Penpoll Methodist Chapel
Being a member of a religious group outside the Church of England was, from the time of the Reformation to the 19th century, not as straightforward as it is today. The Toleration Act of 1689 gave some legal easement to the situation and allowed Nonconformist Ministers the right to follow their own religious beliefs and allowed them freedom of worship, provided that they pledged oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy to the reigning Monarch and recognised the Monarch’s supreme right to rule.
The Act applied to Protestants who dissented from the Church of England such as Baptists and Congregationalists and later to Methodists but not to Catholics. Nonconformists were allowed their own places of worship and their own teachers, if they regularly swore these oaths before the Justices and Jury, normally at Quarter Sessions.
The Act continued however to bar Nonconformists from certain positions, including their exclusion from political office and also from universities. Apart from the Quaker Meeting House at Come to Good, which was built as early as 1710, some of the earliest records of Nonconformist congregations in the parish are in the Penpol area.
Records show that at the Quarter Sessions held in Truro on 7th April 1807, before Justices John Vivian, Ralph Allen Daniell, Thomas Rawlings, Francis Gregor, Robert Lovell Gwatkin, Thomas Graham, James Willyams, Francis Hearle Rodd, and Edward William Stackhouse, some of the wealthiest and most influential men of the County:- “Samuel Honey of Lanreath, William Leach of Boconnoc, James Heath of Mylor, James Trenerry of Feock, and William Cock of Feock each subscribed statutory oaths required of dissenting ministers.” Again at the Quarter Sessions held in Truro on 1st May 1810 it is recorded that:- “Protestant dissenting minister James Heath, junior of Mylor, yeoman, subscribed the oath required of protestant ministers.” Later there was an Independent Baptist Church at Townsend, Feock from 1821 -39
The Oaths sworn normally led to a Meeting House Licence being granted or renewed and such was the case in Penpol where James Heath senior and junior, James Trenery and Samuel Stephens were granted such a licence in 1807. The location of this religious meeting house is not certain but many believe it to be at or close to the present site of the present Penpol Chapel. This is possibly the earliest record of a Methodist congregation in the parish.
Surviving records at the Cornwall Record Office show the system of doctrine to be followed, rules to be followed and questions for potential members of this congregation in a document dated 23 Jul 1821. It goes on to give members' names from 1821 and 1836, details of Deacons appointed, records of baptisms at Loe Beach and Pill Creek from 1821-1838, the births register from 1820-1839, church accounts from 1821-1839 and a Licence for the Chapel from the Quarter Sessions in 1821.It is possible that this group later moved to Penpol and amalgamated with the Methodist congregation there to become one religious unit around 1840.
There is reference to a Penpoll Methodist Society from at least 1841 and when the Feock Lead Smelting Works was established, a Day School for children of its employees was set up which evolved into the Feock Lead Works Sunday School, which boasted over one hundred children and up to thirty teachers registered with the Sunday School by 1869.
The date above the door of Penpol Chapel is 1861, but the official opening was on 30th January 1862. It was built on land leased from the estate of the late Davies Gilbert of Trelissick.
The original Trustees of the Chapel were Richard Harris, a carpenter, William Maunder a tin smelter, John Treneale and Robert Sampson, also tin smelters, William Plummer, millwright, Edwin Harris, builder, Thomas Martin, sawyer, Thomas White, schoolmaster and William Williams, yeoman.
Penpol was then far from the quiet backwater it is today. The 1861 census shows a thriving community from Carnon Mine through Chycoose and Point to the other side of the creek at Penpol. A wide variety of occupations is given, most associated with the smelting works or the sea. At the time the area even had its own Tidewaiter, a man employed much as a Customs Officer these days who boarded ships to ensure that they were complying with all the rules and had no contraband on board before they were allowed into port.
There had been mining operations under the creekbed offshore here from around 1785 to 1812, the Redruth and Chasewater Railway had arrived at Point in 1826, horse drawn at the time for the whole of its length and to remain so from Devoran to Point throughout its lifetime. Smelting works first opened in the area in 1827 and local newspaper shipping reports noted up to eight or ten vessels a week coming and going from the port of Point over the years, mainly associated with the mining industry but also carrying a variety of other general cargoes.
These “Shipping Intelligence” columns as they were called, gave details of the ship’s name, its Captain and port of origin of the voyage and one typical entry in the Royal Cornwall Gazette of February 1856 shows the following arrivals and departures from Point in one week:-
POINT; Arrived, William Henry, (Captain) Michell from Newport, George, Hayes from Neath, James Dunn, Pengelly from Port Talbot, Mark, Abramson and Johanne Margaretta, Hansen from Porsgrund, Elizabeth, Pearn from Plymouth. Sailed Elizabeth, Pearn for Plymouth.
Three ships, William Henry, George and James Dunn from South Wales probably collecting ore, two, Mark and Johanne Margaretta from Porsgrund, Norway, probably with timber for the mines and one, Elizabeth, which was a regular visitor and plied the English Channel with general cargo.
As with many mining and other working class areas across Cornwall and other parts of the country, John Wesley’s simple and more understandable brand of religion has a long history in the Parish of Feock, and it seems it all began here in Penpol.
Written by Bob Richards