Churches and Chapels

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



In 1875 the Western Times published an article on Non-conformity in Devonshire, claiming that in the Record Office in London there was a complete list of those licensed to preach in 1672. Those mentioned in connection with Ashburton are John Syms and Richard Tapper, both down as Presbyterians.

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              


In 1841 ministers of all denominations met in Manchester to discuss the Corn Laws.* The Rev W P Davies of Ashburton represented his own congregration and three others in South Devon. 'The working people of Ashburton were half their time unemployed, and in a state of great destitution. '
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



                     The old Congregational Chapel in North Street

                                      (also known as 'Great Meeting')

'In the Episcopal Return of Conventicles in 1669 (Tenison MS., 639, p185b) this entry appears:
"Ashberton, at ye house of ye old John Syms: 100 : ye said John Syms a Nonconformist minister. This Conventicle is lately supprest." '
Rev T G Crippen, Congregationalism in Ashburton, Congregational Historical Society Transactions vol 12 no.4, London September 1934, p187ff

According to the Rev. T G Crippen, Sims was the Puritan minister of Dean Prior.
On 22nd March 1672, after the publication of the Declaration of Indulgence, 72 non-conformist ministers in Devon sent a message of thanks to the king. Signature no. 18 was that of William Pearse, no. 20 was John Sims and no.41 was John Nosworthy.
On 11th April 'John Sims, near Ashburton, Devon' was granted a licence as a 'Grall.Pr.Teacher', which was a general licence as a Presbyterian to preach anywhere that was allowed. A week later John Nosworthy, MA, was granted a similar licence. A licence for 'The Schoolhouse at Ashburton in Devon' was applied for but was apparently not issued.
On 25th July 1672 'The house of Richard Sappers at Ashburton in Devon' was granted a licence for Presbyterian meetings. The licence for Richard Tapper on 10th August was probably a correction.
The Rev. Crippen believed that Mr Nosworthy probably used Richard Tapper's house, and that Mr Sims possibly did.

On 28th October 1672 'Thomas Egbeare of ye Congl. way to be Teachr at the house of Gregory Millard of Ashburton in Devon' was granted a licence.

John Fabyan, in his will of 1690, left 30s to 'The poor of Mr Pearse his meeting in Ashburton' and 20s to 'The poor of Mr Palk his meeting in Ashburton.'
Thomas Palk died on 10th June 1693, aged 55.

Above: The Old Congregational Chapel, North Street,
My own photograph 2012

'The origin of dissent in this place is attributed to Mr. John Nosworthy, the ejected minister of Manaton....(description of early life) when he could no longer exercise his ministry in publick he went back to Manaton, and did what good he could in private. When the Five Mile Act drove him thence, he lived at Ashburton, where he met with many enemies and much opposition...he was threatened to be pulled out of the pulpit. 
Mr. Roger Caunter, an attorney, who was preesent, said, "Sir, keep your place, for you are preaching God's word." Another time...Mr. Stawel entered the town, in his coach, attended by his servants and others with drums, muskets, etc....the two drummers beat their drums, some discharged their guns, others shouted and made loud huzzas...Mr. Nosworthy departed this life Nov. 19 1677.... appears that Mr. William Pearse succeeded...Mr. Pearse's tomb yet exists in the churchyard of Ashburton.'
The Congregational Magazine, January 1825, pp 53, 273
Above: The tomb of William Pearse in Ashburton churchyard. 'Here lyeth y body of Mr William Pearse minister of y gospel in this town who deceased y 17th day of March 1690 in y 66 year of his age whose rejoicing was the___________'
My own photograph 2019

'Six times a year the Bailiff came to Stretchleighhouse to warn Mr Pearse and his wife, with his son and daughters, to appear at the Assizes at Exeter, to answer for Riots, Routs, keeping seditious Meetings, and not obeying the Laws...he was impoverish'd, pursu'd, and imprison'd, for no other Crimes than preaching the Gospel of Peace, and endeavouring to help on Souls in the Way to Heaven....He survived the Tribulation of those Days, and saw our Civil and Religious Liberties restored by the happy Revolution: After which, he set up a publick Metting in Ashburton, where he continu'd for the Remainder of his Days. He died March 17. 1690/91, Aetat 65*.'
Edmund Calamy DD, A Continuation of the Account of the Ministers, Lecturers, Masters and Fellows of Colleges, and Schoolmasters, who were Ejected and Silenced after the Restoration of 1660, by or before the Act of Uniformity, London, 1727, p341ff
*Aged 65

