The main events in the history of Hope Baptist Church, Peverell, Plymouth PL3 4GQ are outlined, but behind the facts are stories of devotion and sacrifice to Christ, of the consecration of gifts and talents and of wholehearted service, freely given by a host of people, old and young. In memory we salute them and thank God for every remembrance of them.

Early days for Plymouth Baptists

Hope Church, like many Plymouth Baptist Churches, traces its descent from the Plymouth

Church (subsequently Old George Street and known today as Catherine Street), which had a meeting house originally in the Fish Market and then in How Street. For the convenience of members living in the Plymouth Dock area, (now Devonport) an additional meeting house was secured in Liberty Street (now Pembroke Street flats, Devonport).

For eight years the Church worshipped in two buildings. In 1789 the Plymouth Dock congregation became a separate Church. In 1798, a disused chapel in Morice Square was secured for the Baptist denomination. This had been built for the ministry of one Mr. Moore, who had seceded from the Wesleyan Methodists. For nine years the Dock Church worshipped in two buildings. In 1800, by mutual agreement, two separate Churches were constituted.

 Hope’s First Minister

The Rev. Thomas Horton, the”Square’s” third minister, had been pastor of Morice Square Baptist Church, Devonport; for over thirty years when he felt compelled to resign. He did not know what was before him, but only that he must hold to his convictions.

He had long held, latterly with deepening conviction, that the Communion Table should be open to all Christians, whether baptised by immersion or not.

The Church agreed that separate Communion Services should be held in the vestry for non-baptists. Certain folk, however, described as “busybodies,” so much objected that they interfered with the vestry services. The pastor, deeming he could be of no further service, resigned the charge on the 26th July, 1852, the very day on which he had been pastor for thirty-one years.

Mount Street Devonport

The Church was formed in 1852, being constituted originally by the Pastor and a number of members who seceded from Morice Square Baptist Church on the question of open communion.

Some 150 of the members of “The Square” shared Mr. Horton’s views. Seeing no prospect of any action, on the question of open communion, withdrew from Morice Square Baptist Church and invited the Rev. Thomas Horton to lead them in their new premises.

After consulting widely, he agreed to their request and became their minister in a chapel situated in Mount Street, Devonport. They were given the joint use by a small Church of paedobaptists, (Baptists who practiced infant baptism) with whom they had been temporarily associated in the fellowship of the Gospel.

Mount Street Devonport – Hope Baptist Church, constituted.

It was in the vestry of Mount Street that Hope Church was formed, on the evening of Thursday, 23rd December, 1852, when, after prayer and consultation, four resolutions were adopted:

  • That we, whose names are hereunder subscribed, do hereby withdraw from the Church at the Square and do at the same time, in the fear of God, constitute ourselves a separate Baptist Church holding the principles of free or open communion.

Then follow 152 names, including those of Mr. and Mrs. Horton.

  • The second resolution dealt with the election of three deacons.
  • The third, with the election of the Rev. Thomas Horton to the pastorate
  • The fourth set up a committee of Ways and Means, consisting of ten members including the deacons. (Two of these bore the name of Sweetnam. They were forbears of the Misses Sweetnam who were in membership at Hope until the 1950s).

The following is a copy of the entry in the original church book and explains, in the language of the members who constituted the Church at that time, the cause and history of its formation.

NEW BAPTIST CHAPEL IN DEVONPORT, ON “OPEN COMMUNION PRINCIPLES”.

Toward the close of the year 1851, the question of ” Terms of Communion ” at the Table of the Lord was incidentally agitated in the Baptist Church assembling in Morice Square, Devonport, then and for more than thirty years previously, under the pastoral care of the Rev. T. Horton, when differences of conviction on that long disputed subject were elicited and avowed.

The Pastor felt himself compelled to resign his office, and consequently a considerable number of the members, amounting to about 150, seeing no reasonable prospect of acting out their cherished convictions as to the fellowship of all believers in the Lord’s Supper, withdrew from the Society, and invited the seceded Pastor to resume the oversight of them in the Lord. As in the opinion of many esteemed brethren whom he consulted, necessity was laid upon him, he acceded to their request, and has ministered to them for a while in a Chapel, situated in Mount Street, Devonport, of which the joint use has been readily conceded to them by a small Church of Paedobaptists, with whom they have been temporarily associated in the fellowship of the gospel.

