Blackwater is a village in the parish of St Agnes between Truro and Redruth. The village lies on the old course of the A30 north of the current course which bypasses it. This profile of Blackwater Wesleyan Chapel has been compiled by Clive Benney & Tony Mansell.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the Blackwater Wesleyans first met in a small building attached to the Blacksmith’s Shop, on the site where the Passmore Edwards’ Institute now stands. The smith himself was a member of the Society and may have taken a leading role.
Chapel of unknown date
The 18th century (possibly) Methodist chapel in Blackwater was a simple, earth floored building where women and men sat on different sides of the chapel. This chapel succumbed to a fire in 1821. (WIKI)
Possibly 1810s: The first purpose-built chapel built. The building was small with cob walls, thatched roof and was located to the rear of the existing Chapel building. It was basic and simply furnished with forms for the congregation and a desk for the preacher.
1821: The chapel suffered a lightning strike and was destroyed by fire. The congregation had just dispersed and no one was injured but according to Thomas Shaw in his book “Methodism in Blackwater,” one resident said, “Twas no wonder the God Almighty should strike the Chapel weth lightnen, the people were so dead and dull!”
Wesleyan chapel plus attached schoolroom, now converted to a house following a period of use as commercial premises. Painted rubble walls; hipped slate roof. Good simple early example with round-arched window openings with margin-pane sashes with Y-traceried heads; segmental -arched doorway with planked doors. Rubble forecourt walls with granite gate-piers and late C19 cast-iron gate. Cobbled path widened into patterned semicircle. Gallery from Preaching House in Kenwyn St, Truro Listed and illustrated in Stell (b1). (Cornwall Heritage Gateway)
1824: Build date. (SWChurches)
Following the destruction of their little Chapel the people of Blackwater built a replacement. It was a little to the south of the first and, as with so many Cornish chapels of this time, local miners, farm labourers and tradesmen of the congregation provided the labour; “The Cornubian” described them as “Plain men of the village.”
1825: The chapel was formally opened. It had an earth floor and the men sat on one side and the women on the other, on uncomfortable backless forms. Tallow mine candles provided the light with a number of them set in a chandelier. There was no heating so in winter the congregation’s faith must have been severely tested.
Part of Redruth Wesleyan Circuit. (SWChurches)
1832: Gallery added and seats let to those who could afford them. It seems to have been the preferred place to sit if your pocket could run to it.
1837: Sunday school formed.
1841: New pews with backs were placed in the centre of the ground floor with the few remaining backless ones used by the poor as free seats.
1870s: Two Sunday school classrooms built.
1889: The old Sunday school demolished and a new schoolroom built.
1859: Harmonium installed.
15 May 1863: Assignment of lease, Blackwater, St Agnes. Parties: 1) John Trivian of St Agnes, miner. 2) James Blackney, grocer, William Oates, miner, Joseph Thomas, farmer, James Crase, mine agent, John Allen, blacksmith, John Symons, carpenter, Edward Tregoning, carpenter, William Skinfill, carpenter, William Oates, miner, Josiah Oates, miner, Thomas Jenkin, miner, Philip Holman, miner, William Brabin, miner, Samuel Terrell, miner and Francis Stephens, all of Blackwater, St Agnes. Assignment of lease for 99 years. Property as GP345: waste and uncultivated land, half an acre, lately enclosed or intended so to be out of the commons of the manor of Goonearl, near Blackwater. Consideration: 10 shillings Endorsed: A197 Registered by the Wesleyan Chapel Committee this 22 January 1884, Henry J Pope, secretary. (Kresen Kernow GP/384)
1868: Oil lamps replaced the candles.
1869: Tenders required for painting the chapel. (Cornubian and Redruth Times – Friday 25 June 1869)
(Photo: courtesy Clive Benney)
Blackwater Chapel early 1870s (Photo: J Chenhall photographer, Bullers Row, Redruth – by 1875 he was at 11 West End, Redruth / Courtesy Clive Benney)
1874: Coach house added to visiting preachers having to use the stabling facilities of local taverns.
1878: The non-conformist tea treat was one of the big events on the village calendar and an entry in Harrod’s Rural County Directory of Cornwall of 1878 states that in Blackwater, “A fair is held annually on Midsummer’s Day”. The annual tea treat there was one of the big events on the calendar and if it could not be held on the actual day then it took place on the nearest Saturday.
