Some Reminiscences Respecting Methodism in the Okehampton Circuit 1743 to 1861

Transcript of an original note apparently written by Thomas Pearse (1793 – 1875), likely written 1874, currently held by South West Heritage Trust in Devon Heritage Centre, Exeter, Reference 1812D/0/27

Image is of Sticklepath Chapel

(This transcript is by Helen Shields from scans taken of the originals September 2021.  Paragraph spacing added.  Punctuation in the original was unclear in places, and has been added to make sense to the modern reader.  Spelling maintained as original where possible and autocorrect has not amended!  Original note of 8 small pages, plus a handwritten transcript, are in the Devon Archive.  Note part of first page original note did not scan.  That section was transcribed from a scan of the handwritten transcript alone.)

By referring to John Wesley’s journal, we find on his return from his first journey into Cornwall he was welcomed by some Quaker friends in passing through the village of Sticklepath.  John Nelson about a fortnight after staying the Sabbath with the Quakers and preaching – Charles Wesley and John both refer to several visits there. 

It was a resting place for the Itinerants as they travelled Westward, and this continued several years, until other roads were formed in the South and North of Devon.   God blessed their labours and its favor continued. 

It is clear that their Methodist meetings continued to the end of the centuary, the preaching in Sticklepath in one of the cottages and at Okehampton in a cottage in North Lane, about the time of 1799 Mr Trampleas(ure) a hired local preacher from the Launceston circuit was sent forth as an Evangelist to visit and preach throughout East Cornwall and North Devon. Great good was the result.  Sticklepath and Okehampton shared in this revival.  In Sticklepath Mrs Mallett and others partook of it, and in Okehampton the Guest family, and the Sampson family and many others especially many young people.

It was about this period that some soldiers attempted to throw Mr Trampleasure into the river.  

In the cottage in North Lane, there was not room for the increased congregation – a removal was made to the house of Joseph Guest, in East St, the good cause continued to prosper for the next ten years,  and about 1811 or 1812 Okehampton appears in the minutes with an Home Missionary appointed.  

Joseph Guests house was deserted, and desks forms etc —- taken to a larger room called the Star Chambers, but troubles were coming.  At the end of the two years just as Mr. Cloak the preacher was leaving, the Principal person in the society became a bankrupt and drew others into the vortex, so that’s when the new preacher came everything was in confusion.  He found a home a place of refuge in Sticklepath – Mr Cloak had purchased some land to build a chapel, this in Okehampton – this had to be resold at a great loss.  The desks, forms etc.  at the Star were taken for rent due – and the relicts of the society fell back on Mrs Malletts house.  The preaching continued, in her house, to the time of her death. 

The next conference Sticklepath was made head of the circuit & so continued for some years.  The preachers then extended their labours Eastward – Mr Lancaster being the preacher.  Moreton, Chagford & Throwleigh. Northlew was first visited by Mr Cloak.  At Mrs Malletts death the Methodist Cause in Okehampton became extinct.  

In the year 1826 Mr Trampleasure is appointed to the Sticklepath Circuit, and after he arrived, he visited Okehampton again, several were brought to Christ – Samuel Smale – George Smale – Mrs Brooks & many others, again there was a removal to the Star Chamber.

During the intervening time the forms etc had been re-deemed, and were again placed in their former position.  Amongst others, Mr Trampleasure was made useful to a young draper who was ill in decline.  He went to Exeter and died in lodgings there.  On his will he left £150 to the Methodist cause in Okehampton, tax out £135.  After this was taken to rent two unfurnished cottages in Painters Court, at a rentall of £9 per year.  This continued for fourteen years before we could get a spat of land, eligible to build on.

The Chapel was commenced in 1840, we began with what was left of Mr Brooks money, about £100.  With this we commenced building, with the resolution not to exceed £180 in debt on the chapel, & at the 20th anniversary the debt with all outstanding accounts was liquidated.  I will notice here that Oketon in the year 1832 was again the head of the circuit – Mr Ranch being the minister, and 29 years afterwards we had him at the Anniversary in 1861 when the debt was paid off.

I may note here, when Okehampton was in its first stage, before the break up, Mr Croscombe was sent out from being a local preacher as a missionary to North America and Paul Orchard to the home work.

After its restoration a Mr Gand was junior preacher with Mr Daniels.  This Mr Gand afterwards became President of the Conference in Australia.  In later times John Reddaway &. James Finch Sticklepath lads went into the ministry.  Between 1800 & 1810 it was that Mrs Mallett removed her residence from Sticklepath to Okehampton.  There is a tombstone to her memory under the East Window of the Oketon Church.

I have written this just to show that Sticklepath is the mother church & I think she is entitled to some sympathy and attention from her children in having a better supply of preaching awarded to her.  

Okehampton was the head of the circuit for two years during Mr Cloaks ministry – Sticklepath from Mr Cloaks leaving to the year 1832 except two years when the preacher Mr Robinson resided at Moreton in lodgings.  Mr Baker established the cause at Broadley.  Winkley was once a part of the Barnstaple Circuit, about 1830, & 1834 was taken into the Oketon Circuit.

Mr Ridsdale who was the junior preacher when the chapel at Oketon was opened for Divine Worship before his year was up was called away to be a missionary in South Africa.

I have just now passed my 81 year and I believe the world is much better than it was when I was young – and this is in a great measure through the influence of Methodism in all its branches.

Mr Joseph Wood was the preacher at the laying the foundation – and also at the opening services of the Oketon Chapel. 

T.Pearse. (or possibly J. Pearse)

A note is added:  Old Ann Pearse’s brother, he was Mr WB Pearses uncle. 

My note – Oketon is Okehampton