The move must partly have been due to the influence of the schoolmistress, Mrs Susan Walling, and it may also have been due to her that a new building was erected to serve as both schoolroom and chapel. The work was actually ordered by a Miss Pynseat, however, who may have become the Mrs Splatt who is later referred to as the owner of the building. The record of the work exists in a book of “Tenders and Estimates for the building of Chapels and church extensions". The entry is undated, but presumed from its place in the chronological order to be for 1866:
"I hereby agree to build the walls of Schoolroom with Granite stone 20 inches thick and of the dimensions shown in plan, and to cover the roof with best Coryton Countess slate 20 by 10. To lath the Battering of Back and South end and the Ceiling with Good stout laths. The plastering of same and remaining part of Wall to be three Coat Work. The External face of Walls to be pointed. To provide Granite Cills for Windows and Door and find all Material and Carriage for the sum of fifty eight Pounds ten shillings."
This almost certainly refers to the existing building, which would thus have opened in 1867 or 1868. This ties in with the list of active members of the congregation; the number had sunk to only six in 1866, but rose to seventeen in 1867 and twenty three in 1868. It was not a wealthy community, consisting almost entirely of small farmers and farm labourers. Out of these the group of preachers would have been selected, who took it in turns to lead services in all the twelve chapels making up the Chagford Circuit.
In 1872 a change occurred in Lettaford. On September 5th a resolution was noted in the Chagford Circuit Book:
"That as we learn with deep regret that sister Susan Walling and her daughter are about to be removed from Lettaford we hereby desire to express our high appreciation of assistance they have rendered us in entertaining the preachers, conducting prayer and class meetings, in supporting the cause of God financially and in carrying out the discipline of the society generally and we earnestly pray that their valuable lives may long be spared and that the choicest of Heaven's blessings may rest upon them and that ultimately they may gain their full and permanent reward in the home of the sanctified where change and disappointment may never come.
That this meeting desires to express its most cordial and hearty thanks to Mrs Splatt for her great kindness and liberality in allowing us the free use of the schoolroom at Lettaford in which to preach the Gospel. We believe many souls have derived much good therefrom, some of whom we trust are now joining their songs of praise with that of the redeemed in glory.
We learn with deep regret that Mrs Walling who has rendered us good service there is shortly about to remove but notwithstanding her removal and the consequent closure of the school we shall be very pleased with the kind permission of Mrs Splatt to continue public services as heretofore and we trust many precious souls may yet find a birthplace there and may Heaven's blessing be hers through life, after which may Heaven be her eternal home".
At some date, probably not long after this, the ownership of the Schoolroom passed to the Bible Christian Church, so that it became a fully fledged chapel, vested in trustees drawn from the congregation. The late Mr Wallace Perryman of Yeo Farm, Chagford, who played the harmonium in Lettaford Chapel from 1914 until the 1960s, and whose father had been a preacher on the Chagford Circuit, remembered in a newspaper interview given in 1960 that at this time, or perhaps when services were first held in the school, the Bible Christians encountered strong opposition from a local landowner who even went to the lengths of padlocking the door on Sundays to keep them out. A law suit followed in which the landowner tried to prove that the building stood on his own land, so that he had the right of control. The Bible Christians won the case however, by establishing that the chapel was in fact on common land.
Mr Perryman remembered a period when cattle drovers who used the old Way through the hamlet fixed a chain across the door of the chapel to prevent their animals from straying inside.
The Rev. L.H. Court in "The History of the Bible Christian Methodist Church in the Chagford Circuit" in 1904 states that the congregation at Lettaford never properly revived after Mrs Walling's departure and that numbers began to decline from then on. The agricultural depression of the late 19th century, causing the gradual depopulation of the area, would have contributed to this trend.
For the twenty years from 1897, when he was made a trustee, the chapel was cared for by a Mr William Chammings. In winter he would light the open fire to warm the chapel before meetings, and the oil lamps by which the building was lit. He would have overseen the installation in 1913 of a harmonium given by Hittisleigh Methodist Chapel.
During Mr Chammings's trusteeship, in 1907, the Bible Christians joined with the Free Methodists and the New Connexion to form the United Methodist Church. This foreshadowed their final unification in 1932 with the Wesleyans and the Primitive Methodists to become the Methodist Church of Great Britain.
In 1917 a new group of trustees was installed. In the 1920s there must have been a rise in the congregation and in the number of children locally, for in 1922 a schoolroom was added "at the rear of the chapel", with a doorway leading through in the corner of the south wall. It was made of galvanised iron lined with wood and was lit by oil lamps like the chapel. On the other end or "front" of the chapel a garage was added, also made out of galvanised iron.
At some time after this, although possibly not until after the War, the old entrance in the east, or side, wall was blocked up and a new entrance pierced through the chimney breast in the north end, reached through the garage. At the same time the pulpit was moved from the north to the south end.
This, with the installation of a new organ for Mr Perryman, and gas-lighting in 1943, followed by electricity in 1962, completes the account of alterations to the building in its time as a place of worship, since by the latter date the congregation numbered only four, and they found it difficult even to maintain the building. Mr Roger Thorne, who has made a study of the history of the Methodist Church in Devon, preached at Lettaford on three occasions and remembers the warmth of their welcome however.
By 1977 the number of active members in the whole of the Chagford Circuit had dwindled so low that it was decided to amalgamate it with its neighbours. Lettaford was incorporated into the Exeter Circuit, and soon afterwards the decision was made to close the chapel altogether. The Landmark Trust, having already restored the long-house, Sanders, in Lettaford, were keen to preserve the chapel, feeling that it was an integral part of the character of the place, and so it was conveyed to them in 1981.
For a short history of The Chapel, please click here.