This Chapel the Trustees are desirous to sell. The Baptists could only retain the use of it by purchasing it, and although the price named is comparatively low, yet as the annual liabilities are great, as a considerable sum would be required for repairs, and as the situation is in all hands deemed ineligible, the newly organised body were compelled to entertain the project of erecting a suitable edifice in which they may enjoy and exemplify their sentiments on Christian Communion, may secure the continued ministrations of their esteemed and beloved Pastor, and may hope to extend the Kingdom of Christ in the town in which he has so long laboured with general acceptance, with an unblemished reputation, and with a gratifying amount of success in the conversion of souls.

Having obtained promises of pecuniary help to the extent of £1,300 from among themselves and their immediate connections, they proceeded to look out for a site. With a very limited choice, they happily obtained one in Fore Street, which appeared to be in every way suitable, affording adequate space both for a Chapel and Schoolrooms. This site, they after serious deliberation, deemed it right to secure. They did so, and having obtained drawings and estimates, have entered into a contract for the proposed building.

The site, including the old houses, leases, etc., will cost £700, and the building, 70 feet by 44 within, to contain, with Sunday Schools, about 900 persons, will require a further outlay of £2,600. This sum is about one-third more than it would probably have cost, had not the price both of materials and labour so greatly advanced, but as they must incur this expense, or abandon so important an object, as the town is populous, with abundance of room for another place of worship, and as the principles on which they stand- THE RIGHT OF ALL- CHRISTIANS TO THE TABLE OF THE LORD-is so scriptural and so dear to them, they have adventured on so great an undertaking, hoping for the sympathy of the Christian public, and looking up for the blessing of God.

Though populous, the Town of Devonport is well known to be poor, yet it has we think done well in the contributions it has offered, and we gratefully acknowledge, that every denomination of Christians in the Town has rendered us assistance.

May we then in the name of our common Christianity, and for the sake of our common Lord, earnestly solicit your aid in this important undertaking.

Signed on behalf of the Church,

R. T. Usherwood, W. C. Collard,George Fittock, Deacons

Signed on behalf of the Building Committee,

Joseph Nicholson, ,Secretary

Hope Chapel in Fore Street, Devonport, was opened for worship on Tuesday, 16th January, 1855. The Rev. W. Brock, of London, preached the two sermons, which were described as “appropriate and powerful.” The Revs. S. Nicholson ( Plymouth), John Pyer ( Devonport), and Dr. Alliott (Western College), shared in the services. On the next evening some 800 people took tea in the Mechanic’s Institute. Mr. Peter Adams ( Plymouth), presided, and Mr. James R. Jeffery (Liverpool), and the Rev. W. Brock, addressed the company. The first Sunday services in the new building were on 21st January, 1855, and were conducted by the Rev. S. Nicholson and the Rev. Eliezer Jones in the morning and evening respectively.

As was customary in those days, the Communion Service was a separate service held in the afternoon. The Rev. Dr. Alliott presided, assisted by the pastor, the Rev. Thomas Horton.

Loans secured and cleared

The total cost of the chapel (the schoolrooms were built later, in 1869, at a cost of £l,017) was £3.300, and of this sum £700 was spent on the site including the old houses, leases, etc. It is interesting to note, that it is recorded that: “This sum is about one-third more than it would probably have cost, had not the prices of both materials and labour so greatly advanced.” It is of equal interest to note that even before the site had been secured, £1,300, no small sum for those days, had been received from the members in cash and promises. The first bazaar held by the Church was before the chapel was built and it realised over £200 net for the building fund. The whole debt, including heavy interest charges, was cleared by the end of 1860.

