Mapping Methodism – Penzance High Street Bible Christian Chapel

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This profile of Penzance High Street Bible Christian Chapel has been compiled by Suzanne Trythall.


The Penzance church of the Bryanites seems to have begun meeting in the home of a Mary Woolcock in Alverton. They then acquired in 1858 the use of a former Wesleyan chapel in the St Clare district. By the 1870s this church had become inadequate and the Bible Christians, as they were then called, acquired the site on the corner of High Street and Taroveor Road.

29 April 1878: laying of foundation stone by Sir John St Aubyn and Mr Pendarves Vivian. Beneath the stone was placed a bottle containing a copy of the minutes of the Bible Christian Conference 1877, a bill announcing the day’s ceremony, preaching plan for the Circuit, names of ministers, trustees, architect and builder, two newspapers and some coins.

Architect: Mr Henry White of Parade Passage, Penzance

Cost of site, construction and fees: £2,000

Builder: Mr H Carne

Glazing, painting and ornamentation: Mr WH Kinsman

Capacity: chapel 500 persons and schoolroom 300 children

Friday 30 May 1879: inauguration ceremony of the new chapel

(Photo 2021)

The chapel is built in Gothic style, facing Taroveor Road with a side entrance in High Street. The walls are of elvan from Foage in Zennor and the dressings are of finely worked granite.

1884: a loan was taken out to build a separate Sunday School across the road. The site was purchased and the manse was next door, the first house in Tolver Road. A room was taken from the manse to serve as a kitchen for the Sunday School.

Nov 1886: foundation stones of the Sunday School were laid by Miss Roberts, Miss Maddern and Miss Stephanie Garfield Kevern (not five years of age). Stephanie then placed her savings for that year of £5 5s 5d on the stone as a gift towards the building. Further stones were laid by Benjamin Eddy, Wellington Dale (Mayor), Edith Polglase, FJ Tancock and JN Russell.

June 1887: opening of the new Sunday School, a spacious schoolroom measuring 48ft by 38ft with a platform for speakers. A further classroom of about 12×12 feet led off the main room.  It was well ventilated and lit by large windows; especially noteworthy is the bay window overlooking Tolver Road.

Architect: Henry White,

Builder: James Dustow,

Carpenter: Mr Leggo,

Cost: £800

Photo 2021: Bible Christian Sunday School on corner of Taroveor and Tolver Roads, immediately opposite the chapel. The building attached on the right is the former Rechabite Chapel

Photo 2021: inscription on stone above the main door ‘Laid by J G Corin & J Peak Superintendents’

1890 and 1900: chapel hosted the Bible Christian annual conference

1894: chapel was enlarged by taking in the old schoolroom which had been divided from the main chapel by a heavy partition. An organ from Norman and Beard of Norwich was installed in this space. Alterations included four new exterior dormer windows, installation of Boyle’s patent ventilators, a Communion area, outside lavatories and rearrangement of gas lighting. The gallery was extended and the front decorated with cast iron in an ogee pattern tinted with grey and gold.  A room at the back was fitted as a ladies’ parlour and another as the vestry.

Architect: John W Trounson. Builder: Thomas James with W Ford mason. Painter: John Peak. Furnishings: I and AJ Fuzzey. Cost: £1,000

July 1899: Sunday School Anniversary was celebrated. 311 children attended with 62 teachers and officials. The year finished with a financial balance of one shilling.

Postcard photo taken after 1907

1907: chapel became known as High Street United Methodist Church

1920s: re-decoration and installation of stained glass windows

1920s: Sunday School used as HQ for Penzance Infant Welfare Society

Photo: memorial window to the men of the chapel who died in WW1

1925-1935: chapels in the High Street Methodist Circuit were High Street, Carfury, Drift, Heamoor and Tredavoe. By 1965 there was one Penzance Methodist Circuit

Photo 1955: High Street Chapel Choir at Morrab Gardens

1968: organ rebuilt by MW Eglinton

1968: chapel received £24 12s from proceeds of sale of Parade Street Chapel

1995: Sunday School building sold for £25,000 described as ‘Tolver Hall’

Photo 1995: interior of Sunday School building at time of sale

Photo 2012: pulpit and communion area

Photo 2012: before the downstairs pews were removed

Photo 2012: the back of the gallery

2012: membership 29

2019: membership 17 and average weekly attendance 20 (The Methodist Church Circuit Membership and Attendance Statistics Summary Oct 2019)

Photo showing the downstairs pews removed (from chapel website)

2021: the chapel holds services every Sunday at 2.30pm and the Circuit Communion Service each Thursday at 10.00am


Sources and further reading:

Newspapers: The Cornishman and The Cornish Telegraph (Find My Past)

Book: ‘Even in This Place: 19th century Nonconformists & Life in the Borough of Penzance’ by John Horner (2010)

Centenary Brochure: High Street Methodist Church Penzance 1879-1979 by Horton Bolitho

The Bible Christian Magazine


  • Newlyn Trinity Church: Methodism in West Penwith – A Heritage at Risk
  • West Penwith Resources Part 2 – Penzance Methodist Circuits
  • Penzance Conservation Area Appraisal 2010
  • Cornish Stained Glass: Michael Swift

Map: The National Library of Scotland

Kresen Kernow

The Morrab Library


Personal postscript of family connections with High Street Chapel:

John Peak – my great great grandfather – Superintendent of the Sunday School

William Hutchens – my great grandfather – Trustee, Sunday School Teacher & Sidesman

1883 christening of my grandmother Lilian Peak Hutchens

1918 Lilian Peak Hutchens married Frederick William Trythall

1929 christening of my father William Franklyn Trythall

3 thoughts on “Mapping Methodism – Penzance High Street Bible Christian Chapel

  1. How interesting to read your history of our Church! One of our members came across it by serendipity and pointed it out to me. We are still going! With your personal connections to the building, you’d be extremely welcome to come and visit us and see how things are going in these peculiar and challenging times. God bless, Mandy Pearce (Steward)

    1. Thank you, Elaine, for your kind comments. I have only just read this as I have not revisited my work since writing it!
      I would like to visit the chapel some time, Penzance holds many happy childhood memories for me.

  2. I wonder who is the author of this article.
    Probably one of my relatives.
    My name is William J S Ovenden, and John Peak was my grandfather.
    My parents were married in High Street Chapel, and I was baptised there in 1936.

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