The History Of Teignmouth URC

Teignmouth United Reformed Church stands on a small triangular site between the railway line, Dawlish Street and Mere Lane. As visitors drive east along the main road in front of the railway station, it is the outstanding building they can see, high in front of them, dominating the Teignmouth skyline. The building can also be seen from Brunel’s sea wall and the spire must have been included in thousands of photographs of trains, framed between the walls of the railway cutting and topped by the lofty Eastcliff Bridge.

The Beginning:

A tablet, once set into the wall of the Church recorded the contribution of one John Boyd who was a ‘rope spinner’ of Barnpark. The inscription stated that he was “a native of Scotland and the first person who promoted the Dissenting interest in the town” – sadly, his history is now lost and we can only speculate on the ways in which he influenced the establishment of the first Chapel in Dawlish Street. (There are a number of people with the surname ‘Boyd’ who died and were buried in the Chapel graveyard between 1809 and 1855 – none of them seem to have been called John. See appendix D.)

Historical Context:

The year 1789, when Zion Chapel was being built (it opened in 1790), was a year of much political change. In July, the ordinary people of France stormed The Bastille in Paris, started the chain of events that we call The French Revolution and established the French Republic. In England we were governed by King George the Third, married to Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. They only met for the first time on their wedding day, but went on to have fifteen children – poor George finally went mad and his son had to rule as Regent in his place. Interestingly the family took holidays each year in Weymouth, Dorset.

In America they elected their first President, George Washington in 1789 and started down the road towards the American Wars of Independence. The Royal Navy experienced the ignominy of a mutiny on one of their ships, when Fletcher Christian took control of HMS Bounty. The Captain, Lieutenant William Bligh was put aboard a 23 foot long open boat with 18 other men, to die. In fact Captain Bligh sailed the boat 3,618 miles to land and eleven months after the mutiny he returned to London. He was later promoted to Vice Admiral of the Fleet.

1789 in Teignmouth was not a particularly significant year. There was probably a population of just over two thousand and the community was split around the two villages of East and West Teignmouth – both with their own Parish Churches. Skinner’s Herb Garden had been acquired for the building of the new Zion chapel but, in general, Teignmouth would have been a fairly isolated community – mainly engaged in fishing and farming.

A few years earlier, in 1786, a Londoner called John Shore had visited Teignmouth and had fallen in love with, and then married, Charlotte Cornish – the daughter of Teignmouth Doctor, Charles Cornish. John Shore’s career included being Governor General of India and when he returned from India he was offered, in 1798, a peerage – he elected to take the title ‘Lord Teignmouth’. (The title Lord Teignmouth only ceased in 1981, on the death of the 7th Lord). In his later years, John Shore, the 1st Lord Teignmouth, became the first President of The British and Foreign Bible Society.

Probably, for the town of Teignmouth, the most significant event between 1790 and 1883 was the arrival of the railway. It passed from the Sea Wall through a tunnel – the Eastcliff Tunnel – built almost beneath Zion Chapel and opened in Teignmouth on the 30th of May 1846. The railway started as part of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s ‘broad gauge’, was then used for about twelve months as part of the ‘atmospheric system’ before that experiment was abandoned and the railway ran a more conventional steam train service.

Zion Chapel:

 

A building set aside for Christian worship, has existed on the old herb garden since 1790 when John Holmes Esq. (described as a yeoman of the village of Ide, near Exeter) built, at his sole expense, the third and last of his Chapels for ‘Protestant Dissenters of the Independent Description’ – his contribution is recorded on a tablet set into the wall of the Church. His first two chapels were built in Topsham (1776) and Tiverton (1781), but the Chapel at Teignmouth – Zion Chapel (also spelt Zeon, Sion and Zyon in the records) – was by far the grandest of them.

(Note: Oxford Concise Dictionary defines a yeoman as: 1. Person qualified by possessing free land of 40/- annual value to serve on juries, vote for knight of the shire, etc. 2. Small landowner, farmer, person of middle class engaged in agriculture; member of the yeomanry force.)

John Holmes was an interesting man. In addition to being a yeoman and clearly a man of influence, he was also described as a Minister of Religion – though because he was not within the Church of England, he was probably not formally ordained and did not use the title “Reverend”. He lived, of course, in very turbulent religious times and many dissenting groups formed, re-formed and sometimes vanished.

John Holmes died, in Ide, in 1794 – the New York Public Library holds a copy of “The History of the Church of Christ” written by Joseph Milner, MA, Master of the Grammar School in Kingston upon Hull. The book was published in 1794 and John Holmes is one of a long list of subscribers to it.

