Leek Seed Chapel, a 2* Listed Building was built 200 years ago NEXT YEAR and owes its existence, and its rather unusual name, to a remarkable fund raising campaign, led by William ( Gardener) Stephens, who was a steward on the nearby Carlyon Estate and an enthusiastic preacher in the Billy Bray style. There was however, considerable opposition to the campaign, particularly by three young Oxford students living in the village who hatched a plan to break into Gardener Stephens` cottage late at night and steal the funds.
But they did not expect him to be still awake, sitting at the kitchen table reading his bible by candlelight, and neither did they expect to see, what appeared to them in the gloomy light, to be a pile of gunpowder on the table next to his shotgun and flint. Their pitiful attempts at demanding the money failed, as the old gardener held the candle over the pile, persuading the frightened men not only to empty their pockets of all the money they had, but to fall on their knees and pray for forgiveness, lest he put a spark to the pile and “ there would be no tomorrow for any of them!”
The men eventually escaped from the cottage, but could not resist mingling with the crowds when William Stephens preached the following Sunday in a nearby barn which served as a temporary chapel. They were surprised to hear the old gardener tell of their attempts to steal the campaign funds and to learn that their money would now be used to begin the building of a new Methodist Chapel very soon…. but were absolutely dumbfounded when he explained that the pile of gunpowder was nothing more than his next year`s stock of leek seed which he had just finished sifting and cleaning!
Gardener Stephens unfortunately died a year before the chapel was opened on Easter Day 1824, but his grave, near the front porch, is a fitting memorial to this remarkable and dedicated man. Also of considerable historical interest is the beautiful Spanish mahogany pulpit, gallery paneling and vestry doors, donated by Sir Francis Leyland- Barrett, a London businessman, in memory of his grandparents who are buried in the chapel cemetery. The adjacent Sunday School/Hall (the second on the site) is also a Listed Building and was built in 1924 by Williams & Lawer, local builders and members of Leek Seed. Rows of bricks inscribed with the names of village folk who contributed to the cost, form a natural “dado-rail” around two walls of the primary room.