1884: Chapel re-opened following renovations. (Cornubian and Redruth Times – Friday 18 July 1884)
1893: The Sunday School building, built with the funding and support of John Passmore Edwards, was completed and dedicated to Edward’s late uncle, a St Day Sunday school superintendent and teacher. It was a stone building with granite dressings. Gothic cathedral glass and leadlight windows adorned the building.
1899: Chapel re-opened following renovations. (Cornubian and Redruth Times – Friday 01 December 1899)
Circa 1908: The 1825 Chapel (Photo: courtesy Tony Mansell)
1909: Camborne Town Band played at Blackwater Sunday School tea treat (Royal Cornwall Gazette 1st July 1909)
Nov 1912: Letter, determination of lease, Blackwater Wesleyan Chapel, St Agnes. Letter from Pitts Tucker, solicitors. (Kresen Kernow MRR/1211)
1916: Blackwater Wesleyan Tea Treat – Blackwater School headmaster John Oates with white beard (Photo: Govier)
1920s: Olga Trewhella, a Blackwater resident, recalled the fun of dancing around the May Pole back in the early 1920s. She said, “The children really looked forward to the May Day celebrations”.
1923: “Blackwater scholars had their annual festival on Saturday, the proceedings including a procession, tea, sports, and selections by St Agnes Town Band.” (27 June 1923 – Cornishman)
1923: New pipe organ installed. (WIKI)
1925: Chapel registered for marriages.
Thomas Shaw described the chapel as very plain with a battle-scarred roof caused by German action in the Second World War.
1932: The Wesleyan, Primitive Methodist and the United Methodist Church amalgamated to become the Methodist Church of Great Britain.
1932: Became Blackwater Methodist Church. (SWChurches)
Part of Redruth Methodist Circuit from 1932. (SWChurches)
1940: Seating for 184. (David Easton, Methodist Minister and historian)
In 1946, Kathleen Huddy (née Osborne) interviewed Mrs Solomon of Carnhot and asked her about her memories of tea treats in Blackwater. Mrs Solomon was aged 100 so her recollections probably date back to 1860 or maybe earlier when the annual fair was attended by over two thousand people. “There were shows of all kinds with stalls of fruit and sweets. The Sunday school treat on Midsummer Day opened in glory with banners and the procession led by a brass band. The benches for the children were arranged in a circle on the green. Each child carried a cup for tea. Parents dressed their children decently on these occasions, and for the Sunday school anniversary. A tinner’s wages were then about forty shillings monthly and the families were often big, with five to ten children. Seven Inns took in travelling workmen where they could sleep, eat and drink: that was common in those days. For the children, there was Midsummer Eve when darkness fell, and bonfires would blaze on burrows and mine dumps. As the flames rose, excited children shouted, ‘Midsummer Day is passing this way, A-Hip, A-Hip, A-Hurray,’ before making a dash through clouds of smoke and sparks out of bravado, defying the risks as likely continuing a druidical custom. Two fields near the Passmore Edwards Institute were often used for the event, one for the hobbyhorses and side-shows and the other for games and the tea. In later years, the field next to the chapel was used. Stalls (stannins) were erected in front of the Red Lion Inn and lit by Naphtha Flares at night. Limpets in tiny dishes were eaten with a pin and the girls were treated to trays of cherries, comfits and gingerbreads by their boyfriends.”
The event at Blackwater was preceded by a procession from the chapel to the tea treat field. It was led by one of the local bands (Blackwater, Stithians, Camborne, St Agnes and, in 1917, by Indian Queens) and the procession turned right on leaving the chapel and passed through the village until it reached the crossroads by the Red Lion. From there, it travelled up North Hill to the junction with the Skinners Bottom road where it did a U-turn and returned to the village. On arrival back at the Red Lion it turned right and continued out to the railway bridge (now demolished) where it turned once again and marched to the designated field. It seems that the event continued until mid-night. Tea treats were a big part of village life with the huge saffron buns, tea, games and the Serpentine walk to finish.
1967: Account, repairs to chapel, Blackwater Methodist Church, St Agnes. Account from builder. (Kresen Kernow MRR/1500)
1985: Closed. (SWChurches / David Easton, Methodist Minister and historian)
1985 – Sunday 28th April: The Closing Act of Worship held.
1985 – October: At auction the building failed to reach the reserve price. It was eventually sold and the building became an office, then an auction room and finally, a dwelling.