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Torquay - Paignton - Brixham


Dartmouth (Flavel Church)

Dartmouth Flavel Church is a Methodist/United Reformed Church situated in central Dartmouth

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The town of Dartmouth enjoys a unique position on the banks of the famous River Dart, from which it takes its name and which is often styled "The English Rhine". 

Dartmouth can justifiably claim to be one of Devon's most interesting and historic seaports. It was from this port that the ships of the Crusades set sail. It was also in Dartmouth that the Pilgrim Fathers assembled in worship for the last time before they began their voyage across the Atlantic in the Mayflower and the Speedwell in 1620 before being forced to returning to Plymouth when it was discovered the Speedwell was taking in water.

In 1341, the town received its first charter from King Edward Ill: a charter which granted self-government under a mayor and corporation, providing that two ships, each of 120 tons, were given to the services of the monarch.

Dartmouth has had connections with many famous sea-faring men Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh being among them  Today Dartmouth is the home of the Britannia Royal Naval College that trains officers of many Navies of the world.

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History ....

'John Flavel was the son of a well-respected Presbyterian minister. He obtained his BA at Oxford at the age of 20 and was appointed to his first post at Salisbury. In 1656 he became minister at Dartmouth ("a great and noted sea-port"). But in 1660, when the Act of Uniformity was brought in, he was ejected and began to teach in a small dissenting academy in the town.

Three years later the Five Mile Act prohibited ejected ministers from living within five miles of any corporate borough. Arrests were commonplace. John Flavel's own father and mother were thrown into Newgate prison with their flock, where his parents died of the plague.

John continued to preach on beaches, in private houses, in woods, often escaping soldiers at the last moment, at one time riding his horse into the water in one Dartmouth cove and swimming it round the headland to the next to make his escape.  Persecution became so bad that he took flight for London, calling all to prayer during a terrific storm off off Portland, whereupon a changed wind took the ship off the rocks and they were saved.

After preaching whilst in much danger in London he returned to Dartmouth but was closely confined to his house, certain magistrates carrying his effigy through the streets with the covenant and Bill of Exclusion pinned to it, to the derision of the crowd.

In 1687 King James II dispensed with the penal laws against noncomformists and Flavel was free to preach to his followers in peace. Four years later, after presiding, as Moderator, over an assembly of nonconformist ministers, he died suddenly after a stroke. Amidst "floods of tears and bitter lamentation" he was buried near the chancel in St.Saviour's Church, Dartmouth. The memorial stone bearing his name was later removed at the
behest of a small group of magistrates and re-erected in Flavel Church.

He was by all accounts a most effective preacher, one hearer remarking that "a person must have had a very soft head or a very hard heart, or both, that could not sit under his ministry unaffected."  His lasting legacy is in the number of sermons and works that were published in his lifetime, and in the Flavel Church and Flavel Hall that still bear his name.

(Extracted from a longer paper on the life of John Flavel, available from the church)

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