Old Manse


Some preliminary notes – Frances Billinge January 2019


The earliest reference to a congregational minister in Bovey Tracey is from 1866. In 1870 the congregational minister was described as living at the ‘Free Church House’. The 1871 Census confirms that this was on Mary Street. By 1878 it was referred to as ‘Chapel House’. It is not until I892 that we find the first reference to it being called ‘The Manse’ and being connected with the Congregational Church.


1780 Land Tax Assessment refers to a house for pious uses. This is held by feofees, and John Soper is the occupier and the tax is 12 shillings.There is no indication who the feofees are, where in the parish this house is sited, or which denomination uses it. (Devon Heritage Centre microfiche).

 1809 Charity Commission on schools in 1907 made reference to Wesleyans being in Bovey by 1809 and having their own land. This reference is in connection to provision of Sunday schools. Possibly this was the land delineated on the 1841 Tithe Map see below. (Parliamentary Papers Endowed Charities, Devon, 1908. pp.1-16)

1813 Devon Heritage Centre Baptism Register Wesleyan Chapel Bovey Tracey from 1813(Devon Heritage Centre 1517D/0/4 Baptism Register: Wesleyan Bovey Tracey Chapel 1813- 1942. These have not yet been checked)

1822 Date referred to by the charity commission report of 1908 which stated that by this date there was a meeting house for the Particular Baptists and another for the Methodist Wesleyans.

Figure 1 Baptist Chapel Hind Street. Frances Billinge 2018.

We have evidence for the Baptist chapel being on Hind Street Fig.1.(Baptist  Church Bovey Tracey, Frances Billinge 2018 boveytraceyhistory.org.uk)

Figure 2. Wesleyan Chapel on the South side of Mary Street at the turn of the 19/20th Century. David Lewis Collection

Figure. 3 Bovey Wesleyan Church Jubilee 1930. David Lewis Collection

1841 Tithe Map and Apportionment. The dwelling which is now called the Old Manse is on the North side of Mary Street just above where Hind Street joins it. This house is number 1551 on the Tithe Map and described as a dwelling house with courtledge, and above and beside it is a garden and also an uninhabited building such as a barn. Lower down Mary Street on the southern side is a chapel number 1503. The chapel comprises eight perches of land surrounded on three sides by garden. It is shown as an uninhabited building. There is no indication which denomination met at this chapel.  On the 1841 Census no-one is listed as living there.  By 1841 all of these properties were owned by the Lord of the Manor the Earl of Devon. Next door to the chapel was a smith’s shop, number 1504. Next door down are 1505 and 1506 both inhabited cottages before the turning in the road leading down to what is now called Town Hall Place.

1843 and 1845 a congregation of Wesleyans referred to in newspaper reports.

1844 Land Tax Assessment Hugh Collander is the proprietor and together with others is the occupier of the Wesleyan Chapel and the tax is 1s 6d (Devon Heritage Centre 2160A/PD/1).

1850 William White, History Gazetteer and Directory of Devonshire (Sheffield, Robert Leader) p.470 ‘… a Wesleyan and a Baptist Chapel the latter built 1823 near the site of the old one. Rev Wm Brook Baptist [Minister].

1856 Post Office Directory of Devonshire, (London, Kelly and Company) p. 40.  ‘Wesleyan chapel Mary Street, various ministers.’

1857 Billing’s Directory and Gazetteer of Devonshire (Birmingham, Martin Billinge) p. 312. ‘The Wesleyan chapel which is small has no stated minister.’

This was a year of considerable religious disquiet in Bovey Tracey as some residents were expressing their anger with the ‘High Church’, also known as Tractarian, views of the local vicar The Hon, and Rev Charles Leslie Courtenay. Courtenay had built a new church in Brimley which followed ‘High Church’ liturgy, and he was now trying to re-order the parish church in a way which some residents considered to be ‘popish’. At a meeting of the parish vestry it was reported that there was a movement to build a free church in the town.(The Western Times 5 April 1857, p.7.) This movement worked with speed and on 21 September the new Free Church was opened as a place of worship. (The Western Times 26 September 1857, p.7.) Mr Lock architect was the builder and it would hold 200. A local family by the name of Puddicombe and others helped build it. Architecture extant in The Old Manse confirms that this was the site of the Free Church.

1858, 1860 Newspaper references to a Free Church.

1866 Post Office Directory of Devonshire, (London, Kelly and Company) p .734. Rev William Ritchie Independent [Minister]Hill Head; 1866 Dr Ritchie minister of the Congregational Church.


1870 Morris’ Directory for Devonshire (Nottingham, Morris and Co.) p.460. ‘There are places of Worship for Baptist, Christian Brethren, Independents and Wesleyans.’. Rev Henry Bool, Baptist [minister], Rev James Young congregational [minister], Free Church House. No mention is made of where Christian Brethren met. The Bovey Book, (Veronica Kennedy, 2004, Cottage Publishing) p. 67 says after the [British] school closed the hall it was sited in on Mary Street was sold to the Brethren in 1912. As they were in Bovey Tracey from at least 1870 the Brethren must have been meeting somewhere else before 1912. The Brethren had 35 members in the interwar years then dwindled to a dozen.

Figure 4. Brethren Meeting House from1912. Frances Billinge 2018.

1871 Census. Mary Street becomes Hill Street as it rises past the Hind Street turning. Hill Street has Church House where James Young, a minister of the congregational church, is living with his wife and child.  A newspaper report of that year referred to him as, ‘Rev Young the pastor.’ and also to the Congregational church. This shows that the Free Church which was sometimes called the Independent Church was becoming known as the Congregational Church.

