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SPIRITUALISM IN NEWTON ABBOT

In June 2020 the church here in East Street celebrated its 90th Anniversary, although Spiritualism in Newton Abbot commenced in 1921. 

Let us go down memory lane and glimpse the early days here in Newton Abbot. Days when if it were known you were a Spiritualist, you were often ridiculed and in extreme cases sacked from your employment.

This, however, didn't deter these people in their quest to propagate this truth they had found. In the year 1921 Mr Harold Grainger from Exeter, organised a public meeting here, his mother Mrs Grainger being the medium. This meeting introduced Spiritualism to Newton Abbot. 

In November of the same year the NEWTON ABBOT SPIRITUALIST SOCIETY was formed. At this time Spiritualist groups were known as societies. 

The first President was Mr George Adams, who held this office and that of Secretary for a number of years. The Treasurer for fifteen years was Mr Bert Stock It was indeed the verve and dedication of these two men that gave the impetus to continue  - and so Spiritualism flourished. 

A problem arose when the Assembly Rooms (where the meetings were held) were sold to the Co-operative Society, these premises becoming their store — where now! 

At this time a lady named Mrs Hexter proved to be a great friend and benefactor of the society. By offering rent free a large outbuilding next to her home, where not only Sunday & midweek services would be held, but also committee meetings. The Society gratefully accepted this generous offer and the outbuilding became 'THE TEMPLE', for many years the home of Spiritualism in Newton Abbot. 

In 1930 the original Baptist Chapel in East Street, built in 1697, was put up for sale. The Society offered to buy it but were turned down. As there were no other buyers, the Chapel was put up for auction. People from the society went along and their bid was accepted. The Chapel was bought with the help of Mr Bert Strode and his wife Mrs Laura Strode, who mortgaged their house to help pay for the Chapel. After some renovations the Church was ready for its first Spiritualist Service which took place on June 30' 1930. The medium was Mrs Laura Stock of Newton Abbot. 

As far as can be ascertained, the first President of the new Church was Mr Dermer. It has always been said a president is only as good as the team of workers with them, Mr Dermer had a good team and the Church went from strength to strength. It was in 1946, I first entered the Church with my parents. I remember the oil stove giving off wonderful heat, situated in the middle of the aisle and a very friendly atmosphere within the Church.

The President at that time was a Mr Finner. Whilst I cannot remember all, some of the past Presidents were, Mr H Weston, Mr L Goodman, Mr J Stephens, Mr N Brown, Mr G Howe, each serving lengthy terms of office, with five teams of workers. In 1976 Mr G Howe left and there have been many since. Over the years Newton Abbot has been served by fine mediums, local and from far away. Some of the well known were, Mr Gordon Higginson, Ursula Roberts, Ivy Northage, Doris Collins, Ron Baker and Stewart Lawson. 

There is a hymn ‘Through all the changing scenes of life' — there have been many scenes and some rather stormy seas in the life of Newton Abbot Church. I am sure the hands of all the people linked with this Church, in whatever way, now in the realms of spirit have brought the Church into safe harbour. With the President Mr Phil Scott and his team of dedicated workers and with the power of spirit to guide Newton Abbot Church is once again in safe hands. 
May the love and faith those early pioneers had in this truth serve to inspire all who come after them. May they never be forgotten.

 

Credit:  Shirley Vinnicombe OISNU 

In May 2024 Newton Abbot Spiritualist Church became a Charity.

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