June 1852 so that the Certificate for the Registration of Marriages could be issued. Although the building could be used and the Minister could conduct marriages, the state registrar had to be present.
In December 1903 the Quarterly Meeting heard about the late arrival of the Registrar at a wedding at the Dawlish Chapel, so they decided to take advantage of the Marriage Act, buy safes and apply for registration. This meant that the Ministers were now the registrars.
In 1906 General Booth of the Salvation Army visited Teignmouth and the Church was crowded. The trustees were doubtful about the strength of the galleries and stipulated that only 200 should be allowed upstairs, using only the front pews.
In 1912 space in the church was still at a premium, so seat holders were asked to tell the Steward if they were not coming to church so that visitors could use their seats. The gallery continued to be free for visitors.
The Great War had a profound effect on the availability of men. It was therefore their wives and sisters who took over the leadership of the Church. A National Insurance Scheme was arranged to cover War Damage and to this end the Circuit was required to send the collection from the last Sunday each October. The Lighting Regulations of September 1916 under the Defence of the Realm Act brought the evening services forward half an hour to 6pm. and required the use of blackout materials.
In 1922 the Church was converted from gas lighting to electricity at a cost of £108.10.
Three years later in 1925 it was decided to buy an electric blower for the Church Organ at a cost of £85. Mr Olaf Milton who retired after pumping the organ for the previous 5 years was given a Guinea (£1 05p)
In the 1930s there were over 200 members with 120 in the Sunday School.In 1932 there was a request for Communion Services to be held occasionally after morning service, and flowers were to be sent to the sick with a card. As previously there was a need for more space with seat holders being asked to arrive 10 minutes early so that spaces could be found for visitors.
During the Second World War, Teignmouth being a south coast port, suffered its share of bombing and 79 residents were killed. Large parts of the town were damaged. The deeds were placed in the bank, the trustees requested the use of the hall for refugees/evacuees, fire fighting equipment was purchased and members took turns to sleep in the Church to be on hand in case of fire.
After the war, Church attendance suffered for various reasons, youngsters to do National Service, there were greater opportunities to go to college and university, people had moved due to bomb damage. The advent of television saw a drop in the attendance of all the Church meetings. By 1961 there were only 23 left in the Sunday School and Evening Services were very poorly attended. The BBC’s production of the Forsyte Saga caused Leaders’ Meetings to discuss the timing of their evening services. This affected all the churches and in 1967 the galleries were removed from our church. The development of cheap package holidays to Spain led to the decline of the English seaside summer holiday visitors and a drop in Church visitors.
Church membership dropped more slowly, from over 200 in the 1930s down to 150 in the 1940s. In 1999 the membership had dropped down to 90 but since then has started to increase again and now stands at 113 in 2003
The Church was completely redesigned in 1967. The 1884 concept of a Methodist Church resembling a lecture hall or a courtroom where the Word was studied was now replaced by a worship area where the sacraments became more important. The table became the focal point,instead of the pulpit and the processional aisle became the vogue for weddings and funerals.
Smaller numbers meant the galleries were no longer needed so the side and front galleries were removed and the organ brought from the front right hand corner gallery to the floor below. The ceiling was covered with acoustic tiles and the large central window in the end wall was covered over. The preaching rostrum, dais and communion rail were all replaced. The internal wooden porch was removed and a new glass porch extended 4 feet further under the east gallery.
In January 2003 we closed the sancuary for twelve weeks whilst we refurbished the interior. During this period all services, including a funeral, were held in the Church Hall.
During the refurbishment we exposed previously hidden windows by removing the suspended ceiling. This also revealed the original beams and ventilation system. During the 1967 refurbishment the stained glass window over the communion table had been removed and bricked up. It was too expensive to reinstate, but we did make good the outline of the window and from the centre of it we hung a new cross which we backlit. The original stained glass from the window was found under the stairs and we incorporated some of it into the newly revealed windows above the balcony. New flooring was laid and a new electronic piano was kindly donated.
We held our first sevice in the refurbished sanctuary on Mothering Sunday 2003.
1884 – 1846 – Rev. Henry Castle
1846 – 1850 – Rev. John Williams
1851 – 1852 – Rev. John Nicklin
1852 – 1854 – Rev. Thomas Murray
1854 – 1855 – Rev. John Wood
1855 – 1856 – Rev. John Keightley
1856 – 1859 – Rev. Edward Jennings
1859 – 1860 – Rev. Nehmiah Curnock
1860 – 1861 – Rev. Ebeneezer Rushton Talbot
1861 – 1863 – Rev James E. W. Moulton
1864 – 1865 – Rev. Theophilus Pugh
1865 – 1867 – Rev. Charles Churchill
1867 – 1870 – Rev. William Pordige
1870 – 1873 – Rev. John Bramley
1873 – 1874 – Rev. John Ryan
1875 – 1878 – Rev. John Turner Waddy
1878 – 1879 – Rev. William T. Armstrong
1879 – 1880 – Rev. Samual Wesley
1880 – 1883 – Rev. William Martin
1883 – 1886 – Rev. Joseph Benson Blanch
1886 – 1888 – Rev. John H. Rogers
1888 – 1890 – Rev. Francis Teal
1890 – 1893 – Rev. James Henery Marquand
1893 – 1896 – Rev. John Mosscrop
1896 – 1898 – Rev. Joseph Witney
1898 – 1901 – Rev. John Williams
1901 – 1902 – Rev. John Wesley Bell
1903 – 1906 – Rev. Henry Lewis
1906 – 1909 – Rev. William Humphries
1909 – 1912 – Rev. George C. Mayes
1912 – 1913 – Rev. J. Arthur Aldington
1914 – 1920 – Rev. Thomas Dickinson
1920 – 1923 – Rev. Henry Arnaud Scott
1923 – 1925 – Rev. Albert James Short
1925 – 1927 – Rev. H. Walker Price
1927 – 1931 – Rev. Edwin A. Spear
1931 – 1935 – Rev. Herbert W. H. Butler
1935 – 1939 – Rev. Herbert Kidman
1940 – 1944 – Rev. Arthur J. Summerfield
1944 – 1948 – Rev. Francis Bertram James
1948 – 1952 – Rev. Alfred T Johns
1952 – 1953 – Rev. Walter Herbert Dunn
1953 – 1955 – Rev. William J. Turnball
1955 – 1960 – Rev. Alfred Cartwright
1960 – 1964 – Rev. Norman Tasker Colley
1964 – 1968 – Rev. Thomas Meakin
1968 – 1973 – Rev. R. Lloyd Jones
1973 – 1983 – Rev. Stanley E. Parsons
1983 – 1991 – Rev. Geoffrey S. Todd
1991 – 1998 – Rev. Martin P. James
1998 – 2003 – Rev. Malcolm Benton
2003 – 2008 – Rev. Diane Daymond
2008 – 2013 – Rev. Bill Robertson
2014 – – Rev. Catherine Wagstaff
With thanks to the book ‘In every generation’ – The Story of the development of Methodism in Teignmouth by Gillian M James from which a major part of this history was taken.
Suprintendent Minister Rev. Kevin Hooke 01392 211952