Mapping Methodism – Silverwell Wesleyan Chapel

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Silverwell is a scattered village in the Parish of St Agnes. This profile of Silverwell Wesleyan Chapel has been compiled by Clive Benney & Tony Mansell.


1813: Sunday school established. (Royal Cornwall Gazette – Thursday 27 December 1900)

1817: Wesleyan Society active and probably met in a temporary place of worship or in someone’s house. (Bill Morrison)


1824 Chapel

1824:  Chapel built.

Originally built as a Wesleyan chapel. (SWChurches)

1840s: Chapel with a capacity for 140 hearers built but our feeling is that the earlier date is probably correct.

1890s: Chapel in disrepair. (SWChurches)

1890s: The building was said to be in a dangerous condition and beyond repair. It was demolished and the material sold.

1890s: Form of Application to the Wesleyan Chapel Committee in Manchester sought permission to erect a replacement chapel on the site of the demolished building; it was to have sufficient capacity for 300 people. The application stated that there were 65 regular hearers out of a neighbour population of 200, they were said to be “Farmers and Labourers.” No schoolroom was proposed at the time and the estimated expenditure for the Chapel was £325. The lease was for 99 years at a rent of five shillings (25P) per annum although the Trustees hoped to buy the freehold in due course.

1898 – May: Included a number of chapels for which the freehold had not been purchased; some were subsequently obtained while others remained under lease. (Leasehold Property Return for St Agnes Circuit) At that time the lease expiry date for Silverwell was 1972.


1900 Chapel

1890s: Form of Application, permission, erection of new chapel, Silverwell Wesleyan Chapel, St Agnes. Application form for the Wesleyan Chapel Committee for permission to erect new Chapel; ‘ the Present Chapel is declared to be in a dangerous state, and beyond repair’, not dated, printed form December 1899. Part of bundle, MR/N/816 – 823, contents of discarded envelope marked, Silverwell Trust letters etc’. (Kresen Kernow MRN/816)

1899: Application to build a new chapel. (SWChurches)

1900: A Replacement Chapel built on the site of the old one.

Built by Symons of Truro (Royal Cornwall Gazette – Thursday 27 December 1900)

Balance sheets, building of new chapel, Silverwell Wesleyan Chapel, St Agnes. Circa 1900: Balance sheets of outlay and income for building of new chapel, two copies, not dated. Part of bundle, MR/N/816 – 823, contents of discarded envelope marked, ‘ Silverwell Trust letters etc’. (Kresen Kernow MRN/818)

November 1900: Permission granted to open the Chapel.

Silverwell Wesleyan Methodist chapel is recorded on the 1st and 2ndEdition 1:2500 1880 and 1907 OS Maps. It was rebuilt between 1880 and 1907 and is still extant though converted to a dwelling. (Cornwall Heritage Gateway)

1900: “In aid of the Silverwell Chapel Building Fund a highly successful concert was given in the Goonown Schoolroom on Friday evening…” (Royal Cornwall Gazette – Thursday 25 October 1900)

1900 – December: Silverwell Chapel opened. (Royal Cornwall Gazette – Thursday 27 December 1900)