Steady Growth with discipline

Mr. Horton continued in the pastorate until 8th September, 1870, when failing health compelled his retirement, despite the help of an assistant minister. During his ministry there was steady growth, but in membership the figure of 300 does not seem to have been exceeded. There were encouragements and discouragements and not a few cases of discipline in the membership. But in those days, things we regard with easy tolerance led to suspension from membership, but nearly always there was penitence and restoration.

Weston Mill and Ford

The Church looked beyond its own immediate borders. Mr.J.Willoughby, one of the deacons, and Mr. J. P. Bourne, were sent to Weston Mill to open a preaching station which the Church sustained. These two brethren also began services at Ford, which led to the establishment of the present Ford Church. The Church, however, felt it could not accept responsibility for the growing work at Ford. Later the George Street Church, to which Messrs. Willoughby and Bourne had transferred, took the responsibility for Ford.

Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon at Hope

We don’t know how the singing was led when the Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, not yet 25 years of age, preached at Hope on 19th May, 1859 (Spurgeon objected to musical instruments in his services). He was however presented with an offering of £50 toward the cost of building the Metropolitan Tabernacle.

An Organ to lead the singing

By 1861, however, the Church felt the need of a musical instrument and by 1862 a harmonium had been secured. This gave place to a second-hand pipe organ costing £130 in 1898. The same organ, re-conditioned in 1927, and transferred to Peverell still leads some of the singing in 2003.

Giving changed from Quarterly to weekly

It was in Mr. Horton’s time, on June 6th, 1860, that the church adopted the practice of weekly offerings. Up to then it had been quarterly. A year later the good practice began of giving an offering on the first Sunday in the year to the Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund of the Baptist Missionary Society. Mrs. Snowden’s bequest for the poor of the Church dates from this period.

Hope’s Second Minister

The Rev. J. P. Haddy, who had been assistant minister since November 1866, succeeded to the pastorate in 1870 and retired in 1882. The Church minutes do not reveal any unusual happening in the period. It seems to have been a matter of the normal work maintained. In this ministry the late Rev. Joseph Cornish. who became Home Secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society, joined the Church on April 15th, 1875. The Rev. Thomas Horton died on August 6th, 1877, and was buried in Saltash Baptist burial ground, where the Devonport Churches had, and as far as is known, still have burial rights.

Hope’s Third Minister.

The Rev. Albert Braine began his ministry on the first Sunday in January 1883. In the following October he proposed for membership a young lady named Mary Healy (no 1 on the church roll) and on November 26th, 1883 she was voted into membership.Known to many as Mrs. Damerell senior, she spent in excess of seventy years in membership at Hope. It was Mr. Braine who proposed Miss Minnie Prust (no 2 on the church roll) for membership, and she was accepted by the Church on February 23rd, 1885 becoming better known as Mrs. Tozer. Up to 1885 the Communion Service was a separate service held on Sunday afternoons. From March 30th in that year it was held following the evening service.

Hope’s Fourth Minister

The Rev. Albert Braine retired in 1897, and was succeeded in the same year by the Rev. Edward Francis who seems to have had gifts of leadership in business matters and who above all was a pastor.

Rights for Baptists in the Forces

He it was who took up with the War Office and the Admiralty the matter of the right of sailors and soldiers, connected with Baptist and Congregational Churches, to attend churches of their own denomination. He became the first officiating chaplain to Baptist and Congregational servicemen in the Port and Garrison of Plymouth. The minister of Hope continued to be officiating chaplain to the Forces until 1920.

Church Meetings Introduced

Mr. Francis also introduced certain regular church meetings for fellowship only as distinct from business meetings, and a revolutionary scheme of church government by, and through, a Council composed of elders, deacons and representatives of departments. Only major matters came before the church members, and that at the absolute discretion of the Council. There were similar arrangements for the women’s work of the church. The scheme lasted with modifications for over a dozen years, but finally the Church reverted to normal procedure.

During the ministry of Mr. Francis the Church made a strong plea to the Baptist Union for the adoption of some ongoing scheme for ministerial settlement and support. This was some eight years before such a scheme came into being.

