Okehampton is on the north-western edge of Dartmoor, at the crossroads of two major routes through Devon. In John Wesley's day it was still a thriving centre of the wool trade. Wesley often passed through Devon on his way to or from Cornwall. But he mentions the town only a few times in his Journal and Methodism did not take root there until the early nineteenth century. Various houses and rooms were used for Wesleyan preaching and worship, including two cottages in Painters Court fitted up as a chapel in 1824. The first purpose-built chapel, built in 1842 at the West Turnpike Gate, was replaced in 1904 by a grander edifice in Fairplace, with a gothic facade and a side tower and spire.
The early Bible Christian heartland was centred on Shebbear, north-west of Okehampton. (More locally, Northlew was an early centre of Bible Christian preaching and became the head of a circuit in 1841.) The work began in Okehampton much later, in 1866 when rented rooms were at first used. The first chapel, at the corner of East Street and Victoria Street, was opened in 1869 (demolished). The town became part of the Northlew Circuit in 1879. When larger premises were needed, a new chapel was opened in Mill Road in 1905.
By 1964 two Methodist chapels in the town were no longer needed and Mill Road closed and was demolished. Later still the Congregational/United Reformed chapel in the town closed and the congregation also joined with that of Fairplace.
John Wesley's Journal:
September 1748: 'After I had preached [at Tavistiock] we hasted on, rested an hour at Oakhampton, and soon after sunset came to Crediton.'
September 1754: 'We took horse early and rode [from Tiverton] to Okehampton… Soon after six I preached at Launceston…'
Entry written by: RFST
Comment on this entry