James Gilbart in his ‘Records of St Erth Methodism’ (1913) claimed that Methodism came with skilled artisans employed in the building of Battery Mill who came from the Midlands. Battery Mill was constructed in 1782 to roll copper using an ingenious system of water-powered rollers.
The earliest record of the St Erth Methodist Society is for Easter 1783. The Society Steward was John Thomson. In 1784 John Gilbart came over from Hayle Copperhouse to manage the Rolling Mills and sometime after this became the leader of the society. The family settled at Battery Mill and were supporters of Methodism at St Erth through the Nineteenth Century.
In 1796 the first Methodist chapel was built up at the cross where the post office is now. Before that a ‘hired’ room was used. This was used by the Wesleyans until 1827 after which it had various uses. By 1851 Independents and Bible Christians were using it for worship and it eventually became St Erth Bible Christian chapel, closing c. 1906. The Bible Christians were a Methodist group dating from 1815 and first appeared in St Erth in 1837. There were also Primitive Methodists, a group which was strong in the Midlands and the North of England; they were meeting for a time in St Erth about 1850.
The present chapel of 1827 was built as a result of increasing numbers following revivals. It was built with a gallery, a pulpit on a ‘pole’, a ‘leader’s seat’, a seat for the singers (instrumentalists who played for the church in the morning and chapel in the evening) and a pew for Captain Richard Hodge (a friend of Richard Trevithick).
The chapel went through the usual pattern of alterations in the Nineteenth Century. Fifteen feet were added to the western end in 1859. In 1864 the organ arrived but did not take up its present position until 1872 and this involved the extending of the roof and a loss of floor space at the western end and the commandment tables were moved forward. In 1889 the rostrum was built. The gallery at the western end was lowered. In 1893 the ‘Higher Vestry’ was built to provide additional space for class meetings etc.
The final extensive alteration came in 1906 to plans by the Penzance architect Oliver Caldwell with the raising of the roof and new ‘Gothicised’ windows. The old porch remained. The boundary wall was added in 1909 with iron railings and gates from the Coalbrookdale Foundry. The gates were later replaced and the present ones were made by the Late Mr Lashbrook of Anvill House Fore Street St.Erth, the village blacksmith.
In the chapel. notice the monument to Francis Tuckfield (1808-1865) who was one of the few missionaries to venture out to the aborigine’s of Australia. He married Sarah Gilbart of Battery Mill.
Special thanks to Cedric Appleby for supplying the history of St Erth Methodist Chapel.