1900: “On Thursday afternoon, with fervent praise and thanksgiving, the Wesleyans of Silverwell opened the handsome chapel which has been erected to replace the venerable structure where for 76 years a sturdy set of Methodists have worshipped and prayed. A Sunday- school was established at Silverwell in 1813, and in 1824 a chapel was built, and in this home Methodism flourished until the closing year of the century. The dilapidated condition of the old chapel then demanded the attention of the trustees, and it was decided to raze the building to the ground and erect a modern and commodious structure on the site, and Silverwell Wesleyans now possess a building of which they are justly proud, and which will stand for ages as a monument to their devoted and self-denying efforts. The chapel is about 22ft. wide and 41ft. long, exclusive of the orchestra, which is behind the rostrum and of octagon shape. The walls are built of local stone in random courses, with dressings of granite and tinted brick. The entrance to the chapel is in the centre of the side, through a porch of very neat design, having marginal leadlight windows on each side and fanlight of tinted glass over the doorway, with tile floor. Immediately inside the visitor enters the chapel through folding string doors, covered in red cloth with brass fittings. On the right are twelve commodious rising pews, and under these is a very convenient and useful furnace-house and storeroom, having an entrance on the outside at the rear, and communicating with the chapel on the inside by means of a hatchway in the aisle of the rising pews. The upper panels in the front framework of the pews are filled in with ornamental cast-iron, nicely decorated. The body of the chapel is lighted by four large Gothic windows, and the orchestra with three smaller ones of similar design, all glazed with cathedral glass with tinted margins, and fitted with patent lever casement openers for ventilation. The orchestra is fitted with framed backs and benches, providing ample accommodation for organist and choir, the upper panelling of the front being of ornamental cast-iron, decorated. The body of the chapel has a dado all around it, with moulded base and capping. The whole of the internal joinery is of pitch-pine and red deal varnished. The ceiling is canopy shape, with principal timbers, cornices, and corbels exposed; these are stained and varnished, and add very much to the appearance of the interior. The rostrum, which is very neat and modern in design, is approached at each end by a flight of stairs, for access to orchestra and rostrum, and is constructed in pitch-pine with very chaste ornamental cast-iron panelling, richly gilded and decorated. The communion rail is supported by cast-iron ornamental standards, also decorated. The building throughout is well lighted and ventilated. Messrs. Symons and Son, of Blackwater, were the contractors, and they entrusted the decorating parts to Mr. T. C. E. Barlow, of Truro, both of whom have carried out their work in a very creditable manner. The plans, etc were prepared by Mr. John Symons, snr., Blackwater. Mr. J. W. Hunkin, Truro, formally opened the chapel on Thursday afternoon, and the Rev. W. Hodgson Smith, superintendent North Cornwall Mission, preached an appropriate sermon. High tea was served to a large number of visitors and friends by Mrs. J. Angwin and Misses Bartle, Lampshire, Walls and Morcom (2). In the evening a well-attended public meeting was held under the presidency of Mr. Hunkin, who said the friends at Silverwell were fully agreed on the Cornish motto “One and All,” or such a result would not have been attained. He had pleasant remembrances of services in the old chapel and was sure they had now a very suitable and beautiful place of worship. The Rev. R. Hill, superintendent of the St. Agnes circuit, said those who had had to do with the work had a feeling of mutual congratulation that they occupied such a favourable position in regard to the building and the building fund. They originally estimated the cost of the chapel at £330, and the lowest tender of £310 10s. 0d. was accepted. The Chapel Committee had promised a grant of £15 if within twelve months from the opening the debt was reduced to £80, and they anticipated a substantial grant from the Twentieth Century Fund. … The trustees were grateful to all the friends who had helped, and he had pleasure in presenting, on behalf of a few friends, a beautiful copy of the Revised Version and a hymnbook, if there were a few old servants who did not exactly agree with the Revised Version it would be a good thing if they were upset. Surely there was nothing in connection with the new building that they could not say concerning it, “it was an improvement on the old,” and he must congratulate the Silverwell friends most heartily on having such a beautiful little sanctuary. The clerk of works told him that a gentleman who had looked into the body declared that he had never seen a better lot of work in the interior of the chapel. It was really splendid, and he was glad to have that testimony from him, because it was only right they should say what they could in praise of those who had been working for them. Mr. J. Rilstone, Penhallow, said there were many grand memories associated with the old building. It had been a blessing to the neighbourhood, and men had gone forth with the love of God in their hearts. The new house was needed just as much as the old, and even more. What would the county have been without a Methodist Chapel. They trembled to think what they might have been but for the influence of Methodism. The great tendency of, theatre, going and dancing was the cry of nature for something better than they could get outside Methodism. There was a time in the history of the county when it was looked upon as dark and uncivilised. Now, as Cornishmen, they went out into the world and were not ashamed of their county, not ashamed to be called Cornishmen, and not ashamed of their Methodism (applause). The Rev. W. Hodson Smith congratulated the friends upon the new erection; it certainly was a nice, pretty and useful building.” (Royal Cornwall Gazette – Thursday 27 December 1900)

