Mapping Methodism – Kerley Downs Bible Christian Chapel

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Kerley Downs is a moorland southeast of Chacewater. This profile of Kerley Downs Bible Christian Chapel has been compiled by Jo Lewis and Tony Mansell.

 

From Hugus, continue south to the T junction and take a right back towards Chacewater. Billy Brays Chapel is signposted off the road on the left.

Billy Bray’s three eyes chapel at Kerley Downs near Chacewater. It is the sole remaining example of three chapels established by Billy Bray (1794–1868); a Cornish tin miner and for 43 years a renowned local preacher in the ‘Bible Christian’ Methodist denomination. The chapel had three prominent ‘eyes’ or windows when it was erected in 1836. Now maintained as a memorial to Billy Bray, with several services held throughout the year (see website for details). The chapel contains pictures, information and memorabilia of The King’s Son (Bray’s ‘title’ adopted for FW Bourne’s biography, first published in 1871).

Bible Christian chapel built by the charismatic and eccentric Billy Bray with two windows on one side and one on the other. People called it “Three Eyes” until it was extended later giving three windows to each side elevation and subsequently called “Six Eyes” (b2). Simple vernacular example with sash windows. Fittings include a chair with flat wooden seat inscribed ‘Billy Bray Baldhu 1839’. Listed and illustrated in Stell (b1). (Cornwall Council Heritage Gateway)

Billy Bray was a greatly loved and respected local preacher, who, whilst working in the mines and caring for his family had several chapels built to a great extent by his own hands. ‘Our little chapel had three windows, one on one side and two on the other: the old devil, who does not like chapels, put his servants by way of reproach to call our chapel ‘THREE EYES’. But, blessed be God, since then, the chapel has become too small for the place, and it has been enlarged; now there are six windows instead of three; and they may call the chapel SIX EYES now if they will’. Quoted from BILLY BRAY by F.W. Bourne. LONDON May 1890. This book is a great source of further information about the preacher and includes an amusing story of how Billy Bray acquired a 3 cornered cupboard to use as a pulpit for this chapel. (Further source – Nonconformist Chapels by Christopher Stell)

The door and the porch was originally under the middle window but was moved and altered. (Wikipedia)

(Photo: Jo Lewis)

A lovely old photograph of the chapel here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/147645911@N08/50227799801/in/photolist-2cvywyQ-2jZaJG7-2jrzwKv-bzZ8CV-NonuW2-2hoBUPp-2hoCGEZ-688H8f-evnL2w-2hzeq3u-8jnF7n-nWukoA-bLUcMr-nE7ohV-nWukku-nYnhDZ-nWzZaZ-nWhHB4-nE6tVS-nYnhHr-RtEmxw-4ugLzo-2jHxHYb-2jHBjNP-8p2yVY-diuZ6e-W25e2W-2jHBjMg-8okY7M-8okYbK-2jwsAYi-8oYoEV-8oYoRZ-8oYoLn

(Photo: Barry West)

(Photo: Barry West)

(Photo: Barry West)

1835: Built. (Cornwall Council Heritage Gateway)

1836: Chapel built in 1836 by Billy Bray (1794–1868), a renowned Cornish tin miner and local preacher in the Bible Christian Methodist denomination. Also known as Three Eyes Chapel because of its windows, this is one of three chapels built by Billy Bray.

1836: Built as a Bible Christian Chapel by Billy Bray, local preacher, of Twelveheads. Known colloquially as ‘Three Eyes’ because of the windows. (SWChurches)

4 Jul 1836: Trust deed, Kerley Downs Bible Christian Chapel, Kea. Three copies of trust deed. Chapel known as ‘Three Eyes’ because of windows. Kresen Kernow MRT/735)

The original chapel was much smaller than the one that stands today with remodelling in the mid and late 19th century.

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

1905: “The proposal to raise £100 for the purpose of renovating Kerley Downs chapel, near Chacewater, has been received with much favour in the district. The chapel is one of three built by Billy Bray.” (Cornishman – Thursday 19 October 1905)

1907: The Methodist New Connexion, Bible Christians and United Methodist Free Churches amalgamated to become the United Methodist Church.

1907-1932: Known as Kerley Downs United Methodist Church. (SWChurches)

1908: Kerley Downs “Three Eyes” Chapel renovated; (Cornubian and Redruth Times – Thursday 30 April 1908)

1909: “Kerley Downs United Methodist Sunday school tea treat took place on Saturday in ideal weather. Headed by the St Agnes Brass Band the teachers and scholars walked to Baldhu and returned a field where tea was provided for the children. …” (17 June 1909 – Royal Cornwall Gazette)

1910: Newspaper article about Billy Bray and various chapels. (The Cornish Telegraph – Thursday 06 October 1910)

Circa 1910: Photograph, Kerley Downs Methodist chapel, Baldhu, Kea. Also known as the Three Eyes chapel established by the preacher Billy Bray in 1836. Exterior view. (Kresen Kernow corn00012)

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

1932: Became Kerley Downs Methodist Church from 1932. (SWChurches)

1939: “Billy Bray Memorial Day. Sir, Doubtless there are many people, both at home and abroad, who. like myself, have read with interest the various articles and letters with regard to Billy Bray, the celebrated Cornish preacher, and his work, which of late have appeared in your widely-circulated newspaper. It has long been recognised that there are many people who spend their holidays in Cornwall, who would gladly avail themselves of an opportunity to visit and worship in the historical little sanctuary at Kerley Downs. ‘Three Eyes’, the one remaining chapel built by Billy Bray now in use. To this end it has been decided to hold special services during a week-end annually during the month of August, in recognition, and as a memorial, of this saintly man of God and his great work. The first of these services are being held on Thursday, August 24th. and Sunday. August 27th. May I, on behalf of the friends of Billy Bray, with your kind permission, extend a very hearty invitation to all who care to avail themselves of this unique opportunity to unite with us in worship at these, and also at the usual services held on Sunday afternoons at 2.30 p m. AN INTERESTED WORKER.” (West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser – Thursday 24 August 1939)

Until 1982, regular services were held in the chapel, but it was forced to close due to a dwindling membership.

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

Reverted to Lord Falmouth, the owner of the freehold and with his consent and help, the Billy Bray Memorial Trust was formed by a group of five Methodists, each with a close association with the chapel.

1981-1983: Correspondence, Kerley Downs Methodist Church, Kea. Minister’s correspondence, covering closure of chapel and reversion of title to Lord Falmouth. (Kresen Kernow MRT/736)

1st June 1984: Chapel was rededicated by Revd Ian Haile.

Now maintained as a memorial to Billy Bray, with several services held throughout the year. The chapel contains pictures, information and memorabilia.

Owned by Trust. http://www.billybray.org.uk/ (David Easton, Methodist Minister and historian)

Occasional worship. (David Easton, Methodist Minister and historian)

2007: Still used for occasional services in summer. (SWChurches)

It is Grade 2 listed.

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