Hope’s Fifth Minister

The Rev. F. W. Dunster became the pastor on 18th January 1908, in succession to Mr. Francis, who retired in December of the previous year. He served the Church with great devotion and he also served the Forces as officiating chaplain, and in this work had the support of the Church.

First signs of Youth Power?

During his pastorate a mild revolution broke out amongst the young people. It was insisted that the Sunday School and the Christian Endeavour Society should have the right from among themselves to appoint representatives to the diaconate with full voting powers.Not all that was demanded was granted, but they got something. Here again there was later a reversion to normal procedure. It was during Mr. Dunster’s time that the freewill offering scheme was adopted.

Decision to migrate

It had become clear during Mr Dunster’s ministry that the usefulness of Fore Street had so diminished that attempts should be made to dispose of the property and to move to a newer district. In any case there were two other Baptist Churches in Devonport and that seemed enough. Mr. Dunster initiated the idea that Peverell was the location to be considered, and before he resigned from the pastorate in April. 1920, so pressed the suggestion upon the Church that it was finally decided to approach the Lord of the Manor on the subject of the restrictive covenants in the freehold deed.

New Hope for Peverell

At a special church meeting held on 2nd March, 1921, attended by representatives of the Devon and Cornwall Baptist Association, it was resolved, at a cost of £925, to secure the removal of the said covenants, to instruct the trustees to sell Fore Street as provided by the trust deed, and to hold the money in trust for the erection of new premises in the Peverell area. No definite action to put this resolution into effect was taken for some little time, in fact the property was not advertised, nor was it made generally known that it was for sale, the feeling of the Church members being that it was wise to wait for definite divine leading.

Mistake? No

Mr. M. J. Carter who had been a lay pastor in Portsmouth, came to Devonport at that time, and the Church felt led to appoint him as lay pastor, pending the proposed sale. Mr. Carter, who had great faith in very much printers ink and in almost continuous special missions, felt it was a mistake to think of moving from Fore Street. He put in some strenuous work and made sure everybody else did the same, but the decision of the 1920 church meeting was confirmed by events.

Fore Street sold to the Methodists

On 25th April, 1924, it was decided to sell the property for £13,000 to the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion who wanted to convert it into a central hall. It is rather a remarkable fact that Mr. Dunster was the only Pastor who did not finish his ministerial career with this Church.

Final Services in Fore Street Devonport.

The final Baptist services in Fore Street were held on 31st August, 1924. The Rev. C. H.

Underwood conducted the morning service, and the Rev. Thomas Iles, President of the Devon and Cornwall Association, the service at 6.30, and the Communion Service that followed it.

The next evening there was a tea meeting at 5.30, a receiving of thank offerings at 6.15 by the Rev. J. Ivor Wensley, the President of the Plymouth Baptist District, and a rally at 7.0 p.m., with Mr. Wensley presiding. The newspaper said that Baptists from all parts of the Three Towns and from the villages around attended. Addresses were delivered by the Rev. T. Wilkinson Riddle (George Street Church), and the Rev. E. W. Ketley (Secretary of the Plymouth District). Mr. Chas. E. Prust, the church secretary, to whom the Church owed very much for his part in the business transactions, spoke of the hopes for the future. The doxology was sung”and”, said the Western Morning News and Mercury,”a profound silence fell upon the gathering while Mr. Wensley pronounced the Benediction.”

The final services in the Fore Street Church were held on 1st September 1924.

1924 – 1952

Beginnings in Peverell.

On September 7th, opening Services were held Pounds House Peverell, which became the temporary home of the Hope Church, by kind permission of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Hurrell, the owners.

The first Services there were on Sunday, 7th September, 1924. The Rev. A. N. Nicholson was the preacher. Charles Dyer attended the morning service and remembered the glow of the new beginning. Though only four or five scholars from the old Sunday School had come to Peverell with Mr. Hy. Damerell, the Superintendent, (Miss Mary Damerell and Mr. Fred Vosper were two of them), the Sunday School continued without a break and so did the weekly meeting for prayer.

