Beacon of Lettaford

Let’s go back to The Chapel in Dartmoor, where we enjoyed a relaxing long weekend a few weeks ago…

This modest granite-stone building, our temporary abode, started its life as a schoolroom / chapel. Sometime in 1860, the door was opened to a small number of local people who were there to attend a Sunday prayer meeting. And for the occasion to take place, there were two women who made it possible – Mrs Susan Walling, the schoolmistress, whose influence must have been a catalyst to initiate the construction of the building. And Miss.Pynseat, who funded the project and became the owner of the building.

Inside of The Chapel, there was a reference on the wall to indicate who was behind the plan…

The Landmark Trust always furnishes and decorates their properties with hints of the individual history of which each building underwent originally. The maiden in the artwork must have implied one of the aforementioned women and a lamb must have been the locals who were the recipient of those women’s goodwill.

The images of the abandoned chapel before the Trust started its restoration…

The congregation of the prayer meeting was consisted of local farmers and farm labourers and the number was once over 25 in its hay day. However, the number dwindled after the agricultural depression of the late 19th century and the departure of the funding member, Mrs.Walling, from Lettaford in 1904. Apart from a thank you note address to her by the locals, there was no record which explained the reason why Mrs.Walling left the hamlet. Could she have emigrated to Australia in search of a better life as the area around Dartmoor was never wealthy?

During the 1920’s, the number of attendance must have increased significantly, and as a result, the schoolroom / chapel was extended…

A single-storey structure made of galvanised iron and wood was attached to the existing building.

In 1943, gas-lighting was installed, and then, finally, electricity came to the chapel in 1963. Despite the modernisation, however, the number of congregation continued to decrease and it became as little as four in the late 60’s. Eventually, the decision was made in 1977 that Latteford was to be incorporated into the Exeter Methodist circuit, and the entrance to the chapel was closed until the Landmark Trust started a restoration work in 1981.

The charter of young Methodism was on the wall…

It was touching to realise that, once upon a time, this place was a centre of the community, filled with the laughter of children, hymns and Christmas carol. This small chapel must have been like a lighthouse for those who inhabited the unforgiving terrain of Dartmoor which sprawling out like ocean.

Yes, you did provide us warmth and comfort…

We said good-bye to the hedges of Lettaford…

So which property of the Landmark Trust we gonna visit next? I can hardly wait…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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