St Andrew's Church and the Wesleyan Chapel are now on a separate submenu
For information on memorials, see the bottom of this page.
'To Ashburton....its a market town and here are a great many Dissenters and those of the most considerable persons in the town; there was a Presbiterian, an Anabaptist and Quakers meeting'
Celia Fiennes. 1689
The Illustrated Journeys of Celia Fiennes 1685-c1712 Ed Christopher Morris, Macdonald and Co London; Webb and Bower Exeter, 1982, p 200
Western Times 5 February 1875 p2 col3
Ashburton clergy in the Universal British Directory of Trade, Commerce and Manufacture, Vol 2, late 1700s:
Rev George Martyn
Rev Jonathan Palk
James Stoat , dissenting minister
Rev John White, Master of the Grammar School
'Exeter, June 21st, 1797
At a meeting of the Western Calvinistic Association, held this day, Resolved, that a Society be formed for the purpose of promoting the knowledge of the gospel of Christ in the counties of Devon and Cornwall...That the Rev. James Stoat, of Ashburton, be appointed Secretary, and Mr William Fabyan, of Ashburton, Treasurer.'
The Evangelical Magazine for 1797, London, p340
Report of the Conference of Ministers of all Denominations on the Corn Laws, Manchester 1841
*The Corn Laws, dating from 1804, placed a duty on imported grain. The measures were designed to help landowners, but they had the effect of keeping the price of bread high.
From Kelly's Directory of Devonand Cornwall 1893:
Places of worship.
The Baptist Chapel, Heavyhead Lane, erected 1798. Has 300 sittings.
The Congregational Chapel, North St, erected in 1665. Will seat 600
The Wesleyan Chapel, West St.,erected 1835. Will seat 700
The Brethren have a room in North St. Will seat 150.They also have one near the Railway Station.
From Kelly's Directory of Devonshire 1902:
Places of worship.
St. Andrew's Church, vicar - Rev Richard James Bond
Curate - Rev Arthur Phillip Lancefield
Brethren's room,North St
Brethren's meeting room, near the station
Congregational, North St - Rev Samuel Naish B A
Wesleyan Methodist, West St - Rev John Richard Newall
From Kelly's Directory of Devonshire 1935:
Places of worship.
St. Andrew's Church, vicar - Rev E F Ball M A
Roman Catholic (temporary building) served by priests of Buckfast Abbey
Brethren's room,North St
Congregational, North St - Rev H F Hawkes
Methodist (South Devon Mission) West St - Rev F Knibbs
(also known as 'Great Meeting')
My own photograph 2012
Mr. Mead succeeds Mr. Pearse, who is then succeeded by Mr.Taylor in 1702*.
Mr. Taylor is followed by: Cornelius Bond (1711)
Nathaniel Cock (1716)
Samuel Wreyford (1741)
Thomas Clark (1761)
George Walters (1763)
James Stoat (1783)
David Parker (1814)
John Kelly (1817)
The Congregational Magazine, January 1825, pp 53, 27
In 1729, November 7th, John Comyn, of Morchard Bishop, yeoman, conveyed it to Andrew Quick, of Newton St Cyres, esquire, and, January 24th, 1739, Dorothy Quick, of Newton St Cyres, daughter and surviving devisee of A. Quick, conveyed it to John Enty, of Exeter, clerk, and Aaron Tozer, of Exeter, haberdasher....
May 15th, 1739, Messrs Enty and Tozer conveyed the property to thirteen trustees, upon trust, for them to permit the meeting-house (then evidently in course of erection, or re-erection) to be finished and completed, and from completion to suffer and permit the said meeting-house to be used as a free and public meeting-house for the worship of God by Protestant Dissenters, called Presbyterians; and Mr Joseph Cock is mentioned as the then minister.'
Edward Windeatt, Early Nonconformity in Ashburton, Transactions of the Devonshire Association, vol 28, 1896, p236ff
Rev T G Crippen, Congregationalism in Ashburton, Congregational Historical Society Transactions vol 12 no.4, London September 1934, pp19
As a memorial sacred to departed excellence, this stone is erected and perpetuates the memory of Miss Mary Eales whose exemplary life threw a lustre on her Christian profession, and whose peaceful death evinced the reality of divine principles.
She closed her eyes on this fading world, to....(the rest is hidden)
Right: To the memory of Peter Fabyan Sparke who exchanged life for immortality 16th December 1843, aged 70 years.
