Rexon Cross Chapel, Broadwoodwidger was built in 1859 by the Bible Christians, and at the time was in the Parish of Bratton Clovelly, which had three Bible Christian Chapels: Bratton Chapel, Rexon Cross Chapel and Boasley Chapel. It appears that the Bible Christian movement started in 1815 as a reaction to poverty and religious hypocrisy in North Devon (although it did later spread further afield). In approximately 1907, the Bible Christians merged with the United Methodist Free Church, then in 1932 that merged with the Wesleyan Methodists and Primitive Methodists to become today’s Methodist Church. The Chapel closed in 2013.
Rexon Cross Chapel and Sunday School in 2014
1859 PURCHASE OF LAND TO BUILD CHAPEL
By a Conveyance dated 9th July 1859, Thomas Helson, a tailor, sold to Trustees for the Bible Christians for five shillings a parcel of ground being 48 feet long and 28 feet wide or thereabouts, lying on the south side of road from Bratton Clovelly to Launceston and in a portion of field called Higher Square which is part of a farm called Little Rexon in the Parish of Bratton Clovelly. The Trustees were the said Thomas Helson, John Squire, a Carpenter, of BWW, Richard Rogers, a Farmer, of BWW, Richard Smale Junior, Farmer, of BWW, Oliver Veale, Farmer, of BWW, Samuel Banbury Braun, Farmer, of Stowford, Peter Lacey, Farmer, of Five Acres, Lifton, Joseph Squire, Farmer, of Stowford, Richard Alford, Farmer, of Rexon, John Hall, Farmer of BWW.
1866 PURCHASE OF LAND TO BUILD SUNDAY SCHOOL
By a Conveyance dated 24th September 1866, further land, 34 feet long and 30 feet wide, was acquired for five pounds off the executors of Thomas Helson (d.1864) on the south-west side of the chapel to enable the erection of a Sunday School. Henry Gale, a Yeoman of the Parish of Bratton Clovelly, was an additional Trustee.
1945 PURCHASE OF LAND FOR CAR PARK
By a Conveyance dated 10th April 1945, James Gerry of Rexon Cross in consideration of £27 conveyed to the Trustees of the United Methodist Church, Rexon Cross, a plot of land adjoining the schoolroom, “part of Kerslakes Tenement” to act as a car park. The purchasers were obliged to erect a wall 5 feet 6 inches in height of concrete block or other appropriate material along the boundary. The Trustees were Thomas Andrew, of Compass, near Launceston, Richard Burden of Brentor, Alfred George Rich of BWW, Mark Percival Preston Hingston, of Fernhill, BWW, John Smith Hamley, of Kellacott, BWW, John Pengelly, of Harts Farm, Lifton, William Stenlake Colwill, of Lower Cookworthy, Lifton, Farmer, James Northey of Town Farm, BWW, Farmer, and Percy Doidge of Trehill in the Parish of Stoke Climsland.
Sign on chapel in 2013
Banner carried in processions
SOME EVENTS FROM RECORDS AND RECOLLECTIONS
The details set out here regarding Rexon Cross Chapel are taken from the original purchase Deeds, newspaper articles and memories from past members of the Chapel.
1878 January – Band of Hope Festival – to include speeches, procession with Rexon Cross Band followed by tea in the schoolroom
1894 5th Nov – Elders meeting
1895 14th March – Hospital collection 4s. 4d.
1895 30th December – Worn out preachers collection 2s. 10d.
1896 17th January – Horse Hire collection 2s. 5 1/2d.
1896 25th January – 4 gallons lighting oil 3s. 2d.
1905 – Horse Hire subscriptions – Mr. Butter 2s. Mr. Harris, Mr. Northey, Mr. Cornish, Mr. Doidge, Mr. Martin and Mr. Sillifant each gave 1/-. The collection was 1s. 9d. – Total 15s. 9d.
1911 10th October – Butter 4s. 10d., Cream 1s. 0d. Tea and sugar 1s.6d.
1904 January – Band of Hope Annual Festival with Broadwood Temperance Band playing lively airs
1914 2nd August – Anniversary Outing to Bude – It is reported that there was much excitement as they set off in wagons for the station at Ashwater, however returning soon after as the outing had been cancelled due to the imminent threat of war, and the trains being commandeered for war use.
1922 6th January – Old Christmas Day, a note and silver tree (This event took place every year and can be remembered in the 1960’s
1922 17th February – Superintendent Registrar registered to carry out Baptisms, Marriages and Funerals
1923 – The first wedding took place of Daisy Thomas who married John Ward of Compass. They were presented with a Bible and hymn book by Reverend Finch.