The Bodelian Library, Oxford holds a copy of the third edition of “A Concise Account of the City of Exeter, its Neighbourhood and Adjacent Watering Places” published in 1821. In it the following appears:

“A dissenting chapel was erected in East Teignmouth about 20 years since, at the expense of John Holmes. Esq. of Ide, near Exeter.”

In Tiverton, after what appears to have been a huge schism that split the congregation of The Steps Meeting House in about 1700, John Holmes seems to have taken pity on the small group of dissenters and re-acquired a small building that in 1781 he converted back into a meeting house, just along the road. Dunsford’s “Historical Memoires of Tiverton, published in 1790, records the following:

“Peter-Street Meeting-House.”

This house is situated about the middle of the west side of Peter Street, 37 feet long within, 28.5 feet wide and 17.5 feet high; lately almost rebuilt, at the expense of Mr John Holmes, many years a reputable merchant of Exon: and the service now supported by him, conducted by ministers from various places, chiefly of the Calvanist persuasion, or Methodists, for the instruction of any people that choose to attend on Sunday evenings, and sometimes on Thursday evenings.

This house was originally built for part of the congregation on the Steps, which separated from thence under the direction of Mr John Moore, a sensible and learned man, about they year 1700, who preached first to this separated people in the meeting-house, Back Lane, Westex, and afterwards in this house many years: he also kept an academy in the same street, and was much respected in Tiverton. At his death, in 1736, it became a pound- house for cyder etc. afterwards a theatre for strolling players; in which employ it continued occasionally until bought and rebuilt by Mr Holmes, in the year 1781.”

The Peter-Street Meeting-House was finally sold in 1844 when it was pulled down and the site used to build a ‘very smart’ dwelling. It has been impossible to find photographs or drawings of the Meeting-House, though its position is quite clear.

Zion Chapel – 1790 to 1883

Zion Chapel was built in Teignmouth only one hundred years after the town was sacked and burnt by the French and it was built more than fifty years before Brunel’s broad gauge, atmospheric railway arrived in the town. The Chapel was built on a plot of land that had previously been Skinner’s Herb Garden – Mere Lane probably marks what would have been the edge of East Teignmouth and Dawlish Street was an open sewer – the Litterbourne. It was a smaller building than that of the present Church, had a gallery that ran around three sides, a central pulpit, its own schoolrooms and even its own small graveyard. There was no heating, lighting was provided at first by candles, then by oil lamps and probably in the end by gas. By the time it was eventually pulled down, in about 1882, it was described as ‘very unwholesome, depressing and uninviting – a damp, unhealthy place of worship.’ Despite this, it had done sterling service for ninety two years.

Thousands of the stories, that must have existed, about Zion Chapel, have been lost, but a few can be gleaned from the archives:

1. On the 24th of June 1849 a new Minister, Rev Thomas Slatyer, came home from many years working as a Missionary in Samoa, to work as Minister in Teignmouth. Sadly, his ministry lasted only a few months as, having survived the difficulties and dangers of life in ‘the mission field’, – it must be remembered that canabilism was a feature of island life on some of the South Sea Islands as late as the early twentieth century – he died in the early months of 1850. (There must have been an epidemic of something during that winter, as even the Church Meetings were suspended for several months because of illness).

It has been suggested that the small, black marble christening font, that we still use for baptisms in the Church, was the one used by Rev Slatyer in his work in the South Seas

2. When the railway came to Teignmouth it would have caused great upheaval. At Teignmouth the railway was to run through a tunnel, virtually under Zion Chapel. Apparently the building shook when explosives were used in the tunnel and the concern, amongst the worshippers was such, that the railway company was persuaded to employ a boy who, during Chapel services, watched for a sign that explosives were about to be fired. At this point he had to run into the Chapel and, at whatever stage the worship had reached, sound the warning (probably shout ‘explosion’ at the top of his voice) before running off to take cover.

The men working on the railway construction – the navigators – had acquired a fearsome reputation while doing earlier work, further east. The Railway Company itself had great misgivings about the behaviour of these navigators – theft, drunkenness and assaults were commonplace and there had even been some incidents of gang rape, in other towns. Teignmouth was already gaining a reputation as a gentile place, a spa town, a resort – hardly a place for a gang of rapacious navigators. The Directors of the South Devon Railway Company decided to engage the services of a young non-conformist minister to cater for the spiritual needs of the navigators – and, of course, to influence them and to control the worst excesses of their behaviour. His diaries contain his expressions of despair at his task – he describes the men as ‘vile’, as ‘godless’, as ‘without hope’.

