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Article written by Alec Barber, Ruishton

The original 1828 list of Trustees by which the property was conveyed to the church by J.B. Cox includes several interesting names. First in this is Thomas Clatworthy who became an apprentice to Cox in 1809 and seems by now to have taken the business over. He fills a chapter in Kember’s book on Silver Street. Richard Maynard of Ruishton is listed as a Chandler. We think the family home was the house at the western of Moss Lane in Ruishton and at the south end was the little Congregational Chapel. John E. Bult (Tarr?), Yeoman may have been one of the family who still farm in the area. John Burrows of North Curry may have had desendants at North Curry 100  years later.

Thomas Horsey would be a member of the Wellington family and is listed as a Druggist. There are of course, cottages south of the chapel bearing this family name.

To picture the chapel as it was in 1824, we must imagine it without the wall around, which was built in 1838, perhaps because of the development of the new road, which replaced what is now Curvalion Road as the main thoroughfare of the village; we must forget the pebbledash which is much more recent, and the entrance lobby which was not added until 1875.  Where the schoolroom now stands was an old farmhouse where meetings had been held before the chapel was erected, and which remained in use until 1884. Beyond the farmhouse was the farmyard later owned by the Hitchcocks. We must picture an entrance at the south end of the west wall of the chapel. Entering we would see a high pulpit at the north end of the chapel. The pews ran the full width of the chapel with the aisles against the walls, a local layout which may still be seen at Hatch Beauchamp Chapel. There was a baptismal pool lengthwise in the centre.

It seems that William Fry who was a founder member with his wife Anne, was a stonemason as were several later generations of the same name. There is some fine stonework on the bridge carrying the Chard Canal over the Tone which might be his work. The “Zion Chapel 1864” which was salvaged from the old chapel could well be his work too. It would have been on the south wall of the old chapel and at some stage moved round to the north end.

In 1858-1859 a vestry and schoolroom were erected inside the chapel at the south end. All this was swept away in 1875, when the chapel took on very much its present appearance. The seating was reversed, the north gallery and the lobby were built. The schoolroom was not built until 1884, and it is by no means clear where the stairs from the new gallery went to in the meanwhile! The old pews can still be seen: they were used to wainscot the chapel walls. A little earlier a “shed and furnace for tea meetings” had been built – the furnace for burning surplus cake perhaps?!

I realise that this does not mean much to people who are not familiar with the old chapel. The stairs to the gallery would have been inside the old cottages until they were demolished.

The schoolroom was opened on 18th September 1884 and the woodwork of the “open roof” was much admired. There was a public tea for 150 people, and Mr A.A.Somerville declared the hall open to every denomination and for every useful meeting. The cost “including rods and lamps” was £223, of which £103 had already been given.

There was a scheme at this period to provide a stucco front to the chapel but presumably this would have been too costly. Every few years we read of money being spent on renovations and from time to time there are references to the sad state of repair of the property. The most recent extension is the kitchen, and new oil heating had been installed in the chapel and hall.

The “new” schoolroom had a strong likeness to the paper mill and to the chapel at Hedging, closed some years ago.

Article copyright Alec Barber of Ruishton, May 2011