The First St Michaelʼs

In the early 1800’s, when the pilchard fishery and boat-building industry were at their height, meetings for worship began to be held in Newquay itself. The Baptists were the first to have a building here ( in 1822) and the first Methodist chapel was built in 1833 (at a cost of £170).  But those who adhered to the Church of England still had to make the long walk to St Columb Minor or take the ferry across the Gannel.  But things began to change in 1841 when the Revd Nicholas Chudleigh was appointed Curate of St Columb Minor.  He lived first in Newquay (apparently because the curate’s house in St Columb Minor was derelict) and later acquired and enlarged the house in Minor now known as The Old Vicarage. He seemed determined to assert an Anglican presence in Newquay and in this he was aided by the Revd Dr Charles Henry Hutton,  formerly Rector of Great Houghton, Northamptonshire, who had retired to Newquay.  Dr Hutton held Anglican services first in his own house, and then in a sail loft over the Unity Fish Cellars in Beach Road. Eventually, aided and encouraged by Dr Hutton and also by the Revd Edward Bouverie Pusey, one of the leading figures in the Oxford Movement who had begun to visit Newquay in 1851, Chudleigh built an Anglican church (technically a “chapel of ease”) in the heart of Newquay. He recorded this event himself:

“I laid the foundation stone of this chapel on 17 March 1858, that day being my birthday, when a large congregation assembled to witness the ceremony…The Chapel at Newquay was built by the subscriptions of the landholders of the parish and others from who I asked assistance.”

He went on to comment tartly: “[The Chapel of Ease] has been anything but what its name implies to me.” One wonders what disputes or disagreements lay behind that heartfelt statement!

Colonel W.E.Michel, whose family lived in what is now the “Fort” restaurant in Fore Street, was eighteen years old at the time of the opening of the new church and recorded the event in his diary:

“1858 Sept. 9. The new Church at Newquay was opened. There were morning and evening services. Prebendary Lyne preached in the morning. Revd S. Philpots in the afternoon. A great number of people attended, and the Church was quite full. £16 was collected in the morning and £8 in the afternoon.

“1858 Oct. 3rd. In the afternoon the first christening took place in Newquay Church, Tinney’s child, and was called ‘Allarina Geziah’. The godmothers were Lizzie Brown and Christian Mitchell and the godfathers were S. Moyse and Dick Mitchell. Dr Hutton officiated.”

The new church was similar in design to numerous others erected in mid-Victorian times, being of vaguely Early English appearance and holding about 200 people. Although Chudleigh always referred to it as “the Chapel at Newquay”, the church was commonly known as “St Michael’s”.  The Revd J. Holland (formerly Vicar of St Columb Minor and Rural Dean of Pydar) informed the present writer that the side chapel in St Columb Minor Church, usually called “The Lady Chapel” was really dedicated to St Michael, and suggested that the Chapel of Ease acquired its dedication from this chapel.

Nicholas Chudleigh was Vicar of St Columb Minor and Newquay (as he came to be called) for 42 years, and saw many changes in his parish. The population had risen from a couple of hundred to 1,567 in 1881. A parish school was built in Crantock Street in 1870, but was taken over  by a local school board in 1878.  In 1884 Chudleigh was succeeded by his former curate, the Revd Isaac Broade Eade.  He was not as popular in Newquay as his predecessor had been, and in  1896 an attempt was made to separate Newquay from its mother parish, but it came to nothing because of a dispute over who should appoint the new vicar.

By this time St Michael’s Church had been twice enlarged, a north and a south aisle being added, and its capacity increased to 500.  By the turn of the century, however, it was quite inadequate to hold the summer congregation, and Morning Prayer had to be held twice, the church being full at both services. The cramped and inconvenient site meant that no further enlargement was possible, and it seemed inevitable that a new church would have to be built on a new site.

For a while after the building of the present St Michael’s Church in 1911, the old church was used as a church hall, then sold to the Women’s Institute, and eventually demolished to make way for a Woolworth’s store (now occupied by Poundland and Peacocks).

Next: The New Church