Also of Sarah Sparke, sister of the above, who entered into her rest 16th January 1839 aged 63 years.
She was a consistent and devoted Christian and with her beloved brother ardently attached to the cause of Christ in this place.
Also to the memory of Hester Margery Amery, niece of the above, who fell asleep in Jesus, 13th April 1839 aged 22 years. Six years member of this church she gave her best days to the service of her Saviour
"Go ye and do likewise"
"Of whom the world was not worthy"
This stone was raised to preserve the memory of the Rev. John Nosworthy M A Ejected from the parish church of Manaton in this county, who in the year 1665 gathered a Christian Church in this place, and after great persecution entered into his rest 19th November 1677, aged 65 years.
Also of the Rev. William Pearse,
Ejected from the parish church of Dunsford in this county,
who after faithfully preaching the gospel here, died 17th March 1690, aged 65 years..
His remains rest in the Church Yard of this parish.
They had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonments..."
This tablet perpetuates the memory of Rupertia Hill, the beloved wife of Mr. Henry Gervis surgeon of this town, who exchanged her earthly pilgrimage for the heavenly rest 4th Decr 1835 aged 42 years.
In the varied relations of life walked closely with God, and exemplified the lovely influence of eminent piety. Her holy submission during her final illness together with her triumphant composure in prospect of Eternity, demonstrated the indissoluble connection between nearness to the Saviour's cross, and victory over (hidden)
Right: The clock from the Congregational Chapel, now in Ashburton Museum. Made by Martin Dunsford, it was presented to the Chapel in 1791 by Sir Robert Palk (information from museum).
Clocks such as these, large and sturdily built, are often called Tavern Clocks, as they were frequently to be found in inns and other buildings used by the public.
In 1797, slightly later than the clock here, they acquired the name Parliament Clocks, after Parliament imposed a clock and watch tax. As a result, people stopped buying timepieces, relying instead on the clocks that inns and other places provided - many clockmakers went out of business during the brief time that the Act was in force.
As the website http://www.horology-stuff.com* notes, 'Canny operators would put the Parliament Clock inside their premises.'
*No longer available
Photograph courtesy of Ashburton Museum
Western Times 9 April 1943 p8 col2
Rev T G Crippen, Congregationalism in Ashburton, Congregational Historical Society Transactions vol 12 no.4, London September 1934, pp192
In 1838 a memoir appeared on the late Rev John Honywill, of Melkham in Wiltshire. He had been born at Bowdley Farm in Ashburton in 1757, the son of a farmer 'strictly attached to the parish church'. One of his father's servants attended the Dissenting chapel, and although initially mocking the servant, John then went to hear the preacher. The preacher, possibly (the writer says) the Rev Mr Walters, or the Rev Mr Fabyan who assisted him, left John 'smitten with the arrow of conviction', in spite of the initial opposition of his father and family. Eventually the family were persuaded to visit the chapel, and some members of the family converted. With the support of the Countess of Huntingdon he entered Trevecca College, although he later angered her by failing to complete the course - she 'ordered him forthwith to send back the pony on which he used to ride, in his itinerancies, and the gown in which he used to preach on those occasions.' Settling in Melkham, he obtained enough funds to build a chapel, where he preached for 58 years. 'Mr Honywill was of middling stature, and was rather a portly figure. When seated in the pulpit, which in consequence of the gout he was recently obliged to be, his appearance was truly venerable and imposing.'
The Evangelical Magazine and Missionary Chronicle, vol 16, London, May 1838
Notice that the Old or Independent Meeting House, in North Street, Ashburton, was on November 12th, 1838, registered for solemnizing marriages.
London Gazette Issue 19677 23 November 1838, p4
Thomas Matthews married Mary Mardles on December 6th, 1838. The announcement noted that this was the first marriage to take place at the Independent Chapel.
Western Times 15 December 1838, p2 col6
The Southwest Heritage Trust holds a baptism register in the form of a small hardback notebook, ref 5103D/2. On the front cover is a label "Baptismal Register For the Independent Chapel Ashburton", and inside says that it is "a true copy of the Baptismal Register of the Independent Congregation of Dissenters Ashburton commencing April 20 1817 the whole was copied by me Lavington Evans.
