Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: February 11, 2018
Webpage updated: March 31, 2018





The Anglican Church of Saint George of Lydda, Martyr, was situated in Chapel Street, East Stonehouse, Plymouth.  Although it started as a chapel-of-ease to Saint Andrew's Church in Plymouth, it eventually became the parish church of East Stonehouse.

All that remained of St George's Church, Stonehouse, in 1942 was half of the tower and the four walls.

All that remained of Saint George's Church, Stonehouse,
in 1942 was half of the tower and the four walls.
  National Monuments Register.

The earliest published account of the Chapel dates from 1812:

'This Chapel was rebuilt in the year 1789, on the site of the old building, which was in a very dilapidated state.  It is a plain stone building, without any attempt at a dignity of science in the architecture, with a tower at the western end, of very bad formation, and is quite a disgrace to the architect; instead of an ornament to the structure.  The Chapel is neatly fitted up in the interior, and has a small organ in it, which accompanies a good choir of singers; indeed the whole chapel has the air, when filled, of one of those elegant religious assemblies that adorn the metropolis, and in which it is essential that the charms of music should relieve the dull monotony of the liturgy.  It has, too, unhappily, one of the glaring defects that characterize those places, without, indeed, having the same sort of excuse; in the laying out of the interior, it never seemed to occur to the architect that the common ordinary inhabitants had any interest in the building, or that there was any occasion to provide for them, the natural consequence of which is, that any of the lower classes are ever seen within the walls; this may render it more pleasing as a polite assemblage of well dressed females, but is painful to the reflecting part of mankind, when they know that within five hundred yards as many people that ought to be present at the public worship.  This Chapel was originally a daughter church of Plymouth, the appointment of the Curate is in the Vicar of Saint Andrew's.

'The present curate is the Reverend S Whitlock Gandy; but the officiating clergyman is the Reverend Doctor Bidlake, whom we have before spoken of.  The Chapel Wardens are Mr Simeon Hyne, and Mr William Hare.  The Register of the Parish is kept by Mr Thomas Huss, Senior, the Clerk of the Chapel, at his house in Chapel Street; it commences in the year 1697.  Thomas Clinton Shiells, Esquire, is the Treasurer of the parish.  He is a very active and useful man, and the inhabitants are much indebted to him for many of their improvements.  The assessors and Collectors of Taxes are Mr Philip Fleming and Mr Thomas Huss, Junior.'  

While this confirms that there was an older chapel on the site, it is not clear when that one was erected or whether or not it was the same as the Chapel of Saint Lawrence that has been claimed to have stood where the Royal William Victualling Yard was built. 

Whatever the origins, the Chapel of Saint Lawrence is said to have been first noted in 1472 and came with the parish of Saint Andrew's, Plymouth.  This Chapel was still in existence in 1606, when the seats were sold and the money raised was used to repair the fabric.  In 1672 money was again spent on repairing the Chapel, with what was deemed a huge outlay of 10 18s 8d being spent on the windows alone.

Although that Chapel was generally referred to as the Chapel of Saint Lawrence, attention was drawn in 1924 by Mr J T Trelawny-Ross of Ham to a deed dated 12th year of the Reign of King Henry VII in which a Mr John Melett and Mr Lawrence Serle were declared to be the wardens of the Chapel of Saint George, Martyr, of East Stonehouse.  Mr Trelawny-Ross considered, after reviewing all the known evidence, that the Chapel probably had a dual dedication.

An Act of Parliament in 1787 authorised the rebuilding of this Chapel and the creation of a separate parish of East Stonehouse.  A subscription was started for the erection of a larger church to serve this new parish.  A new location was chosen, probably, it is thought, to make the Chapel more accessible to the Royal Marines from the new Barracks.  This may have influenced the retention of the dedication to Saint George, who was not only patron saint of England but also a soldier.

The new Chapel was completed in 1789 and was, as indicated in the 1812 description, a plain building of stone in the Doric style.  It consisted of chancel, nave, porch, and what has been described as 'a disproportioned' tower with pinnacles. 

It held a peel of eight bells which  were given in 1897 by Mr John Edward Bone and his wife, Caroline, in memory of his parents, John and Eleanor. 

The Church was renovated in 1882-83 with the addition of a new chancel at a cost of over 2,000, after which it could accommodate 1,100 worshippers.  At one time around 220 of the sittings were held freehold but these were later conveyed to trustees for the purpose of making them freely open to the public.  

The organ was constructed by Messrs Hill & Son. 

It held monuments to Commander Balderstone of HMS Parthian; Captain Swaffield, who was killed when HMS Amphion blew up in the Hamoaze in 1796; Mr Alexander Leslie (Lord Newark) (1791); Lieutenant Burke, mortally wounded at Brest in 1801; Rear-Admiral Worth (1807); and Mr Thomas Parlby (1802), amongst others.

The Church was damaged in Second World War and services were held in 1953 in Saint Paul's Church.  It was acquired by the Council for 1,400 in December 1957 and the stonework was used in the construction of the Lady Chapel at Saint Gabriel's Church, Mutley.  The graves were removed to Efford Cemetery but the tombstones and monuments were reported as to be 'broken and dispersed'.  The site was turned over to industrial use in 1959.

St George's Mission

The memorial stone of the Saint George's Mission Room in Market Street, East Stonehouse, was laid by the Bishop of Exeter on June 27th 1888.

For many years the vicar, the Reverend P R Scott, and curates of Saint George's Church had undertaken evangelical work in the well-populated area from a room over a stable.  Despite its approach by a narrow staircase, Sunday Schools, temperance meetings, evening classes for men and even a cricket club for boys had been held in or run from that room.

The Earl of Mount Edgcumbe gave the site upon which the Mission was to be erected.  It was expected to cost 900 and nearly half of that had been raised by the date of the stone-laying.