History of the Spiritualist Church in Falmouth

The founder, and first President, of Falmouth Central Spiritualist Church was Mr. William (Bill) Deval (GW Dip) with the inaugural service taking place on Armistice Sunday, 1946, in the Co-operative Hall, Berkeley Hill.  The second service saw a congregation of 93 people. The church has a reputation of ‘open doors’ for worship and continues to this day to be well attended.

Bill did not come from a Spiritualist family. It was Christmas time, 1929 – the year that Bill’s father passed to the higher life. Mrs. Wade, a family friend from Australia, spent Christmas with them in their home in Bromley Kent and one morning she spoke to Bill and his family about Spirit Return and Spirit Communication. Some members of Bill’s family laughed and considered Mrs. Wade’s ideas to be foolish – Bill, feeling bored and tired settled down in his chair for a doze. When he awoke, he found the others looking at him in a very anxious and serious way. Mrs. Wade remarked: “That was beautiful!”  To Bill’s surprise he discovered that he had entered into a trance-state and had been controlled by the Spirit of a Church of England clergyman, Reverend Woodward, who had spoken through him! Bill was then 18½ years of age.

Bill became interested in Spiritualism and decided to find out more about it. He attended services at William Morris Hall in Bromley, choosing a seat nearest the door in case the Medium should address him! However, he did receive messages from the Spirit World including one from his father that convinced him of the sincerity and truth of Spirit Communion.

Bill joined a Development Circle in Bromley led by a Mr Filtness and Spirit told him that he should take up public work and he began to take services and give demonstrations. Bill was awarded the Greater World Diploma and he held the Certificate of Mediumship from the Spiritualist National Union. During his six years of war service, Bill took services at a number of churches in towns where he was stationed, and he demonstrated his gifts to his fellow service members in the camps. On being stationed overseas, he held services in Germany and Holland that were also attended by many civilians.

After the War ended, in 1946, Bill came to Falmouth and met Mrs Davies who eventually became Vice President of the Church. They brought together a small band of people who were trying to develop their spiritual gifts but who had, up to that point, no one to guide and help them. They had been meeting in an upper room in the home of Mrs. and Miss Pilkington. Bill agreed to help them and four months later the first Spiritualist Church in Falmouth opened its doors. Mediums holding the Greater World Diploma were invited to holiday in Cornwall in order that they might serve the church.

June 29th, 1946 saw the first christening to be held at the church. The baby girl was named
Jennifer Anne Hall and Bill Deval’s Spirit Guide, Rev. Woodward, gave the little one the Spirit name of Rose – a rose from his Master’s Garden. As well as Rev. Woodward, Bill’s other wonderful guide ‘St Patrick’ worked side by side with him in his Healing Ministry.

In 1947, the church services were transferred to the Women’s Institute Hall, in Webber Street. In 1952, Bill’s very close friend, Des Lindo, a Medium and Healer, joined him in his endeavours and the church went from strength to strength. The next 24 years saw the church meeting in six different establishments. Over the years Falmouth Church hosted many well known Mediums such as Harry Edwards, Gordon Higginson, Doris Collins, Jessie Nason and Tom Johansen.

In 1970, the church acquired its permanent premises in Quarry Hill, Falmouth. The building was purchased from the daughters of the late Mrs. Barbara Pitts who was an active Spiritualist. At the time, the building was divided into two flats. Messrs G. G. Davey (builders) carried out alterations to convert three top rooms into a large hall to be used as the church, with interior and exterior decorating being done by committee members and friends at their own expense. There were plans for a chapel of rest and a coffee lounge in the basement. 

It was a proud day for the Committee and church members when the new premises were formally opened by the Mayor of Falmouth, Alderman Bernard Smales, accompanied by the Mayoress and a number of Falmouth Town Council members.  In July 1971, the church was registered for the solemnizing of marriages. 

On the 20th January, 1977 Bill Deval was unanimously voted Life President of Falmouth Church in recognition of his dedicated work over many years. Sadly, on the 1st November that year he died after a short illness.  At an Extraordinary Committee Meeting  held after the Sunday service, 6th November, it was decided that – as life continues after physical death and Bill would still be serving his beloved church – he should remain President as Spiritual Leader of the Church he had founded and loved. Desmond Lindo took over the earthly duties as Working President with help from Mrs. E Sherriff (Life Vice-President) and the Officers and Committee.

On the 4th November, 1978 a Memorial Door was dedicated in the name of the church’s late President, Bill Deval in a service taken by his long-time friend Medium Shirley Chubb from Plymouth. The door was chosen as a symbol of an ever-open portal with the hope that each person who passed through it might, in the words of Mrs. Chubb, “become a doorway to the understanding that death is but an opening to a fuller and larger life!”

In 1991, serious cracks began to appear in the Church wall. In 1997 the building became unsafe and the Church closed on the 6th April after a very moving service taken by the President, Des Lindo, Vice-President George Trudgeon and Greater World Certified Medium Mrs. Freda Norton. Plans had been passed for the demolition  of the building with a new Church being built on the site. Work started on the 19th May, 1997 and the church was finished in the second week of January, 1998. The interior of the building was finished by the Committee and church members, decorating and fitting a new kitchen, hanging doors, cleaning and unpacking all that had been in store. The Church re-opened again with a service on Saturday, 30th May 19 and became known as ‘The Lighthouse on the Hill’.
© Patricia Sadler, 2011.