1846. The Rev J Roberts was minister of the Independent Chapel
Western Times 17 October 1846 p5 col4
1849. The Rev.
S. Hebditch had greatly increased the congregation at the Independent
Chapel. Amongst other things, he had begun a Young Mens' Improvement
A few months later a new school and lecture rooms were about to be built.
Western Times 10 March 1849 p7 col3
Western Times 7 July 1849 p7 col5
1849. A contract was awarded for the building of new lecture and school rooms in front of the 'Independent Chapel'. Mssrs Hext, Elliott and Eddy submitted the successful tender.
Western Times 1 December 1849 p5 col2
1853. The Rev W P Davis, now of London, preached at Ashburton. he had been the minister of the Independent Chapel 'for many years'
Western Times 18 June 1853 p7 col5
In 1865 the wife of the Rev. John Gibson, for 'some months pastor of the Calvinistic church at Ashburton', was ill, and the couple were moving to the antipodes. A large number of people attended a tea held in his honour at the Independent Chapel, including members of the Amery and Berry families, the Honywills, Mr and Mrs Hern and G W Yolland.
Western Morning News 1 April 1865, p2 col6
When Jonas Honeywill died in 1869 he was described as a 'prominent member' of the chapel. He was a maltster and brewer, and lived at Leet Park House.
Western Times 28 May 1869 p5 col4
1879 The Rev A C Moorman, Independent Minister, was amongst those non-conformists welcoming the new vicar, the Rev W M Birch, to the town
Western Times 23 December 1879 p7 col4
The Rev. J S Spilsbury was Pastor of the Congregational Chapel in 1885. He had 'just entered upon his 32nd year of pastorate'
Western Times 23 January 1885 p7 col 4
The Rev T N Oliphant was minister at the time of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887
Western Times 22 June 1887, p4 col2
From my own collection
The Congregational Chapel underwent 'thorough' renovation in 1892, at an estimated cost of £450. Mr J H Pomroy was the builder. The roof timbers had been strengthened and a new ceiling erected, and the windows had been altered to a uniform height. Pitch pine seats replaced high pews, and heavy gallery fronts had been removed, together with the pulpit. Tinted glass had been installed in the windows.
According to the Western Times, John Nosworthy founded the chapel in a barn in 1665. Hugh Stowell, Lord of the Manor and an MP, persecuted the congregation - presumably the Mr Stawell written about in the Congregational Magazine above.
The schoolrooms were added in 1850.
Western Times 18 November 1892 p5 col5
Totnes Weekly Times 29 June 1895, p8 col6
The Rev J C Hodge, from Hawes in Yorkshire, became pastor of the Congregational Church in 1904.
Western Times 13 May 1904 p10 col1
In 1909 Kenneth Evans and Miss C E T Reid (of Exeter) married at the Chapel. The groom was the son of Mr D O Evans, of the Medical Hall, Ashburton. The wedding party arrived in motor cars, and the couple also left for their honeymoon in a motor car.
Western Times 26 February 1909 p13 col5
In 1915 the Western Times reported that the Congregationists in Ashburton were celebrating the 250th anniversary of the founding of their chapel, and the centenary of the Sunday School.
This would make the founding date 1665
Western Times 19 November 1915 p5 col2
In 1926 the church had been without a pastor for 3 years. The Rev W Henrik Jones, formerly of Staple Hill Congregational Church, Bristol, took up the post in June.
Western Times 11 June p10 col1
See the 1870s section of the Virtual museum for a mug from the Congregational Chapel
1933 Induction of the Rev H F Hawkes as Pastor of Ashburton Congregational Church.
Western Times 7 April 1933 p13 col 1
In 1934 a 17th century window was placed in the Congregational Church, in memory of the two Amery brothers. The Rev H F Hawkes took part in the unveiling ceremony, as did a former minister of the church, the Rev J Barton Lee, then Archdeacon of Exeter.
Western Times 26 October 1934 p14 col6
James Rogers Fleming Todd was born in Bristol in 1913
In the 1939 register James R F Todd was a theological student in Shepton Mallet, who had finished his course and was awaiting ordination. He was in the same household as [his father] Robert, a Congregational minister.
In August 1941 James Rogers Fleming Todd BA BD married Winifred Patience Statham at the Congregational Church, with the Rev R Todd officiating.
The bride was given away by her mother. James had been inducted into the
Ashburton Congregational Church ministry the previous Tuesday.
Above: The Rev James Todd
Left: The marriage, at the Congregational Church, of Rev Todd and Winifred Statham
Many thanks to Mike Todd for both photographs, who adds that the couple held their reception at Barnes' Café.