19 Jul 1900-24 Jan 1901: Receipts, instalments from Trustees, building of new chapel, Silverwell Wesleyan Chapel, St Agnes. Receipts for instalments from Trustees for work and materials for building of new chapel, from John Symons and Son, Arthur Goyne and Richard Hill. Part of bundle, contents of discarded envelope marked, ‘ Silverwell Trust letters etc’. (Kresen Kernow MR/N/816 – 823)

1901: Plan of proposed new Wesleyan Chapel, Silverwell, St Agnes. Scale 4 feet, 1 inch, size 54.5 x 76 cm. (Kresen Kernow GP/710)

The construction cost was less than estimated but a dispute with the builder, John Symons and Son, for “extras,” rumbled on for many years. When it was eventually resolved the Society had to pay its own costs which meant that the building of a schoolroom had to wait until more funds could be raised.

Civil List Silverwell Wesleyan Chapel. Claim Against the Trustees. Symons v. Angwin

Mr. Duke, K.C., M.P., and Mr. Hawke for the plaintiffs, instructed by Messrs. Paige and Grylls (Redruth). Mr. Foote. K.C., and Mr. Bedilly for the defendant, Instructed by Mr. G. C. Hancock, jnr. (St. Agnes).

Mr. Duke said the action to recover £l40 10s, balance due under the building contract for the erection of Silverwell Wesleyan Chapel, St Agnes, and for £33. 7s 10d. extra to the contract.

The real question was whether the defendant and his co-trustees ought to pay that balance. The contract was made on the 18th of June last year to build the chapel for £310 10s. Some small additions were ordered during progress of the work, in respect of which the plaintiff claimed £33 10s. The defendants had paid £l70. Some carious transactions occurred in the course of the matter. In March of last year the defendant and his co-trustees went to Mr. John Symons and told him they wanted to build a new chapel. They told him what they proposed to spend, and he drew a sketch. They were pleased with it and asked him to prepare plans. He also drew out a rough draft of a specification, and some amendments were afterwards made. This action was tried there, and not before an expert, because the trustees alleged, and persisted in alleging, that Mr. Frank Symons made away with the true specification in this case and had sought to put off upon the trustees a false specification. The plaintiff therefore sought not only to recover the money which said was due to him, but also wanted to clear his character of serious Imputation.

Mr. John Symons was unable to attend, owing to age and infirmity, and his depositions were read. Mr. Frank Symons stated that in 1896 the business of John Symons and Sons, belonging to his father, was assigned to him. His father assisted him for his amusement and for exercise but had no share in the business. His father prepared plans, but could not write with a pen, owing to an infirmity of his right hand, and used a pencil. His father wrote the specifications in pencil in March 1900 in his own house and told witness what to put in the ink-written document produced. In May tenders were issued for the erection of the building. Plaintiff sent in a tender of £3l0 10s, and on the I8th June last year signed the contract for the building. Stone was used in place of brick in the orchestra arch, because it was found to be better and stronger. Langdon, the clerk of the works, accused witness in the course of the work of having tampered with the specification. Witness called upon him to withdraw the insinuation, or he would not recognise him on the works. Langdon replied, “I didn’t quite mean that, and if you take exception to it I will withdraw.” At a subsequent interview witness complained to Langdon of the reports that were being circulated about his contract to the effect that he was saving much on the slates used, and that the chapel would come down at one end in consequence of there being a stone arch instead of brick. Langdon said he should not take any notice of reports. Witness replied that the reports were damaging to his character and reputation. In some further conversation Langdon said witness could bring an action against him if he chose, and that he was quite prepared to defend himself. Witness made application for further payment on account of the work but did not get it. Subsequently, when he handed over the complete building, defendant said they had now a very good chapel. He was sorry there had been any dispute, and wanted it settled up. Other trustees complimented him upon the way he had completed building.