At one time, while cutting the tunnel through Teignmouth the men went on strike for a little more money – the work was hard, accidents were commonplace and the men considered that they deserved more. The strike wore on for several weeks – a total impasse had been reached – and the minister was asked, by the men, to go to Exeter to argue their case for them. He reluctantly agreed, and rode, by horse, to Exeter to face the full Board of Directors, returning a few days later with the news that the Directors had agreed to the demands of the men. Work started again and he became a local hero.

It happened that on the next Sunday he had been booked to preach at Zion Chapel. Imagine the consternation when, just as the service was about to start, the congregation heard the distant sounds of tramping men and the doors burst open as every navigator entered the Chapel – filthy dirty, straight from the tunnel face, they poured in, to take every spare seat, to sit on the window sills and even to sit on the floor between the pews. From that day, every time that minister preached at Zion Chapel, all railway work stopped and the men, out of respect for him, joined in the worship.

3. Zion Chapel may have accompanied its singing in various ways, until on the 6th of June 1864 an organ was consecrated for use. It was opened – in an interesting example of ecumenism – especially given that Zion Chapel was built for the worship of ‘ dissenters’ – by Mr Edwin Linter, organist of St James, the West Teignmouth Parish Church. Choirs assembled from every place of worship in Teignmouth and sang a variety of religious items, including the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.

Zion Chapel survived until the early 1880’s when it was decided by the members of the Chapel, that a new Church – a Congregational Church – had to be built. The old Chapel was last used for worship on Sunday April 2nd 1882. Its passing was recorded in ‘The Teignmouth Times’ of Saturday April 1st 1882, when it was described as “the oldest ecclesiastical structure in the town”. (The two Parish Churches of West Teignmouth – St James – founded in the 12th Century, and East Teignmouth – St Michael’s – are both older, though much of St James was rebuilt in 1819 and most of St Michael’s was rebuilt in 1823.)

In 1883 – 1884, at the same time as Zion Chapel was knocked down and rebuilt as the Congregational Church, the railway company cut down the roof of the Eastcliff Tunnel and created the large cutting that still exists. (At the same time a row of houses was demolished and the Roman Catholic Church was rebuilt on its present site.) The knowledge that all of these complex building projects were being tackled at the same time, makes one wonder at the skill and courage of the builders involved.

(NOTE: In 1992 a section of the floor of the existing Church was removed to allow for some renewal work. The team doing the work were delighted to discover that the foundations, and lower wall footings, of Zion Chapel remain beneath the floor of the existing Church.)

The existing Church:

A firm of architects, of Holborn, London, was commissioned to do the job of designing a new Church and then supervising its build. What we now call ‘the Victorian building boom’ was in full flow in 1882 and the firm of architects was actually very busy – they really couldn’t take on the job. But, they had one architect – Mr John Sulman – who was not working at that time because he was on long sick leave with his wife in Italy (Mrs Sulman was suffering from tuberculosis – Mr Sulman was himself taken ill in Italy, contracting typhoid in 1882 in Naples) – he was due to return to work shortly.

One can only imagine the scene when John Sulman returned to work. The conversation might have been:-

“Good to see you back Mr Sulman, we hope that you are well now. We have been very busy while you have been away and we want you to get on a train, go to Teignmouth – you can find out where it is – and build the Congregationalists a new Church.”

John Sulman had, it is said, spent most of his leave in Italy, wandering, admiring perhaps the beautiful architecture of Tuscany, opening his mind to the lovely buildings in Italy and allowing himself to soak in the magic of the natural symmetry of Italian architecture.

He travelled to Teignmouth and, in turn, allowed himself the privilege of designing, for Devon, a wonderful, lofty, pretty, Italian Church. It would make a superb place of worship for any denomination of the Christian faith – it has both the simplicity that makes it very suitable for nonconformist worship, but it has an intrinsic beauty that might make it even more suitable for use for a more ornate style of worship – perhaps by Roman Catholics or High Anglicans. The building contractors were Messrs. Howell and Son, Moonstreet, Bristol, – it was estimated that the building would cost £3,000 and when the contract was given, the church members had raised half of that amount. In the event, the final cost of the build was £4,300 (in other documents the final cost is quoted differently – they all appear in this text!)

