The Westbay Methodist Church Photography Project
I have visited Westbay a couple of times, and on each visit I thought that there must be something more to the disused church on the beach than first meets the eye. So on my last visit I endeavourd to look a little closer and think a little harder. I was attracted to it's somple beauty, although rundown and unloved the building still had a unique character and almost shyly set alone on the edge of town. I wanted to photograph the building but the problem was it's location made it very difficult, there is a pur across the access road to the left, shop immediatley in front of it and parked cars tucked in close to it's left hand side. So I looked closer and tried t capture the small details that tell the whole story.
In 1817 Dr Roberts, a Methodist preacher in Bridgeport together with William twitcher they started open air preaching on the key at West Bay taking their message aboard vessels and holding Bible readings in a local sail loft.
A Wesleyan Society was formed in 1828 and meetings were originally held in a local house led by William a Loveless. Two years later John Cox took over the congregation which soon out grew the house.
A small chapel was opened in 1849' built on land granted by the Harbour Commissioners at a cost of £200.00 the work was completed by Messrs. Cox & Son Shipbuilders. The doors were opened in the same year on December 4th.
Closed during WWII and sadly damaged during exercises for the D Day landings. The Chapel on the beach was re-opened on Easter Day 6th April 1947 by Reverend C.O Hunwick. A diminishing congregation led to the final closure of the Chapel in May 2007. Today the freehold is held by the Bridport Area Development Trust. The have secured planning consent to convert the grade 2 listed chapel,into a visitor centre.
Rather than produce a factual record of the church which I am sure has already been done I wanted to capture the elements that interested and inspired me leading to creating this set of photographs. On first inspection the building is rather dull, drab green walls with little interest. The location is great, resting on the edge of the great shingle beach, but photographically uninspiring and due to the proximity of parked cars, shops and the pub challenging. So why bother?
The paint faded by age is exactly how it should be . The grasses beyond the fence overgrown, uncared for, unloved but adding very importantly to the run down face of what had been a very smart Chapel. A pristine white gloss fence, iron stained from rusting nails, scarred with patches of algae. The smart rendered walls once very correct with interlocking geometric lines, now struggle to shine through the weathered render and paint. This is what I saw and wanted to capture. One day when the Chapel is restored it will take on a new character, hiding it's, maybe restored to it's original condition, but reality isn't like that - overtime things change.
The Location presented challenges with composition and I wanted to show the features that captured my interest so went in close and concentrated on the small details. Desaturated further to add to the already faded appearance, and taking texture from the building itself, I hope I have produced a series of images that present the building to you the viewer as I saw it.