A Building Committee was appointed and the Rev. .T. Ivor Wensley, who had acted as Moderator of the Church, was elected Chairman.There is no need to enlarge on the difficulty of securing a suitable site, as far as possible removed from any other Church. Sufficient to say the Peverell site was finally secured for the price of £1,500.

The Memorial Stone of the School Hall was laid on 26th July, 1926, by Mrs. H. Damerell, and the Hall was opened on 17th November 1926 by Mrs. J. A. Bond.

On 26th July 1926 the Memorial Stone of the new Hope Church at Peverell was laid by Mr. Henry Hurrell, J.P.

From left to right Charles Prust Church Secretary, Rev. E.W. Ketley, F.A. Wiblin Architect,

Rev.Charles Dyer Future Minister at Hope, W.Doidge Foreman, Rev J.Ivor Wensley Chairman,

W. Palk Builder, Henry Hurrell J.P, Rev. T.Wilkinson Riddle, Rev. C.E. Lawrance.

The Architect for the buildings was Mr. F. A. Wiblin, L.R.I.B.A., and the Builder, Mr. W. Palk, F.I.0.B.,

A tribute was paid to the Architect for the beauty of design, and to the Builder for the excellent workmanship, and materials used.

Similar tributes were made to the excellent workmanship of Mr. W. Doidge and Mr. ]ago, the foremen, and all the workmen.

Sufficient land had been secured for the erection of Sunday School premises when funds permitted.

As far as can be ascertained, the cost of the Church and School Hall, together with the land, and the purchase of a Manse, amounted approximately from £15,250 to £15,500, towards which the balance on the sale of the old premises (after clearing debt on same), together with interest on money invested, amounts to £12,650, thus leaving an approximate debt of from £2,600 to £2,850 towards which donations or promises were gratefully received.

Hope’s Sixth Minister

Toward the end of 1926 steps were taken to invite a Pastor, and eventually a unanimous invitation was given and accepted by Rev. Chas. Dyer. On the following Sunday it was announced that the Rev. Charles Dyer, Assistant Minister of Mutley Baptist Church, had accepted the unanimous and cordial invitation to the pastorate. The new ministry began in the School Hall on Sunday, 1st January, 1927.

There was an immediate response. By the time the new church was opened, a year later, the membership of 44 which had come from Devonport had grown to 90, and the Sunday School of four or five had grown to 150.

1928, brought many Baptists to Peverell for the opening and dedication of the new church. Following a luncheon in the School Hall, the crowd which had gathered outside the church was invited by the Rev. J. Jvor Wensley, M.A., B.D., to join in the singing of the metrical version of Psalm 100, and in the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer.

Mr. W. Palk, F.I.O.B., the Builder, presented a souvenir key to Mrs. Alfred Steer, who opened the north-west door, and Mr. F. A. Wiblin, L.R.I.B.A., the Architect, presented a similar key to Mr. C. E. Prust, who opened the south-west door, and the folk were bidden to enter. Soon every seat was filled for the Dedication Service which was conducted by the Rev. C. Dyer.

It was a thrilling moment when, after the restored organ had been declared open by Mrs. H. J. Damerell, the packed congregation rose to sing “We love the place, 0 God, wherein Thine honour dwells.”

Mr. W. J. Keast, whose appointment as Organist and Choirmaster dated from 1st January, 1928, was at the organ and he remained with the church until the 1950s rendering all sorts of devoted service.

A number of valuable gifts were accepted by the Pastor on behalf of the Church. An act of dedication followed, and then the Te Deum Laudamus concluded the Dedication Service. Immediately following, the Rev. H. C. Mander, the President of the Baptist Union, conducted Divine Worship. Tea and an Organ Recital led to a great Thanksgiving meeting at 7.30 p.m. Mr. Henry Hurrell, the chairman, said he had long hoped to see a Baptist Church in Peverell. He graciously handed the Conveyance of the site to the Minister as a gift to the Church.

Mr. Alfred Jacobs (President of the Plymouth District), the Revs. J. Ivor Wensley and E. W. Ketley shared in the service, as well as the Pastor and the Church Secretary. The Rev. H. C. Mander gave the concluding address.