This internal picture of The Congregational Church – taken just after it was completed – reveals that there were a number of painted texts on the walls – maintaining the decorative style of Zion Chapel.

To the left (on the wall of the vestry for the sick – tuberculosis was rife at the time):

and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins”. Matthew chapter 1, verse 21.

To the right (on the wall of the vestry for the Minister):

and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Matthew chapter 1, verse 23.

On the archway, high above the whole church:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” Luke chapter 2, verse 14.

By the time the author of this history started worshipping in the Church, in 1949, the texts to left and right had gone and the arch text had been replaced, with:

O Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness”. Psalms chapter 96, verse 9

This last text was painted out in 2005 at the same time as the bosses, throughout the Church, were colour painted for the first time. There are over forty of these features – each different and each hand carved.

John Sulman (1849 – 1934) later became a famous and very highly regarded architect. Our Church in Teignmouth was one of his last projects in Great Britain. Shortly after the Church was built he emigrated to Australia, landing there on the 13th of August 1885 (probably on medical advice, to live in a warmer, drier atmosphere, for the benefit of his first wife, Sarah, who suffered and later died from tuberculosis in 1888). John and Sarah had three children – he and his second wife, Annie, who he married in 1893, had three further children. After working for some time in the private sector he became the City planner for Sydney and shortly afterwards also became the Sydney City architect. In the fullness of time, his influence grew and he became very influential in planning and architecture within the whole State of New South Wales.

John Sulman was knighted in 1924 and became Sir John Sulman. In 1931 he created an award for “excellence in public and commercial buildings” that is still presented each year in Australia – it is called the ‘Sulman Award’ or ‘Sulman Medal’. After his death his family also established a prize which is given each year for ‘the best ‘subject painting, genre painting or mural project’ by an Australian artist, done within the previous two years’ – called the Sulman Prize. In 2015 the value of the prize was $40,000 (Australian) – i.e. (£20,000 sterling – approx.). In 2008 it was decided that a new suburb to the City of Canberra was to be called ‘Sulman’.

There is a small brass plaque in Teignmouth Church recognising the work of John Sulman and the communion table and Minister’s chair were a personal gift to the Church from John Sulman. The building was listed Grade II in 1983 – it was re-graded later to Grade II*. (See appendix F.)

Sir John Sulman
The Sulman Medal

Her Majesty’s Privy Council had ruled, in 1854, that no burials were to take place in either of the Parish Church cemeteries of East or West Teignmouth after the 1st of June 1855. It was also ruled that in the case of Zion Chapel no new graves could be opened, that only existing graves within five yards of a building could be opened and that only one body could be buried in each grave – in fact, no burials took place in Zion Chapel graveyard after the 24th of May 1855. To create space for the building of the new Church, the Deacons had to apply, in 1880, for the moving of the Zion graveyard – permission was granted by the Exeter Assizes and the remains were moved, under the supervision of Teignmouth’s Medical Office of Health, to a newly built tomb.

(NOTE: The tomb must, of course, still exist and it is almost certainly situated between the Church building and Dawlish Road).

The Foundation / Memorial Stone of the new Church was laid on September 28th 1882, by a Mr Alexander Hubbard. The weather, on the day, was fine and it sounds from the report of the proceedings in the Western Daily Mercury of the 29th September 1882, as if a fine party accompanied them. One aspect of the ceremony obviously puzzled the reporter, who wrote:

“A somewhat new and novel feature was imparted to the ceremony, between forty and fifty Free Masons attending, dressed in their regalia. They marched in procession from the Masonic Hall to the site.” (Apparently the Church Secretary was also the Worshipful Master of the Teignmouth Benevolent Lodge).

The new Church was opened on July 26th 1883, having been in use for several weeks before that, (aparently a remarkably short building period of just nine months) at an actual project cost of nearly £4,387, but there was not enough money to build the new schoolrooms. The Church included gas lighting and a very modern ‘Ventilating Warm Air Apparatus’, made and supplied by G.N. Haden, engineers, of Trowbridge, Wiltshire.

The design of the Church is certainly unique – it was built on a very awkward, little, triangular site and it was built to be able to accommodate the expanding and contracting congregations of a seaside town. The Church was equipped with a single gallery across the back and during the winter months it was envisaged that the overall seating capacity of the Church would be reduced by drawing across, curtains which were to be placed at the front of the gallery – both below and above the gallery line. With the curtains closed the pews would seat 276 people. In spring time, as the first visitors arrived in the town, the lower curtains would be drawn back and bring into use the 78 seats that were beneath the gallery, and as summer approached, the upper curtains would be drawn back so as to facilitate the use of the 114 seats on the gallery itself.