'Dr Walk'r is pleased to throw Dirt very plentifully at this good man...'
A letter rebutting the allegations follows, written by Mr Pearse's daughter, Mrs Agnes Pearse, dated February 28, 1717/18, at Ashburton.
ibid p342

John Flavel of Dartmouth, an influential nonconformist and author of six volumes of 'Works', had an immense following during his lifetime. Born circa 1630, he died in June 1691.
Brian H Cosby, John Flavel: Puritan Life and Thought in Stuart England, Plymouth 2014

'The last sermon he preach'd was on the 21st of June 1691, at Ashburton, from I Cor. 10.12 Wherfore let him that standeth take heed lest he fall'
He died on the 26th June. 'His corps was carried from Exeter to Dartmouth, attended by several Ministers, and a great many other Persons of good Quality; abundance of people rode out from Dartmouth, Totness, Newton, Ashburton and other places to meet the corps...'
The whole works of the Reverend John Flavel, London 1701

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
*John Taylor according to Rev T G Crippen, Congregationalism in Ashburton, Congregational Historical Society Transactions vol 12 no.4, London September 1934, p189ff
The Rev Crippen also has Samuel Staddon or Stoden in 1712.
He says that Mr Kelly left in 1827, after which there was a vacancy for two years.

'The present Independent Chapel, situated in North Street Ashburton, appears from the original trust deed to have been erected in 1739, on the site of a barn which had been converted into a meeting-house for the worship of God as early as 1712, it being so described in a deed of that date...from the deeds, the property appears to have originally belonged to Thomas Glanvill, of Exeter, fuller, and Thomas Sainthill, of Ashburton, clothier, who, November 15th, 1712, conveyed it to one John Comyn.
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

'About the time when this deed was executed the converted barn was enlarged to about double its former size. There was an adjacent barn, the two running side by side, each having a door into Cad Lane. The partition wall was taken down, two pillars being placed to sustain the roof; the two doors gave place to two large windows, the pulpit being between two windows on the north side. The building was square, having no gallery; the centre was occupied by four large family pews. Three of the walls of this edifice are still standing. An adjacent garden was taken into use as a burial ground.'
Rev T G Crippen, Congregationalism in Ashburton, Congregational Historical Society Transactions vol 12 no.4, London September 1934, pp190

1779  Rev George Walters, dissenting minister, buried 9 November 1779
Parish records

The remodelling of the meeting-house in 1791 involved the walls being raised two and a half feet. The two pillars were removed, a new roof was constructed, and stone arches were built over the windows on the outside. There was a new pulpit and clerk's desk, and a semi-circular gallery was erected: the alterations cost £218. Robert Palk, returning from India, presented a clock, chandelier and candle sconces for the pulpit.
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" 


Left: "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
All the photographs above my own, 2012


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*  notes, 'Canny operators would put the Parliament Clock inside their premises.'

*No longer available

Photograph courtesy of Ashburton Museum

In 1943 an Arthure Wilde came to Ashburton and wrote an article about his visit in the Western Times. He found the Congregational Church closed, but was able to see some gravestones near the door. One had this inscription: 'Near this stone are the remains of William Jerman, clerk of the meeting house for 27 years, died 1809.'
Western Times 9 April 1943 p8 col2

The meeting-house was renovated again in 1818, with the building being extended about 20 feet into the burial ground. A limestone front was erected; the gallery was replaced with new front and side galleries. The pulpit and pews were rearranged.
Rev T G Crippen, Congregationalism in Ashburton, Congregational Historical Society Transactions vol 12 no.4, London September 1934, pp192

'The meeting house was enlarged sixteen feet in 1819.'
The Congregational Magazine, January 1825, pp 53, 273

A row of cottages stood in front of the meeting-house - access was through a passage that was connected with a public house called The North Star. The trustees leased these buildings in 1829: the cottages were let and a room was reserved for meetings.
Rev T G Crippen, Congregationalism in Ashburton, Congregational Historical Society Transactions vol 12 no.4, London September 1934, pp192

The North Star is mentioned in a list of leases of North Street properties. Dated 1781, the names of Sunter and the Rev. Fabian are mentioned.
Devon Heritage Centre ref 924B/L/1/1 - Accessed 15-10-2018

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 Society.
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

Above: A receipt to the executors of the late Mrs Yolland from Richard Eggbeer, treasurer of the Congregational Chapel, dated April 7th 1888. The executors had paid 10s (ten shillings) for rent of a pew.

