Circuit Round-Up
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Oreston Methodist Church

Oreston is very much a village within a city, at the heart of the village is Oreston Methodist Church, it is said that when it was built in 1888, it was considered outside of the village, the early chapel was called Chievely Hall and dates from 1818, much of the land in Plymstock belonged to the Duke of Bedford, and it was almost impossible to buy freehold land in those days, and the Duke of Bedford insisted that the church and graveyard had a wall built around it. Streets around the church are named after the Dukes properties he held at that time.

The first record of a Methodist Society at Oreston was during the last visit to Plymouth of John Wesley in 1789, the membership during its first years was small and it was only because of the opening of the Breakwater Quarry during 1812, that not only did the population grow but also did the membership of the Methodist Church, which grew to 70.

By 1818 the society was able to buy land from the Duke of Bedford at a cost of £700 to build a church, an 18 year old called William Swale started the Sunday School in 1815, the building for this school was erected in 1835, a Methodist graveyard was opened in 1854, the first person to be buried there was Martha Swiggs, whose coffin took it last journey on the ferry boat from Cattedown. Methodist Churches with their own graveyards are very rare. (It is still used today for cremation burial, ((2012)).

When the local Public House came up for sale a local teetotal Methodist bought it and closed it down. The owners of the local ferry, the Elford of Oreston were strict Methodists, crew were forbidden to smoke or swear, or to sound the ships siren on a Sunday except in an emergency.

On the 26th January 1888 a memorial stone of a new Wesleyan chapel and school were laid at Oreston by the local MP, Mr Mildmay. Various Methodist objects where placed under this stone. The Duke of Bedford has given a larger and more eligible freehold site in exchange for the one upon which the old chapel stands, together with £225 for the surrender of the old chapel and £100 for the old Schoolroom. The cost of the undertaking was £1,700 of which £800 has been received or promised.

The subscribers to the building fund were Mr J Bayly £100, Mr R Bayly, and Mr R Coombes £50, Mr R Pearse £25, Mr H B Mildmay, Mr F B Mildmay and Mr T Bulteel £20, and Lord Revelstoke £10.

The opening service of the new Wesleyan Chapel at Oreston was held on Wednesday 15th August 1888, the foundation having been laid in February of that year. The Rev. J. S. Pawley, chairman of the District preached in the afternoon, and afterwards tea was taken in the schoolroom.

In the evening a public meeting was held in the chapel, presided over by Mr W Lapthorn. On the platform were the Revs. S Pawlyn, W Cullum, W Phipps and Messrs. S Scoble, J Balhatchet, local preachers and W Coombes, treasurer

The building had cost £2000, of which sum the committee had received £1270, leaving £730 to be provided, Mr Pawlyn said that they were indebted to Mrs H Underhay for the handsome communion service, and to Mr and Mrs Wreford, of Plymouth, for a complete set of books for the conduct of the services at the church. The Rev W Cullum congratulated the Wesleyans of Oreston on the delightful and elegant building they had erected, the architect being Mr Snell and the builder Mr T King, both of Plymouth. It was now for the members to rally round their leaders and put Oreston in the forefront of Methodist villages.

The church, because of is pale stonework and being a rather conspicuous local landmark,  should have been an obvious target for enemy bombers during the blitz, but the church escaped major damage,  the Minister at that time was not so fortunate.

The Rev W. G. Spencer, a young man appointed to the ministry in 1937, was out visiting members of his congregation, when he was killed by a bomb blast during May 1941. It is also remarkable that the church railings of those days managed to escape the drive for reclaimed metal for the production of war materials.

When first opened there was no gas, electricity, water or telephone available in the village.

The church was first lit by eight brass oil burning chandeliers, heating being coke burning furnace.

The gas arrived in the church in 1911, water came 1920 and electricity not until 1934

Today like most churches it enjoys a smaller congregation, but still plays an important part in the local community, thanks to it loyal band of worshippers and volunteers.