OLD DEVONPORT . UK
www.olddevonport.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: February 13, 2016.
Webpage updated: February 15, 2016

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ANGLICAN CHURCH OF SAINT MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL

The Anglican Church of Saint Michael the Archangel was situated in Albert Road, Stoke, Devonport.  It has now been demolished and replaced by a smaller building.

When the inhabitants of this part of Stoke felt that Stoke Damerel Parish Church was too far away a few local gentlemen set about raising 4,000 by public subscription for the erection of a Chapel-of-ease.  It was duly authorised by Act of Parliament and the foundation stone was laid on Michaelmas Day, Friday September 29th 1843.

The Church was designed by Mr Benjamin Ferrey (1810-1880) of London and built by Mr Thomas Clift of Plymouth.  It was constructed of limestone in the Gothic style and consisted of nave, aisles, north porch, and a turret containing one bell.  It cost about 5,000 to build and could accommodate 1,200 persons.  The Government granted the stone necessary for the building from the quarry at Richmond Walk.

Saint Michael's Church was consecrated by the Bishop of Exeter on Friday August 1st 1845.  It was the first Anglican consecration in Devonport in 46 years, that of Saint John the Baptist Church being the last.  Following a cold buffet lunch at the residence of Mr John Smith, in Tamar Terrace, Stoke, the Bishop of Exeter, Mayor and Magistrates of Devonport, the Town Council and the Board of Commissioners processed to the Church, where admission was by ticket only, 'the entire police force being in attendance to prevent confusion'.

Unlike in other new churches being constructed, here the 650 free pews for the poor of the parish were situated in the best place in the building for both seeing and hearing the sermons and not tucked away in some dark corner or behind pillars.  The communion plate and the pulpit furniture were presented by Mr W R Berryman and Miss Berryman while a coat-of-arms, the gift of Mr Thomas Shanks, was on its way from Malta.  The cost of the building was given as 4,500, of which 2,500 was made up of private donations.

The Church now became the property of the Church Building Commissioners, who would be taking the whole of the pew rents and from them pay 200 per annum to the clergyman and 12 per annum to the Clerk.  When funds permitted a residence would be erected for the incumbent.

The ecclesiastical parish was formed on June 27th 1873.

Unfortunately it would appear that Mr Clift's building expertise left something to be desired.  It was claimed that bad workmanship allowed water to penetrate the walls and this soon gave the interior a dilapidated appearance.  It is understood that this was because of the poor quality of the mortar used.  In 1873 work started to re-point the entire building and the opportunity was taken to varnish the wood in the roof and erect a wooden pulpit on a plinth of Portland stone.  A new heating system was also installed.  The Church was re-opened for worship on Sunday October 31st 1875.

Two exotic altars were installed in about 1913.

On the north side was a stained window in memory of the Reverend H Rathbone but this was destroyed in the Blitz.

St Michael's Church received direct hits from no fewer than four high explosive bombs during the night air raid of Monday April 21st/Tuesday 22nd 1941.  One landed in the vestry, one in the Lady Chapel, one in the nave and the fourth in the south-western corner of the Church.  The building was completely destroyed, with much of the debris blocking the Great Western Railway's main line into Cornwall, which passes to the rear of the Church.  The ruins were sealed off from public access and services were moved to the memorial hall, which sat only 380 people.

The ruins were brought into use once more on the evening of Wednesday August 1st 1945, when a special service was held to commemorate the centenary of the Church.

With the Church of Saint James the Great, in Keyham Road, also destroyed, it was decided to combine the parishes and to rebuild only Saint Michael's Church to serve the combined area.  The start of the restoration work was commemorated on the evening of Monday October 8th 1951 with a service of praise and thanksgiving led by the Right Reverend Norman H Clarke.  The architects were Messrs Martin & Fox.  Limestone was brought in from the ruins of Saint James the Less Church in Plymouth and Saint George's Church at East Stonehouse, which were also never rebuilt.  The second oldest Anglican church in Devonport, Saint John the Baptist, supplied the replacement organ.

With a fanfare of trumpets by the Royal Marine Bandsmen in full ceremonial dress, the Bishop of Exeter, Doctor R C Mortimer, re-opened and re-consecrated Saint Michael's Church on Saturday June 13th 1953.  Restoration work cost some 20,000 but it did not entirely obliterate the ravages of the War, with the pillars of the arcade in the nave still bearing the sign of the fire which eat into the stonework.  The altar, altar tables and font were all new.  The organ came from the Church of Saint John the Baptist, in Duke Street, Devonport, which had been closed.

Also present at the re-consecration were the Bishop of Plymouth, the Right Reverend Norman H Clarke, and the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Alderman Sir Clifford Tozer.  The vicar was the Reverend M D Heath.

In 1987 it was realised and accepted that faulty workmanship when the Church was rebuilt after the Second World War made the building unfit to serve the needs of the community and plans were made for its redevelopment.  The last service took place at Saint Michael's Church on April 22nd 2007, after which the congregation moved to its temporary home at Morice Town School.

Saint Michael's Church was demolished during June 2007.  A new Church capable of holding 100 worshippers has been erected on the site of the old vicarage and 42 affordable homes have been built on the site of the old building.  This project was financed by the Aster Group, the Housing Corporation and Plymouth City Council, while the contractors were Messrs Midas Homes.

The monuments to the Reverend H Rathbone, the Reverend C R Teape and Mr Joseph May JP have been preserved and incorporated in to the new Church.

The first service in the new Church of Saint Michael took place on May 31st 20009 and the celebration of the official opening took place on Saturday October 17th 2009.