LOCATION 11
 

 

THE VESTRY HALL (BAPTIST CHURCH)

A meeting of Dawlish’s most influential citizens, in 1853, proposed using a piece of ground at the top of Town Tree hill for a “magistrates room and lock up”. At the same time, the Parish Vestry acquired the land for the new Vestry Hall. However, both parties were satisfied as the upper room became the courtroom and a room in the basement became a goal cell.

The former Town Hall was completed in 1855 in the Classical style with stuccoed front and central projecting pediment. It is listed for its architectural value. The hall has a hipped slate roof and parapet. Pilasters separate the1st floor windows. In addition, it has quoins to ground floor, a rusticated ground floor with segmental arch, three sashes with glazing bars intact and blank panels over ground floor windows.

In 1850, the Dawlish Literary and General Knowledge Society was founded to provide a library, lectures on Art, Literature and Science. It fell on hard times but in 1861, it was reformed and was housed in the newly built Vestry Hall. It thrived and membership included 155 ladies and 11 juveniles. Subscriptions were 6 shillings for men and 4 shillings for ladies, so the poorer inhabitants of Dawlish were excluded but could pay 6d to sit at the back, which many did.

The Local Board was instituted on 3rd Feb 1860 under terms of Local Government Act 1858. In Whites Directory of 1878 we read:
“The Local Board was formed on March 24, 1860, and consists of 12 members, to whom Mr. J. S. Whidborne is clerk, Mr. Ellis, surveyor, and Mr. C. Tapper, inspector. Mr. William Staddon is town crier. The Town Hall and Court House, in King Street, was built in 1853. Petty Sessions for this district of Teignbridge petty sessional division are held here every Thursday; the magistrates usually attending are the Right Hon. the Earl of Devon, the Rev. W. H. Palk, Sir John L. Duntze, Bart., P. Merrick Hoare, Esq., C. J. Wade, Esq., C. Tonge, Esq., Col. Germon, C. H. Turner, Esq., and Lieut.-Col. Savile. Mr. J. S. Whidborne is their clerk.”
Devon Heritage.org/Dawlish/Dawlishwhitesdirectoryof1878.htm

The Urban District Council replaced the Local Board in April 1894 under terms of Local Government Act 1894. It met at Vestry Hall until 1911, when the town bought Knowle House and grounds (now the Museum). The building continued to ne used as a Town Hall until 1940s, when it became Central Hall for Christian Fellowship. And in the early 1990s, Dawlish Baptist Church bought the building.