The final expansion feature displays a genius for design: When the new Church was opened there was not sufficient money to rebuild the schoolrooms. John Sulman had however prepared a design for the schoolrooms as part of his original work and in 1903 the new schoolrooms were finally opened – built, in the main, to John Sulman’s original design. The schoolrooms were built alongside the Church.

As one stands inside the Church it is impossible not to notice the two, huge, walled up arches within the left wall of the building. These arches have never been opened up, but they were built there ‘just in case’ of a great revival. If the congregation had grown sufficiently, those arches could have been easily opened up (without compromising the safety of the building, because the strength is within the arches themselves) to include the area of the schoolrooms within the Church. Further more, the schoolrooms were also built with their own gallery and the schoolrooms and gallery area was designed to add a further 170 seats.

(NOTE: These figures are taken from the original published details, which state that – when finished – the Church would be able to seat 638 people within sight and sound of the minister. The design has never actually been fully tested. With its modern, post 1992, layout the Church will accommodate about 200 people).

In 1884, because of shortage of money it was decided to move the existing Zion Chapel organ into the Church, and indeed it was not until 1923 that a new, grander organ was bought. The original organ was mounted in the centre of the front wall of the Church between the choir stalls. The best description of the new Church on opening, was probably in the “Western Daily Mercury”:

“The pulpit end of the building is picturesquely arranged with stone piers and an arch for the organ recess, with choir stalls on each side. The vestries, owing to the limited extent of the site, are partially inside the building, but they work in well with the general design; that on the left is intended for the use of invalids and that on the right for the minister and deacons.”

“The very difficulties of the site have been utilised by the architect to obtain freshness of design, and his plans show that the utmost use has been made of the ground. This has led to the adoption of the apsidal front and a gabled porch, while a picturesque turret will be a most prominent feature in ascending the street. The side gables are intended to give adequate light to the end gallery, and in conjunction with the ventilating turret on the roof a most pleasant ‘tout ensemble’ is secured.”

“Richness of detail, however is not neglected, traceried windows having been inserted throughout the building. At the other end, although the outline is not so striking, especial attention has been paid to its design, as it abuts on the railway cutting, and is quite open to the general view descending the hill. Local limestone is adopted for the walling, with Bath stone dressings. The roofs are slated externally and boarded internally, the principal timbers showing.”

The Congregational Church

When the Congregational Church was opened in 1883 / 4 the South Devon Railway was operating on Brunel’s Broad Gauge – i.e. the rails were seven feet and a quarter of an inch apart from one another. Within ten years, in May 1892, the South Devon Railway Company finally accepted that they had to fit in with every other railway company and adopt Standard Gauge – with a rail separation of four feet, eight and a half inches. The equipment for this gauge was cheaper to produce and that scale had been adopted by every other railway company – there are still many who believe that Brunel’s Broad Gauge would have been better!

World War 1 affected Teignmouth – 175 men from Teignmouth were known to have been killed in it, but church records do not indicate which were attached to the Congregational Church. In World War 2, Teignmouth was very badly affected by bombing – 79 people were killed and 151 were wounded. 228 houses were totally destroyed and over 2,000 suffered significant damage. Again, there are no records to show who was linked to the Congregational Church. The Church building itself was largely unaffected by the bombing of Teignmouth.

Teignmouth Hospital was destroyed by bombing in May 1941 but it was rebuilt and reopened in September 1954. The Rev J Cledwyn Smith, who was a member of the Hospital Board, as well as being the Minister of the Congregational Church, played a significant part in that occasion. The opening, done by Minister of Health Ian McLeod, was of national significance as it was the first hospital in the whole of the country to be commissioned, built and delivered by the National Health Service.

When Rev Smith became Minister in 1949, Teignmouth was still trying to get back to normality after the war and it must be remembered that Teignmouth had suffered greatly during the war. The new hospital was an important part of the recovery.

Several details are worth looking for:

The coat of arms of Teignmouth, cut into the Bath stone above the main Church door and featuring again in the circular section of the large, stained glass window above the communion table.

The oak communion table itself – together with the minister’s chair, made and presented to the Church, as a gift, by its architect, Mr John Sulman.

The wall tablet in memory of Mr Holmes. Also the modest brass plaque in recognition of its architect – Mr John Sulman.

The small, stained glass windows set into the wall behind the communion table – a memorial to the Rev Guyon Marler.