From my own collection

In 1888 The Totnes Times published the news that the Rev S Helditch had died in Australia. He had formerly been the Congregational minister.
The Totnes Times and Devon News, 12 May 1888, p2 col 4
See Rev Hebditch above

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

John S Spilsbury was an independent Minister at Uffculme, Devon, in the 1881 census. He was born 1821/22 Bedminster, Somerset.

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
During the strike at the Berry works, Mr Oliphant held a special Sunday afternoon service for the workers. 'This angered the Berry family and most of them forsook chapel for church'
Prof John Satterley, Ashburton in Late Victorian Days, Transactions of the Devonshire Association, vol 84, Torquay 1952, p28

The Rev T N Oliphant was moving from Ashburton to Kirkstall, near Leeds, in 1895. He had been pastor at Ashburton for 13 years. 
Totnes Weekly Times 29 June 1895, p8 col6

The Rev H J Barton Lee, 'a young and enthusiastic man with a charming wife' succeeded the Reverend Oliphant. 'He always preached an interesting sermon and we were very sorry when he left. The Chapel had never been so fully attended'.
Prof John Satterley, Ashburton in Late Victorian Days, Transactions of the Devonshire Association, vol 84, Torquay 1952, p28

The Rev H J Barton Lee was about to preach his farewell sermon in July 1900, after being in Ashburton for four and a half years. He had become pastor of Heavitree Congregational Church.
Totnes Weekly Times 28 July 1900, p7 col5

Above: Dr Naish, Congregational Minister.
With many thanks to Lerida Arnold
The Reverend Samuel Naish BA is listed as the Congregational Minister at Ashburton in Kelly's 1902 Directory of Devon.

In 1902 the Rev W Laws Waights, Wesleyan Minister of Ashburton, together with Dr Naish, the Congregational Minister, arranged for a night's lodging and meals for a distressed lady who had been deserted by her husband. She was trying to reach her wealthy uncle Evans in Ivybridge, but had insufficient funds to get there.
Jessie Fursel, aged about 50 but giving her age as 75, was up before the Justices at Ashburton in late November, 
on a charge of obtaining goods to the value of 1s 6d from the Rev Laws Waights, after being apprehended at Chagford.
 There was no person answering to the name Evans in Ivybridge, and the address she had given did not exist. 'Inquiries showed that prisoner was a very old hand at this sort of fraud.'
She was committed to trial at the Quarter Sessions.
Western Times 28 November 1902, p14 col4

This may be the same Rev. Dr. Naish of Friernhay Congregational Church, Exeter, who preached a farewell sermon in January 1904, having been a minister there for one year.
Western Times 11 January 1904, p3 col3

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                   


Above: Postcard of an Ashburton chapel, undated. Harvest festival? The memorials seem to match the later photographs (further up the page) of ones from the Congregational Chapel. 
From my own collection

                                              The Rev James Todd

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.

1939 register

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.
Western Times 14 August 1941, p7 col2

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

1951 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

                                                 The Plymouth Brethren

Below: The Plymouth Brethren Chapel, Foale's Court, off North Street (the stone built building with the green door)

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. census - RG14, Piece 12725, Schedule Number 82

Caroline Lucy Hern aged 79 died in 1938, the 'eldest surviving daughter' of Mr and Mrs Hern. She died at Chuleigh, which had been the family home for four generations.

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.

1881 Eleven people connected with the Zion Chapel were baptized by immersion at Chuley Orchard. Five or six hundred people went to watch.
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

The Baptist Chapel was built in Heavyhead Lane (now Woodland Road) in 1798 and is the large building opposite No 19 Woodland Road.
See Kelly's Directory of Devon and Cornwall 1893, above

Above: The old Baptist Chapel, Woodland Road.
My own photograph 2016
The tithe map, circa 1840, shows the building as no. 1562. The apportionment labels it as Chapel, Heavyhead Lane, and the landowner and occupier as the Trustees of the Baptist Chapel. - accessed 05-12-2023

1832 'On Thursday May 3rd, the Rev Charles Tippett was set apart to the pastoral office over the Baptist church of Christ at Ashburton.
In the morning Rev H Field (Indep.) of that town commenced the service by reading an
d prayer.'
The Baptist Magazine for 1832, vol XXIV, London, 1832, p310 ff
November 1839 saw the anniversary of the opening of the Baptist Chapel.
Western Times 30 November 1839, p3 col2

In the same year a lecture on teetotalism was given at the Old Baptist Chapel, lent by the Rev. W Marsh. The Chapel was now an Infants' School.
Western Times 7 December 1839, p3 col5

1841 The children of the Baptist Sunday School had a special tea to celebrate the anniversary of the emancipation of the West Indian slaves.
Charles Tippett was the minister.
Western Times 14 August 1841, p3 col4