1926 – Charities Commission document – This document shows Rexon Cross Chapel as still being in the Parish of Bratton Clovelly
1927 August – Newquay Sunday School outing –Three motor coaches set out early morning to Newquay in good weather. The parties went their own way on arrival and went bathing, paddling or on a motor boat trip. They returned via Goss Moor to view the Masts of the beam wireless
1945 10th April – Purchase of land to build car park adjoining Sunday School – extract attached
1948 15th June – Copy Appointment of Trustees Document – Giving details of retiring and new Trustees
1960 – 12th May – Centenary celebrations together with re-opening of chapel after extensive renovations. Renovations included re-plastering of both Chapel and Sunday School, painting of interior timbers, electric lighting and heating and new toilets constructed under the Sunday School rooms
2001 – Temporary closure of chapel due to outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease, which devastated the area. The Chapel temporarily suspended services, and Rexon Cross Farm who were situated very close to the Chapel were very much appreciative of this consideration as their dairy herd were within touching distance of the chapel, and managed to escape the disease.
2004 – Dedication of a fresh organ by the Rev. Cathy Arscott, the organist was Mrs. M. Werren who was presented with a long service certificate for playing the organ for over 60 years by Mrs. A. Shopland, circuit steward. A certificate was also awarded to Mrs. M. Hamlyn for playing the organ for over 40 years.
2004 8th October – Dedication of the new chapel doors by the Rev. D. Wheadon
2011 – 10th April – Celebration service for 150 years of worship, followed by tea at Strawberry Fields. Revd. Andrew Prout returned to chair the event and “Youthful Spirit” entertained after tea.
2013 – 1st December – Final service – This was a carol service led by Revd. Eleanor Reddington, with prayers being offered by Revd. Malcolm Jones. Those taking part were Mrs Diane Hooper, Mr. Lawrence Pett, Mrs. Susan Batten, Miss Tracey Manning, and Mr. and Mrs., Brian Balsdon. The organist was Mrs. Hilda Pengelly.
2014 – 26th November – Rexon Cross Chapel – sold at auction by Kivells at The White Hart Hotel, Launceston
Purchased by John and Anne Worden – Rexon Cross Farm
Sunday School and Choir in 1948
The Chapel held two services on a Sunday, the first at 11.00 a.m. and the second at 6.30 p.m., with Sunday School held in the Sunday School room from 2.30 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. It is remembered that when the services were over, some of the men would stand one side of the road and chat, and the women the other, taking the chance of catching up on the news and gossip we suspect.
There were visiting lay preachers and readers, drawn from a list that was compiled quarterly showing their rotation, as the Minister lived at The Manse at Lifton coming under the Launceston circuit. However, only the local Minister could carry out communions. In 1922, permission was granted to carry out Births Marriages and Funerals in the chapel. Mrs. Marjory Werren and Mrs. Marion Hamlyn both received certificates for playing the organ for over 60 years and 40 years respectively.
In the early days of the chapel there was a Band of Hope, which entailed signing a pledge not to drink alcohol. Most people think this was an adult thing, but it was in fact an organisation for children, to teach them the importance of sobriety and teetotalism. It also provided activities and events for children to keep them away from thoughts of drink. Set out below is an extract from a Temperance Music Leaflet headed “Temperance Boys and Girls”:-
“Temp’rance boys and girls are we, in sunny youth from care we’re free
And join we now in Bands of Hope, against an evil power to cope
We know that e’en the smallest thing can do some good or comfort bring
And so will we in earnest strive, from all our land this curse to drive”
On Old Christmas Day 6th January, the Band of Hope erected a tree in the chapel and people were asked to put something in an envelope to put on the tree. This was called a note and silver tree. There would be a concert later and a steward would take the anonymous envelopes off the tree, open them up and total the money and this then went to chapel funds. Memory has it that there were some large amounts collected.
Every year there was the Harvest Festival service, services were held twice on the Sunday, with the chapel being decorated. In the front of the platform were shelves holding the donated produce. The following Tuesday night a service was held, followed by the Harvest Festival supper, after which the produce that had been donated was auctioned off. This was held in the Sunday school room, although in latter days it was moved down to the stables under the Sunday school room as the steps had become unsafe and the congregation less agile!
There was an event called The Sankey Evening, which was just a gathering to sing hymns, but these were not the normal chapel hymns but hymns that were a bit more “upbeat” and jolly.
Also remembered was a Bible reading class on Tuesday evenings which was for adults only.
The main memories seem to come from the Sunday School activities, and bearing in mind there wouldn’t have been much entertainment in those days, all these events were looked forward to with much anticipation.
The Sunday School class on Sunday afternoon was usually divided into 3 groups, depending on the children’s ages, with one teacher for each group. There were even different sized forms to sit on, with the little ones having small forms and bigger ones for the larger children. They would have lessons and then sing along accompanied by a harmonium. Usually the children attended Sunday school between the ages of 4 and 15. Once they could no longer attend the school, the older children very often became Sunday school teachers in turn.
Close to Christmas, Sunday School Reward Day was held. To “encourage” the children to go to Sunday school every week, an attendance register was kept so each week you attended they were given a token. These were saved up and you could either look in a catalogue or go along to Smiths booksellers and choose a book. If you didn’t have enough tokens to get the book you had chosen, you had to pay the difference between the value of the tokens and the price of the book. Coming up to leaving, your tokens went towards a Bible which was presented to you when you left.
