In 1787 the Rev Ellis Williams, curate at Clayhidon, who was responsible for three parishes, wrote the following letter to Rev John Newton of Woolnoth:-
"The place where I live is called Clay-Hydon, in the county of Devon and the diocese of Exeter. The gospel was strange to the people when I first came among them and for a time I met with little success.
At length some seemed under conviction, and I asked them into my house, for the better opportunity of conversing with them. They remained for family prayer. Presently it was noised abroad that the parson had prayer in his house morning and evening, and that without any book, and that all were welcome to come. Many did so, especially on Sunday evenings and thus there came about a great revival in the place. Opposition arose, as a matter of course, but soon subsided, and enemies became friends."
. . Some eighty years later George Brealey was invited to preach on the Blackdown Hills. He moved to Clayhidon with his family in 1863.
His work rapidly grew with chapels being opened at Rosemary Lane, Browndown, Bishopswood, Bolham, Sheldon, Stapley and The Lamb. Several chapels also served as day schools. In 1898 a house was provided at Bishopswood for resident pastor/teachers.
Changes in recent years has led to work being centred at Bishopswood and Clayhidon where full and varied programmes are maintained. The chapel at Bolham is used for occasional services.
Buildings at Browndown, Sheldon, The Lamb and Stapley have been closed after many years of useful and dedicated service.
The first building in which George Brealey preached was a thatched cottage next to the present chapel in Clayhidon nearly at the top of the steep hill.
On two occasions this cottage was altered to accommodate all the people wanting to come. The old cottage has since been changed and added to. It is now two dwellings. Only parts of the earlier building still exist.
A permanent meeting place was needed. George Brealey prayed that the money would arrive for the building fund. Soon the £350 odd that was needed had arrived. The flint stones were quarried at nearby Grays Hill and brought by horse and cart to the site.
1865 saw the opening day for the chapel of the newly formed 'Blackdown Hills Mission'. Several 'schoolrooms' were added to the chapel building in the early years. A day school was opened in 1870, and a new infant school in 1874. Children and older people too attended. The schools register had around 125 names listed at one stage! The senior school closed in 1893 and the infant school in 1897.
More recently a successful 'Youth Club' was started here, replacing young peoples meetings in the area. Ron White took up this work and saw the value of a 'Coffee Bar', so in 1964 the necessary alterations were made to one of the schoolrooms. In 1979/80 the old toilet area was taken down and rebuilt, with the addition of a new kitchen and the 'Green Room'.
1990 saw a further major change to the chapel. The old Gallery and Vestry were removed, a new large opening made to the coffee bar and the seating turned around. This alteration was completed in January 1991.
John and Susan Brealey welcomed George into the world on 4th September 1823
at North Tawton. He was a Shoemaker by trade and was married to Susan Gibbings in 1844.
They lived in Exeter.
While waiting to go to the West Indies as a missionary, he came with his family to Clayhidon, 'on a showery day in April' 1863.
'Sunnyside', became the family home. George Brealey, the pioneer, served the Lord here for 25 years and died on 6th March 1888.
Walter Brealey moved to London to work in the office of 'The Revival'. He too intended to work as a missionary - in India - but came back to Clayhidon and became the first headmaster of the school, which opened in January 1870.
When the school closed in 1897 he moved with his family to Clevedon. He returned to Clayhidon in 1914 to continue the work his father had started. He served the Lord here as preacher and pastor. He died on 3rd August 1916.
Born and brought up at Clevedon, Douglas Brealey entered the banking profession, working at Exmouth. It was 1920 when he came to Clayhidon to take up full-time the work, which his father and grandfather, had cared for before him. He was married in July 1937.
His gentle and gracious disposition was an outstanding feature of his ministry, and this with his unique gifts as a preacher and Bible Teacher made him well-known and loved in many other parts of the country.
But Clayhidon and the Blackdown Hills were always his first concern. He served the Lord here for almost 50 years and died on 29th August 1969 aged 80.
Leslie Burston lived in Clayhidon all his life. He trained as a carpenter and worked in the industry until 1994. Following his conversion at the age of fifteen he became involved with many aspects of work at Rosemary Lane and its associated chapels. He received God's call to serve as a part-time leader and was commended to the Lord for this work at a special service in November 1972. As well as heading up the work here his ministry took him to many other places in the West Country.
After faithfully serving the Lord, Leslie was called home on the 18th July 2009.
A Thanksgiving Service was held at Rosemary Lane Chapel on Wednesday 29th July 2009.