I came across this rather lovely chapel in 2008, whilst in a friends car on the way to Exmouth. Knowing nothing about it at the time, we stopped to investigate and take some photos. However, it also has a lot of history attached to it, spanning from Devon in England to a tentative connection with Salem in Massachusetts, USA.
A Grade II* listed building, along with the adjacent assemby room and boundary walls, it was built in 1719 as a dissenters chapel; firstly Presbyterian, then Congregational and later owned by the Assemblies of God. Now owned and maintained by the Historic Chapels Trust, its history includes that of Samuel Leat, the minister from 1768 to 1807, who was reputed to have been part of local smuggling. The construction of the roof is unique, providing a massive attic. This was ideal for storing smuggled items, with the advantage of a hidden lookout from where any approaching Revenue Men could be seen.
This reminds me of Rudyard Kipling's poem A Smugglers Song, in which a parson is included in this refrain...
"Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark -
Brandy for the Parson, 'Baccy for the Clerk.
Laces for a lady; letters for a spy,
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by! "
A square building with a hipped roof; the plastered walls of the chapel and assembly room are thick enough to be cob on stone rubble footings. The tiny churchyard is enclosed by a whitewashed rubble and brick wall.
And the tenuous connection with Salem, Massachusetts? Salem was first settled by Europeans in 1626, led by Roger Connant. Although this was before Salem Chapel was built, the name Salem was a short version of Jerusalem and was popularly used as chapel and place names, and Roger Connant himself was born in East Budleigh.
Due to complications with a new web builder I'm having problems adding more photos to this legacy article from the old one. Meanwhile, until I can work this out, the rest of the photos can be seen in the Photo Gallery album along with these. I'll also be adding more history along with additional photos.