For a few brief years in the prelude to the First World War Penpole Point became a popular place to offer praise over the Easter weekend. In 1910 the then vicar of the parish of Shirehampton, Rev Hector Powell, began the practice of holding open-air services on the grassy slopes of the point. Powell was an enthusiastic evangelical figure who stood in contrast to some of the more traditional clergy of the time, but were welcomed and attracted followers from the city beyond the village.
Evangelical gatherings at Penpole Point were held on Easter Monday and were less formal than the Sunday church services. They were very popular locally and attracted great crowds. There was singing by a special choir and Powell noted “the natural formation of this valley-like spot lent itself to the sound of many voices”. The spot this 1913 photo records hosting the services does indeed offer a well-appointed amphitheatre for crowds to gather on, with the service taking place on Penpole Lane on the left. Just visible on the horizon is the tower of Penpole Lodge.
After Reverend Powel moved to a new parish in 1912 he continued the tradition of Easter Monday services at Penpole, but there was increasing conflict between him and the new incumbent at the local church over the events. Eventually, after 1914, these open air services ceased, at least in part due to the First World War.
After the war services resumed, but took place on Rogationtide, the fifth weekend after Easter, when a good harvest was prayed for and the parish boundary was often walked. The Tower of Penpole Lodge often acted as the pulpit for these open-air services, before its demolition in 1950. After that year the parish gathered in front of its ruins. In her book Shirehampton Story Ethel Thomas records that the BBC came to Penpole to film the Rogationtide ceremony which was broadcast across the UK. We wonder does anyone remember this event, or whether the BBC might have recorded it? It would be fascinating to see it again.