Mr. Foote did not contest the point that the work was good. Mr. Duke said the issue had been narrowed down to this charge, the parties had agreed as the parties had agreed to the amount owing on account of the contract. Mr. Frank Symons. In cross-examination by Mr. Foote, said there had been good deal of country gossip as to his tampering with the specifications. The accusation was made against him on oath that he had done so, but he had not replied to it by affidavit because he did not know that it was required. There were two specifications, one made by his father in pencil, and one by himself in ink, taken down him from his father’s dictation. No alteration except to the arch was ever made to his ink-written specification. He tendered for £40 or £6O less than the other contractors and got the tender. Every alteration he made was before the contract was signed. Mr. Foote said he agreed. But he suggested that the alterations were made after the tendering, and before the specifications were signed. Plaintiff, in re-examination, swore he never wrote anything into the specifications except in the presence of his father and at his father’s suggestion. He made no alterations after his contract was accepted. Plaintiff was in the box five hours. Charles Carveth, foreman of works at the chapel, in the employ of plaintiff, said he worked at the job from the beginning to end. He worked from the specifications. Mr. Langdon. the clerk of the works, had a conversation with the plaintiff as to the specifications, pointing out to him that they provided for a brick arch, and not an arch of stone. Mr. Langdon said the specifications had been tampered with. The plaintiff called upon the clerk of the works to withdraw the charge, which he did. The plaintiff took the specifications, and in presence of the clerk of the works, altered the wording of the arch from brick to stone. Samuel K. Tonkin, J. H. Harris, Thomas Truran, and Walter Durant were called for plaintiff, and the case was adjourned.” (Royal Cornwall Gazette – Thursday 20 June 1901)

The case became very protracted with the accusation of fraud being referred to Bodmin for a Jury to decide. Judgement and costs there was awarded against the plaintiff but the trustees were described by the jury as being unbusinesslike. (West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser – Thursday 23 January 1902)

The settlement of the claim for outstanding payment was eventually dealt with by arbitration.

1903: “Silverwell Band of Hope. The festival was Saturday… The Mount Hawke Fife and Drum Band were in attendance and rendered various selections during the afternoon and evening…” (26 June 1903 – Cornubian and Redruth Times)

1932: The Wesleyan, Primitive Methodist and the United Methodist Church amalgamated to become the Methodist Church of Great Britain.

1932: Became Silverwell Methodist Church. (SWChurches)

1940: Seating for 120. (David Easton, Methodist Minister and historian)

Circa 1940: During the Second World War, Peter and Margaret Malindine were evacuated from West Middlesex to Cornwall: they lived with the Odgers family in the small and very scattered village of Silverwell. They were there from 1941 to 1945 and during that time Peter can only recall one tea treat at Silverwell Chapel. He said, “I think that the adults tried to make the occasion for the children by organising some races or other competitive activities but there were not many children living locally and I cannot remember how successful they were. There had been a trickle of evacuees returning to their English homes from 1941 onwards so the organisers of the occasion were to be commended for their effort. We got on well with the local children and were made welcome by them and their parents. The trestle tables for the tea were carried from a store under the chapel or from the Sunday school room, through the small connecting gate and into the field where everything was taking place. Tea was made in the chapel and carried out to the field in large white enamel jugs.” Peter thinks that the tea treat buns were bought in, possibly from Deuces’ Chacewater Steam Bakery, and they were big. “As big as dinner plates,” recalled Margaret. Peter said that the tea treat was new to them but this one was very small with no brass band and no procession around the village.

