St James, Torpoint, History

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In 1780 Tar Point [now Torpoint] was a hamlet of four or five houses in the parish of Antony. Upon the building of Plymouth Dock [now Devonport Dockyard] there was a requirement for housing the greatly increased numbers employed, The Dockyard was surrounded by marsh land [what is now Stonehouse and St Levan Road], thus Torpoint grew and was there was more than two hundred houses by 1820.
Being in the parish of Antony, it was there that the congregation had to walk every Sunday. There was no public transport or made-up roads, thus on a wet and cold winter’s day you can imagine the state of those when they arrived for the Service.
There was an obvious need for a church in Torpoint. It required great faith as at the same time parishes were being asked to donate money to build the Cathedral in Truro and Torpoint had no rich benefactor. An official record states, “it had been badly built in a time of great financial stringency”.
Permission was granted for a chapel-of-ease, to the Church of Antony. The Right Honourable Reginald Pole Carew laid the foundation stone in 1816.
The original building was rectangular [ie no Chancel, Lady Chapel or Vestry] with the gallery both sides continuous to the east wall. There was no organ and singing was to the accompaniment of a cello. All services, except weddings and funerals, could be held in the church. It was said ‘to be as big as cathedral and as ugly as a barn’
Torpoint became a separate parish on St James’ Day 1872 and Revd Edgar Huxtable instituted as the first Vicar of Torpoint.
In 1885 [Incumbent – Revd James H Du Boulay] the present Chancel, Lady Chapel, and Vestry were built; at the same time the Gallery was reduced to its present size. Originally the organ was sited in what is now the Lady Chapel. Designed by Claude Fowles, Organist St Mary’s Torquay and manufactured by John Hele & Co c1902, at a cost of £365, dedicated on 16th July 1902. It was moved to the Gallery during the 1930s reconstruction and first played in this position on 11th November 1935.
In the 1930s [Incumbent – Revd Bernard S Lowe] it was realised that a major reconstruction was needed. The Gallery had been supporting the north and south walls and with its reduction in size the walls were unstable. Sir John Carew Pole offered the Cambridge Field [some two hundred metres to the west of the present Church] as a new site. The cost of repairs would be £11,895 and a new building £13,681. There were insufficient funds for a new building. It was during this phase that the organ was moved to the Gallery, the extension to the south containing a boiler house and flower room on the ground floor with a Choir Vestry over. The lower windows in the north and south walls of the Nave were blocked in, and buttresses built on the north, west and south walls. It was intended to extend the nave to the south and build a new turret, but again insufficient funds. The original Nave floor had been built on timbers laid directly on soil. This had rotted so much that it had to be replaced. When the new floor was laid, Revd Lowe had a tomb [white stone] inserted in the main aisle for his ashes. 
In 1974 [Incumbent – Revd John Prothero] there was the construction of the Hall, Kitchen and Toilets. Selling goods from a caravan in the car park raised funds for this. The Market still continues every Friday morning.
Prior to the Incumbency of Revd John Prothero the main altar was sited close to the east window, the cross and candelabra sited on a high shelf. Secured to the east wall was the Reredos [now sited in the Lady Chapel]. In 1983 it was decided to extend the altar steps and floor towards the west and move the altar so that the priest could face the congregation, remove the Reredos and replace with a curtain.
In 1981 [Incumbent - Revd Kenneth Noakes] the lime plaster was no longer adhering to the Nave walls. The Nave was rewired and the walls replastered with lime mortar. Then the whole interior was painted. At this time the wood columns and sills were fitted to the Nave windows.
In 2001 [Incumbent - Revd James Warren] the roof of the Nave and south side of the Chancel was renewed.
In ‘the days of old’ the parish church was [and still is in some communities] the largest building with Courts, Markets etc being held in the Nave. It had been long recognised that this Church could better serve the parishioners if the seating could be moved to suit the occasion. Thus in June 2007 [Incumbent - Prebendary Brian Anderson] a reordering of the Nave was started by replacing the pews with chairs. The font was been repositioned and the West End reorganised. In the Hall the kitchen was improved and a toilet for the disabled installed.


About Torpoint Church
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