Gunwen Methodist Chapel, Luxulyan PL30 5DU
Grid Ref. SX 05260 61229
Gunwen Methodist chapel is situated in the hamlet of Gurtla, better known as Lowertown in the parish of Luxulyan and in the shadow of Helman Tor.
The chapel stands close to where the three parishes of Luxulyan, Lanlivery and Lanivet meet,beside the Saints’ Way footpath which runs from Padstow to Tywardreath and Fowey.
The present chapel is Listed grade II, and was built in 1869 on the site of a much smaller building of c1796. (1) The site is associated with William O’ Bryan the founder of the Bible Christians.
The chapel is constructed of granite rubble with brick dressings and is partly rendered and has a rag slate roof. The Lower floor of the building consists of a schoolroom and a small kitchen area, while the chapel itself on the first floor is accessed from a flight of steps enclosed on the west side of the building.
The high front gable (north-west) has a central door leading into the school room, with original 16 pane sash square-headed windows to either side, while above the chapel has two 16 pane round-headed sash windows with upper radial glazing bars. (2) Between these windows is a slate date-stone inscribed ‘WESLEYAN CHAPEL 1869’. The sides of the chapel also have similar square-headed windows on the ground floor and round-headed windows on the first floor, all with brick surrounds. (3)
The simple interior of the chapel is accessed from the south-east end, and has a small central organ at the north-west end with choir stalls to either side facing the congregation. The pews for the congregation are positioned either side of a central aisle. All the pews are of stained pitch-pine, while the walls of the chapel are whitewashed.
In 2017, the building was completely restored with the aid of grants, including a grant from Cornwall Historic Churches Trust. The schoolroom is now a community hall and is a popular venue for local events. The Community has a web site www.gunwen.org.uk.
William Bryant, who changed his name to O’ Bryan was born at nearby Gunwen Farm on February 6th 1778 and gave the land and helped to build the first chapel at Lowertown, which he was later expelled from. O’ Bryan founded the Bible Christian Church at Week St Mary in 1815 and died in New York in 1868. His followers were often known as Bryanities.
In the original small burial ground behind the chapel, later enlarged, can be seen two grade II listed memorials. One is a chest tomb in granite with a slate inscription plate in memory to one of William O’ Bryan’s sons, Ebenezer William Bryant who died in 1808 at the age of 3. (4)
A second headstone is an upright slate with decorative sunbursts on either side of the top and inscribed to Joseph Uny who died in 1811. (5)
William O’Bryan – further reading
Shaw, Thomas, 1965, The Bible Christians 1815-1907.
Shaw, Thomas, 1967, A History of Cornish Methodism.
Shaw, Thomas, & Short, Colin C. 2007, Feet of Clay: The Life and Ministry of William O’Bryan founder of the Bible Christians.
1. Historic Environment Record, the date is also recorded on a plaque and information board outside the chapel. The building is marked on the parish Tithe Map.
2. Beacham, P. & Pevsner, N. 2014 The Buildings of England: Cornwall, 332.