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You may find this information helpful when researching the area prior to your visit

Religion in Beer, Devon

Prior to 1906 Beer was part of the parish of Seaton and Beer and thus the Seaton vicar was responsible for serving the churchgoers of Beer. In 1906 Beer became a Church parish in its own right and so had its own vicar, Rev. A. Hollis.

On the site where the Church currently stands, stood a Chapel until 1876. This Chapel was probably built by the Walrond family who were Lords of the Manor. According to Arthur J.Chapple in "Beer in Time and Tide", the Chapel was built in 1500, but the Church's own guide is rather more conservative and states that it "stood on the site since around 1600 A.D."

The present Church of St Michael was consecrated in 1878. The cost of the building was borne by Hon. Mark Rolle who was the Lord of the Manor. It was originally built with a spire, but this was removed in 1964 for safety reasons, and replaced with the current tower. The present Church contains 2 memorials from the Walrond Chapel.

According to Arthur J.Chapple in his book "Walk Beer with me", when the Walrond Chapel was demolished in 1876, a cave was found under the eastern end of the building. He suggests that this cave had been used by smugglers.

The Gospel Hall took over 2 years to build and was completed in 1700. It is said that the door of this building was made from the timbers of a Spanish ship that was wrecked in the bay. This was built and paid for by a group of Dissenters who used it until 1856 when a new chapel,the Congregational Hall, was opened for service. The Gospel Hall was then taken over by the Wesleyans and is currently used by the Plymouth Brethren.

The Congregational Hall currently contains a Wurlitzer organ, believed to be the first to be installed in the U.K. The Chapel was enlarged in 1880 and in 1920 the adjacent house was purchased.

The Ship Canal and Harbour

In 1792 an Act of Parliament was passed for the construction of a harbour at Beer. This Act was renewed in 1820, appointing new Commissioners and authorising the Lord of the Manor, then Lord Rolle, to charge fees to users of the harbour.

In the first quarter of the 19th century, plans were drawn up for a Ship Canal. This was to join the English Channel at Beer with the Bristol Channel at Stolford, thus avoiding the dangerous navigation of Land's End. The engineer was to be Thomas Telford. A harbour was to be built at Beer which has deep water close to shore and high cliffs to the west. A pier was to be built to the western side from Hall's Point projecting eastwards approximately 900ft and another from White Cliff projecting southwards 2500ft on the eastern side. The entrance to the canal was to be by a series of locks each with an 8ft rise. This would have been cut out of White Cliff.

The Canal would have crossed the rivers Coly and Yarty and then run west of the river Axe from Cloakham. It would then have past Chard, slightly to the west of Taunton, on to Bridgewater, finishing at Stolford where another harbour was to be built.

An Act of Parliament was passed in 1825 giving permission for the project after taking evidence from interested parties including the smuggler, Jack Rattenbury! Two of the local landowners, Sir William Pole of Shute and Lord Rolle of Bicton had a considerable interest in the project as the canal would cross their lands, thus providing them with additional revenue. A marine expert was required to give evidence about the sea conditions in the Lyme Bay area and so they paid for Jack Rattenbury to travel to London to give evidence to the House of Commons.

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