1873 Kelly’s Directory of Devonshire (London, Kelly and Company) p.57-8. Lists Baptists, Independents, Wesleyan and Christian Brethren, with Rev. James Young Independent [Minister of] Hill Head.

1877 Rev. W. Cotton Congregational minister (The Western Times 18 December, p.8)

1878 J. G. Harrod and Co’s Directory Royal County Directory of Devonshire (London, Harrod J.G.) pp. 72-3. This refers to three chapels for Dissenters – Primitive Baptists, Rev. Love; Independent Minister Rev. William Cotton; Wesleyan Rev. Daniel Eyre Minister p.72; Rev W Cotton, Independent of Hill Head.

1878-9 William White, History Gazetteer and Directory of Devonshire (Sheffield, Robert Leader) p.167-8.  ‘The Baptist Chapel has a new Ministers House purchased 1875. The Independents have also a place of worship here. Rev. W. Cotton Congregational, Chapel House, Mary Street; Rev. Charles Love, Baptist [Minister], Rowell House.

1880 Report that a new Wesleyan church is to be built (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 7 May p. 2) Figures 2 and 3.

1881 Census. After forty-six dwellings Mary Street becomes ‘Hill on High Street’. Henry King the congregational minister with his wife and two children are listed as living in the dwelling listed as 69 by the enumerator (this is not a reference to a house number as they were not used in Bovey Tracey at that time, it is merely the next number on the enumerator’s list. Sometimes an enumerator would go up one side of a street and down the other, but at other times he might criss-cross the street, so this makes it difficult to pinpoint a property without other evidence). Following number 69 the enumerator carried on and eventually listed Cross Cottage which is on the top South side of Mary Street/Hill on High Street and then he listed Hind Street.

The Baptist Minister Joseph Pearce was listed as living on Hind Street. We know this was in the house above the Baptist Chapel and called Rowle House/ Rowell’s House. The deeds of this house have been seen which confirm this being the Baptist minister’s residence. [Deeds of Hind Street House. Private collection].

1887 O.S. Map. Congregational chapel marked on Mary Street. No reference to Methodist/Wesleyan chapel.

1889 Kelly’s Directory of Devonshire (London, Kelly and Company) p.68. Refers to Baptist, Congregational and Wesleyan Methodist chapels. Rev, John King was the congregational minister.

1891 Census. Melanethon L. Gooby congregational minister was living on Mary Street with his wife and child.

1891 Census. Annie Warner and her sister with their father were living on Hind Street. Annie was a governess and the Wesleyan Minister Rev. F.W. Jeffries lived with them as a visitor, this could mean he lived there and was a ‘visitor’ in the sense of a paying guest/lodger.


1892 This is the first reference so far found to a house being called ‘The Manse’. This was in connection with the Gooby residence when Rev. Gooby’s daughter, Miss Gooby, received a prize. (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 16 April)

1893 Kelly’s Directory of Devonshire and Cornwall and Devon (London, Kelly and Co.) p.70. This lists the Baptist Chapel 500 places, Congregational Chapel 130 places and Methodist 200 places. ‘Rev Melancthon Lewis Gooby, Congregational, The Manse’ Rev Ashford Smith [Baptist] at Rowle House.

1901 Census This listed the Wesleyan Chapel on Mary Street with no-one living there. Melanchon L. Gooby Congregational Minister and his wife were boarders at William and Jennie Pascoe’s boarding House on Fore Street.

1902 Kelly’s Directory of Devon (London, Kelly and Co.) p.83-4. Lists Rev. Ralph Blake  [Congregational] The Manse Mary Street; Baptist chapel 500; Congregational 130; and Methodist Wesleyan 200; Rev Wm Payne Baptist [Minister] Rowle House.  

1906 OS map. Congregational chapel in same place on Mary Street and again no mention of the Methodist Chapel.  

1906 Kelly’s Directory of Devon (London, Kelly and Co.) p.86. Describes the Baptist Chapel as having been erected in 1772 with 500 places ; Congregational  erected in 1857 with 140 places;  and Wesleyan Methodist with 200 places . Rev Wm Henry Payne Rowell House, Baptist [Minister].

1910 Kelly’s Directory has the same description with Rev John Robert Way Baptist [Minister]

1927 The Western Times 28 Jan.p.8. Reference to a wedding in connection with the Wesleyan school chapel.

1928 January 26 The Western Morning News, p.8.  Weslyan School room mentioned. Present given by Rev. L Sanders on behalf of members of the church to Mr H. Meredith a local preacher and Sunday School Superintendent

1928 June 18, Exeter and Plymouth Gazette p.7. ‘Congregationalist have secured a new site for their chapel and school which will be in Fore Street’. There is also a reference to this in Veronica Kennedy, 2004. The Bovey Book, (Bovey Tracey, Cottage Publishing) p. 88.


There was a Manse in Mary Street which was connected with the Congregational church. In 1857 this church was built and opened as a place of worship. At that time it was called an Independent Church. Architecture of the current house confirms that this was the site of the new church built as an extension to the existing house. The latter is thought to have been built in the early 1700s, but could have been earlier than that. (Private collection of transcription of deeds from 1725.) The Congregational minister generally lived there from 1866. It is first recorded as being called a Manse from 1892.


Grateful thanks to the owners of The Old Manse for their assistance with this research.