Emancipation Day was Friday, 1 August 1834 accessed 28-10-2013

1850 The Rev John Dore, the Rev Saml Hebditch and the Rev Charles Tippett were all stated as 'Baptist' in Ashburton.
History, Gazetteer and Directory of Devonshire, William White, 1850, p465. Freely available on accessed 25-09-2014

'Ashburton, Devon. We are requested just to state, for the information of many who have contributed, that the baptist chapel at this place is now free from debt.'
The Baptist Reporter and Missonary Intelligencer, ed. Joseph Foulkes Winks, London 1851, p81

'Goodstone, near Ashburton. Two believers were baptised according to the scriptural mode in the river at Goodstone, by Mr Amery, Dec 1. One of the candidates, a female, between fifty and sixty years of age, led the singing at the waterside, and after being buried with Christ, came up out of the water, singing and rejoicing in the Lord. Many spectators were present to witness the scene, and great solemnity prevailed throughout the whole of this interesting service.'
Baptist Reporter and Missionary Intelligencer, ed. Joseph Foulkes Winks, London, 1851, p27

In 1855 the Rev J Close, formerly of the Independent Chapel in Buckfastleigh, was baptised in the Baptist Chapel, Ashburton.
Western Times, 26 May 1855, p7 col3

The Rev J Dore was the Baptist minister in 1857
Western Times 13 June 1857, p5 col5

1893 Ten candidates underwent baptism by immersion. Mr Mogridge of Torquay conducted the service.
Western Times 16 November 1893 p2 col5

In 1899 there were reports that the Baptist Union were negotiating to revive services in the Chapel in Heavyhead Lane.
Totnes Weekly Times, 7 October 1899, p2 col1

When the Rev P Chas Poley became the Baptist minister in 1900, he was the first 'settled pastor' for some years. There had not even been services until shortly before his appointment.
Western Times 23 March 1900, p6 col3

1911 '...The old Baptist Chapel in Woodland Road was acquired* and converted into a gymnasium...'
Ashburton Grammar School 1314-1938, W S Graf, Ashburotn 1938, p23
*By the Grammar School

               The Catholic church of Our Lady of Lourdes and St Petroc
'The Mass restored'. In 1911 the Abbot of Buckfast arrived in Ashburton in a carriage driven by a monk. At the top of a hill the Abbot was led through a garden and to the upstairs room of a house, fitted out as a chapel. Here he held the Mass, '[holding] aloft to heaven the golden chalice, flashing with diamonds, encrusted with pearls...'
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

When Agnes Ida Warren Vernon died, her obituary said that 3 years previously she had helped 'very generously' in the building of the new Roman Catholic Church in Ashburton.
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
Above: The Catholic Church, Eastern Road
My own photograph 2012
                The 1920s/30s

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


Right: The Bovey Memorial Fountain, originally on the site of the War Memorial in East Street.
From my own collection.

According to the Devon Heritage website ( ) he was the son of Robert and Emily Bovey, and was born in 1871 at Timaru in New Zealand. The 1891 census shows a Robert G Bovey (corrected to Robert E Bovey ), the son of Robert M Bovey and Emily M Bovey, all living at Landscove, Devon (possibly Robert Mitchelmore Bovey and Emily Margaret Russell)
Left: The Bovey Memorial, now (2021) by the side of the Bay Horse Inn. The inset shows the details
Photograph by John German snr., to whom many thanks
Robert's attestation papers confirm that he was born in New Zealand (the parish is difficult to read, but looks like Timeroo) and that he was 29½ when he enlisted into the Imperial Yeomanry in January 1901. His trade or calling was 'Gentleman'. 5ft 7ins tall, the papers describe him as having brown hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion. He served in South Africa from late February.

On 30th September 1901 at 4.40am Vecht-general J C G Kemp engaged British soldiers commanded by Col. R G Kekewich at Moedwil farm, in the western Transvaal. Other Boers, commanded by Koos De la Rey, were also advancing, but were discovered by a patrol. The fighting ceased at 6am, but had been fierce, and there were great losses: 11 Boers were killed and 63 British lost their lives. 35 Boers and 151 British were wounded.
Martin Marix Evans, Encyclopedia of the Boar War, p188 - accessed 21-01-2021

Research undertaken by John German snr., to whom many thanks.

Memorials in St Andrew's churchyard can be accessed at this website: The Ashburton page features 397 graves and 708 names  

Names from the war memorial can be found on

See also the Roll of Honour, under Ashburton in peril