The first Sunday in June was always the Sunday School Anniversary. Again there were two services, with the children being the centre of the celebrations, singing solos and duets and reciting from memory. There was always a guest Minister or usually lay preacher who aimed his sermon at the children. Below is a copy of a recitation that Ruth Colwill remembers doing.
“James and John you know are twins, they’re like each other as two pins
When James is good then so is John, their little stools they sit upon
And learn their A B C right through, as all good children ought to do
When John is bad then so is James, they play all sorts of naughty games,
I don’t know which is which says Mother, & smacks one first and then the other”
The children felt very important processing to the front of the chapel just before the service started. Ruth remembers having a new dress for the occasion and this seems to apply to most of the girls. Members of neighbouring Chapels used to come to the services. The following Tuesday they would have a tea in the Sunday School room with more recitations, then the children were allowed in the adjoining field to play. This field tended to be wet and that is why to this day the field on the right going up the hill towards West Banbury is called Anniversary Field, as the children were allowed to use that field at Anniversary, owned at the time by Mr. Pearce. The best remembered races seem to be the three-legged race and a game of 2’s and 3’s.
In the summer holidays the Sunday School outing was held. A bus was hired from a firm called Ashtons of Halwill and would take everyone (including adults) to Newquay, Goodrington, Paignton or other fairly local seasides. Everyone took a picnic and bathing suits, and one of the highlights was stopping for Fish and Chips on the way home! Not remembered by anyone living now, but we have the report of the Sunday School outing in 1914 which had to return due to the imminent outbreak of war.
The biggest event remembered was the Centenary celebrations and re-opening of the chapel after renovations on 12th May 1960. The chapel had been closed for a while as extensive work was required, at an estimated cost of £850.00 (approximately £19,000.00 in today’s money). The day started with a service in a beautifully decorated chapel, followed by a lunch served in a marquee in an adjoining field. In the afternoon there were stalls with tea and cakes being served and a concert was held. Later there was an auction of gifts that had been donated, followed by a children’s concert. In the evening a further concert was held by Whitstone Male Voice Choir giving the entertainment. A collection together with the auction and gifts raised over £900.00 which was to be used to defray the renovation costs. Some interesting facts from the Minutes of the organising committee are as follows:-
Dinner plates to be not less than nine and a half inches across. A list of the provisions included 8 gallons of milk, 70lbs of Ham, 42lbs of Tongue, 24lbs of tomatoes, 10 dozen lettuce, 12 cucumbers and 10lbs of butter. Luncheon and tea tickets were 7/6d. The sale of gifts included 3 cattle and sundry items, the auction sale being conducted by Mr. J. Dennis. The contractors for the building work were R. Worth & Son, F.T. Martin was the electrician and W. Chapman the plumber.
On 10th April 2011, the Chapel held an Anniversary concert celebrating 150 years of worship at the chapel. Revd. Malcolm Jones reported that he had received a letter from Mrs. Madge Northcott, whose Grandparents, Mr and Mrs. Thomas went to Rexon Cross and their daughter was the first one to be married there (Daisy). Mrs. Diane Hooper sang two solos with Mr. Lawrence Pett accompanying on the organ. Mrs. Marion Hamlyn was the organist for the service and also spoke of her days at Rexon Cross, as did Mr. John Hole. This event was followed with tea at Strawberry Fields. Revd. Andrew Prout, a past Minister, returned to be chairman for the afternoon. Mrs. Susan Batten read the recitation purported to have been written by Rev. J H Angove 50 years ago “After 100 years, 100 lines about Rexon Cross Methodist Church Centenary”. Singing was provided by the choir “Youthful Spirit”. The celebration cake was cut by Mrs. Lois Wooldridge, a former member, the cake having been decorated by Mr. Frank and Revd. Cathy Arscott.
However, as is common around the Country, chapel attendances dwindled and with the Sunday School closing over 20 years previously when Tracey Manning the last member left, it eventually became no longer financially viable for the chapel to carry on and the decision was made to close it. So after 153 years worship, firstly as a Bible Christian Chapel in the Parish of Bratton Clovelly, then as a Methodist Chapel in the Parish of Broadwoodwidger, on 1st December 2013 the final service was held and Rexon Cross chapel closed.
The chapel and Sunday School were sold at auction in November 2014. The Sunday School rooms are now offices for a digital marketing company and the chapel remains empty.
Photograph included in newspaper report of final service in 2013
Photographs of the interior of the chapel and Sunday school after it closed – courtesy Anne Worden.
Our thanks to Lois Wooldridge, Ruth Colwill, John Worden, all past Sunday School scholars, Ken Hamlyn whose late Wife was a lifetime member of the Chapel and Hilda Pengelly, a past member and organist, for their help in the collection of memories from the past.
This information has been compiled by Anne Worden and Pat and Mike Brown. 2018