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The Chapel of St. Peter on the Quay, Minehead.

The Chapel of St Peter on the Quay Minehead

The Old Ship Aground Hotel, formerly known as The Pier Hotel, abuts the charming chapel of St Peter-on-the-Quay, sometimes referred to as the Fishermen’s Chapel.

At the entrance to the harbour in the C17 were the dwelling house and stores of Edmond Knowles, a prosperous merchant of Quay Town, and the two inner cellars of merchant and mariner Robert Quirke, which were used to store salt and later wood and coal.

One day Robert was caught in a violent storm during which he made a vow to God that if He spared the ship Robert would dedicate both ship and its cargo to God’s service. When he eventually arrived back the cargo was sold and the battered ship broken up. In 1628, he donated a cellar near the Quay, known as Gibraltar Cellar, where prayers could be offered for those at sea. He also used some of the money from the sale of the ship and cargo to build almshouses for the poor.

These still stand in Market House Lane in Minehead. In his will Robert stated that his inner cellars were ‘to be let for rent to him that will give the most money for them’  to provide an annual income to support the almshouses which he had built for the poor in 1630. He also put a curse on the building that would descend on the town if its upkeep was neglected.

‘for better maintenance I do give my two inner sellers at the inner ende of the keye, and cursed be the man that shall convert it to any other use than to the use of the poore.’

Gibraltar Cellar was originally thatched, and when all the other buildings around it were pulled down, it survived because of its income to the almshouses. It is this warehouse that was leased by the church in the 1890’s. To the right of the building stood the Sailor’s Home, run as a Coffee Shop in an attempt by the Lord of the Manor to keep sailors out of public houses. It proved to be unsuccessful and quickly reverted back to a store and was later demolished.

The Rev. Francis Etherington, the Vicar of St Michael’s in 1899, suggested that the newly acquired warehouse should become a mission to seamen. The upper floor was used as a sailors’ shelter and reading room, then in 1907 the ground floor was converted into a Sailors’ Chapel which was dedicated to St Peter in 1910.

In 1941 the upper floor was requisitioned as a dormitory. Regular church services resumed in 1950 and in 1970 the parish bought the chapel. A new entrance was made under the external staircase. This staircase has been reversed several times. The last time was in 2001 paid for by Grace Genge, in memory of her sister Margaret Genge, a former Matron of Minehead Hospital and Quay Street resident.

The stained glass panel of St Peter was given by the James family, of Quay Street, in memory of Edwin John and Mary Ellen James. There are plaques in the chapel that commemorate the heroism of
Quay Town sailors.

Compiled by Sally Bainbridge on behalf of Minehead Conservation Society.

Buy the book! Minehead & Beyond

minehead and beyond buy the book

This book is a compilation of articles written for this magazine by Sally Bainbridge on behalf of Minehead Conservation Society. It contains information about the richness of West Somerset’s history; culture; people; heritage; traditions and beautiful and varied landscape. The book costs just £5.00 and all profits go to Minehead Conservation Society. 

Available to buy from AR Computing, Park Lane Home Furnishing (in their Park Lane shop), Minehead Tourist Information Centre and Townsend House (Monday am). 

Office: Townsend House, Townsend Road, Minehead TA24 5RG (01643 706258)  E-mail: [email protected]

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