1951: A very personal account of an important day in one young boy’s life. “It was in 1951 that we moved from Looe to the village of Silverwell. Once settled, we had to decide whether Mum would have her way that my brother and I would join the Anglicans at Mithian Church or if our dad’s choice of Methodism would gain sway. Having initially followed Mum’s advice, it took an important village event to change our minds. It was to be the little Wesleyan chapel for us, just a stone’s throw from where we lived, and it was to have a huge influence on our young lives.

We had been told that the event was about to take place. We were not then members of the chapel Sunday school but we had heard that this was to be a fun event – a tea treat – and we were both keen to attend. I seem to remember an open invitation but we were both nervous as we had yet to meet and make friends with the local children. Our desire to join in, however, overcame our reticence and we made our way to a point in the village where we knew that the tea treat procession would pass. Hiding behind some bushes in a garden we waited until we spotted the large group on its return journey, heading back up the hill on its way back to the chapel. Use of the word ‘hiding’ is a bit misleading as we had ‘concealed’ ourselves in such a way that we were bound to be seen. It was Arthur Chapman who spotted the two ‘trespassers’ in his garden. He stopped the procession and persuaded us to join them.

The parade was led by men carrying a large banner and immediately behind them was a brass band. I have checked the newspapers to try and discover which band was playing that day but have not managed to discover which it was. It may well have been St Agnes Silver Band which my brother and I later joined and played with at more tea treats than we could possibly count. Behind the band were the children, all well-dressed and determined to enjoy themselves. Bringing up the rear were the adults.

This was an amazing introduction to chapel life for these five and eight-year-old siblings and the day was probably the most exciting of our young lives. Having remembered our introduction so vividly I have to concede that the day flew by and I have little recollection of the detail of when we arrived back at the chapel but I can remember that we made friends, played games, took part in the races, listened to the band (the beginning of my lifetime addiction to brass bands), ate a huge saffron bun and still had room for a couple of jam and cream splits. What a tale to tell when we finally returned home.” (Tony Mansell)

Cathleen Nicholls recalled, “Tea treat was always held at the end of July when we hired a band and marched through Silverwell, banners and all. We then returned to the field adjoining the chapel for tea treat buns. There was tea for the band and for the public and in the evening the band played a concert and ended with the Serpentine march. When the band became too expensive they decided to go on a trip instead but that didn’t catch on.”

Silverwell Chapel with the 1924 schoolroom and kitchen extension digitally removed (Photo: Tony Mansell)

Silverwell Chapel with the 1924 schoolroom and kitchen extension (Photo: Tony Mansell)

Like so many societies, Silverwell Chapel was built and paid for by the Methodists in the village and there was much consternation when it was discovered that the Methodist Church Model Deed meant that the local Trustees were only acting on behalf of the wider society. Edward Lawrence, a local dairyman, was often heard to complain, “They took it away from us.”

The Reverend Joe Ridholls wrote: “As Methodist minister in the Perranporth and St Agnes Circuit from 1957 to 1962 I had charge of eight chapels including Silverwell and have fond memories of it. It was a very good building situated in a beautiful setting although somewhat isolated. So isolated, in fact, that one minister from Newquay, appointed to preach there one day, couldn’t find it and had to return home.”

The lane that passes the old Silverwell Chapel, and continues on its way to White Street, was once a main thoroughfare. It was the preferred route, and in ancient times probably the only one, from Mithian to St Peter’s Church for funeral corteges. So, although Silverwell Chapel appears to have been built in a strange location it was once alongside a busy lane.

The interior with the pulpit and choir stall which remained in place after it became a dwelling. The cross was made by Douglas Mansell, and disappeared when the chapel closed (Photo: courtesy Tony Mansell)

1982: Silverwell Chapel closed. (David Easton, Methodist Minister and historian)

Converted to dwelling.







  • David Easton


2 thoughts on “Mapping Methodism – Silverwell Wesleyan Chapel

  1. There are the ruins of Whitestreet Wesleyan Chapel on the corner of our land at whitestreet.There is no longer a roof compared to the photo on page 56 of your book about Mithian. I wonder if you have a more detailed history of that chapel?

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