Rev Todd officiated at the funeral for Miss Bertha Manlove in September 1941. Aged 83 and from Moorlawn, Miss Manlove had been a 'prominent member' of the Congregational Church, as well as being a member of the Devonshire Association.
Western Morning News 4 September 1941 p4 col5
By October 1942 the Rev J R F Todd was librarian for the Ashburton branch of the Devon County Library.
Western Morning News 30 October 1942 p4 col3
Mrs Todd, wife of the Congregational minister, read one of the lessons at Ashburton's first Women's World Day of prayer.
Western Times 26 March 1943 p4 col4
The Rev J R F Todd resigned from Ashburton in September 1943. He was about to become a chaplain at Hibbert Houses in the Middle East serving H M forces.
Hibbert Houses were intended to provide a calm and homely environment for all members of H M forces, under the auspices of the Unitarian and Free Christian General Assembly.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 3 September 1943 p4 col6
The Rev Herbert Merrill was inducted as the new minister of the Congregational Chapel in November 1948
Western Times 19 November 1948 p7 col5
The Chapel Trustees are shown as the owner/occupiers of the
Congregational Chapel, per J Langler, 32, East Street, Ashburton.
In a list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest, compiled under Section 30 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and dated 1951.
Thanks to Pete Webb
My own photograph 2012
In 1914 the death of John Hern of Chuley, a member of the Plymouth Brethren, was announced.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 22 May 1914 p5 col 6
A cyder manufacturer, John Hern was 83 at the time of the 1911 census. He was by this time totally blind. A widower, he was living at Chuley House with his three unmarried daughters, one of whom, Lydia, was a private school teacher.
http://search.ancestry.co.uk/1911 census - RG14, Piece 12725, Schedule Number 82
Mr A Palk of the Ashburton Brethren conducted the first part of the funeral service at the house.
Western Times 8 April 1938 p7 col7
At some stage the Plymouth Brethren moved to 7 East Street, known as The Gospel Hall. According to Francis Pilkington, they were 'a tiny group' when he was writing in 1978
Ashburton, The Dartmoor Town, Francis Pilkington, Devon Books, 1978 p 36 of the 1989 ed.
Meanwhile the Chapel became a wood store for about 50 years. In 2009 it was purchased by the Quakers, was renovated in 2012.
As the Hern family were connected to both Chuley Orchard and the Plymouth Brethren, I suspect that there is a connection between the Zion Chapel and the Plymouth Brethren.
Western Times 31st May 1881 p5 col3
The Chapel, originally cottages, was used by the Plymouth Brethren in the late 1800s. It features in the 1891 census and in 1896 there is a newspaper report of a conference of Plymouth Brethren superintendents and teachers at Ashburton, with dinner and tea laid on in the Chapel.
Western Times 30 March 1896 p2 col 6
The Brethren's Gospel Room, North Street, features as a place of worship in the 1906 Ashburton, Buckfastleigh , Brent and Ivybridge District Almanac
My thanks to Mary Yeatman for showing me around the Chapel and for information on its history
The Baptist Chapel
My own photograph 2016
The arrangements were made through the family of Mlle Delacote, who had 'wonderful vocal powers'. This suggests she had some connection with the Heron-Mason family below.
The Tablet, 3 June 1911, p36++
According to D John Stephan, the mass took place in a garret in Roborough Lane, 'the premises being placed at [the Abbot's] disposal by the late Mrs Herring-Mason'.
3 years later, in 1914, a temporary chapel was established.
Official Guide to Ashburton, 1950s
Hartland and West Country Chronicle, 7 June 1939, p3, col5 ? (difficult to determine)
E J Walters had been the architect for the building, which was constructed in 1935
At the top of East Street at The Wilderness lived the Heron-Mason family, father, mother and two daughters. One of the girls had a beautiful soprano voice and became a singer in the D’Oyly Carte theatre company. The only way Ashburton people could hear her sing was to go to the children’s Sunday School in the Catholic Church, which in those days was an old army hut situated in Roborough Lane in what is now Ashburn Gardens. Women said this lovely young girl walked up and down the aisle swinging her Rosary and singing “Ave Maria” or other sacred hymns; 'Her voice was angelic', said one listener.
My thanks to Hazel Bray for the above account
My own photograph 2012
From my own collection.