The beautiful, engraved, oak table in the foyer – a memorial to Rev Cecil Jones and several members of his family.

The forty plus, hand carved, ornate bosses and features within the Church.

The ornate gargoyles around the outside of the Church.

The niche, waiting for a stone figure – such as a Madonna – near the front door. This niche was the subject of a poem published in “The Teignmouth Times” on 17th November 1883. (The poem is reproduced below).

The Vacant Niche”

(at the Entrance of the Congregational Church, Dawlish Road) 

A shrine! But wherefore empty? 
If empty, why a shrine?
Not spoiled in ruthless times
By reckless hands, and left
Void of some saintly occupant,
A shameful memory to modern days,
But planned and placed by yesterday’s design!
Was it perchance the builder’s irony,
To emphasise a worship without priests,
A temple without altar?
Or does it speak a nobler, higher thought,
Masking the limit of the human work,
That can but raise a House for God’s abode,
For Him unseen to meet the worshipper?
A presence spiritual in visible shrine?
Even as His ancient people builded fair
And beautifully a stately fane,
But neither made nor saw
Similitude therein!

 

Anon

Though not a visible feature, it is worth recording that the acoustics in the Church are quite outstanding – it is probably the best building in Teignmouth for concerts and the organ is a small, but superb instrument.

1990:

In 1990 the Church marked 200 years of worship with a very ambitious drama production that it called a ‘Son et Lumière’ – though it was far more than a light show. It placed the Church within its historical context, the history of Teignmouth.

In 1991, once the ‘Son et Lumière’ was finished and under the management of its Minister Rev Peter Killick and Elders, Teignmouth Church took a hard look at itself. The analysis of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) faced by the Church started during a Sunday morning worship, when the act of worship was rather truncated and was developed into a time to discuss and consider the future of the Church. Many meetings followed.

It was recognised that the Church had a number of significant problems to resolve:

The building was more than one hundred years old and the Church Members had not previously managed to create sufficient income flow to maintain the building in the way that was needed – as a result the building was rather run down. The external stonework was showing significant wear and erosion, the roof was in need of replacement and the building was encouraging some vandalism from the community.

Internally the building needed redecorating and it was cold, draughty and suffering from water leaks both through the roof and the large traceried windows. Much of the equipment within the building (for example kitchen and toilets) needed to be replaced and the whole building needed to be rewired.

The Church had very little money in its cash reserves.

The Church also needed to refresh and re-define its mission within the community of Teignmouth because in reality it was far too isolated and tended to look inwards to meet the needs of its own congregation, rather than outwards and use its position and influence to take the message out to the people of Teignmouth. In a series of ‘follow up’ Church Meetings it was decided that the Church needed to develop its community focus and to extend itself in various ways. Bluntly, without doing things differently the Church would wither and would fail in its mission to the community of Teignmouth.

In 1991, under the direction of one of the Members, John Jackson, the Church had a new roof – with a great deal of help from Heritage Funding and the Synod of the United Reformed Church. It was also rewired with new lighting and new heating and the lovely, coloured glass windows were repaired and protected from further vandalism.

The Congregation identified that without money the building could not be improved and also that it had to become both a Church and a community centre – an outward looking place that provided easy and comfortable access, where people would feel welcomed.

In 1992 the pews were removed and replaced with more comfortable chairs; a wheelchair access was provided together with a toilet for people in wheelchairs; the floor of the Church was lengthened and carpeted; the pulpit taken down from its stone plinth and put on wheels and a series of platform ‘blocks’ were made which would allow the building of different types of stages for concerts or drama productions.

The Church members accepted that it needed to create two types of money – revenue money to pay for the routine, on going, operation of the Church, but also capital money for one off development and improvement projects. The dream was that proper investment of the capital money would increase the revenue for the Church. It was very fortunate that, at about this time, the Church received a significant and unexpected legacy, which helped to fund some of the capital work. The various developments that have been funded by the Church would be tedious if listed here, but the work is not yet finished and there is much left to do.

Over the intervening years a great number of events and community driven projects have started in the Church. Many of them have been started with great enthusiasm but have finished as the enthusiasm has waned – it is the nature of community based work and it is equally true of some of the Church based work. However one very successful project, in particular stands out: Shortly after the start of the new millennium it was identified that there was a need for pre-school Nursery provision in Teignmouth. The Church made huge investments and started the East Teign Nursery – twelve or so years later it is still functioning and is well regarded both by Devon County Council and by Ofsted.