The Revd Peter Dennis Chevill: 1924-2019
Written by Peter in January 2008 and updated by his daughter Elizabeth in September 2019
Peter was born at Chadwell Heath, Essex and has a sister, Betty, who lives near Polegate, East Sussex. He went to Beal School, Ilford, but his education was halted at the outbreak of WW2. In October 1939, he started clerical work for the family firm of H.Peters, Coal Merchants. He was called up into the Army RAOC in 1943.
From his earliest days Peter went to Chadwell Heath Baptist Church and came to believing faith in the Lord Jesus as his personal Saviour on 12 February 1939 following a sermon on the “Second Coming”.
In the RAOC, Peter served as a Technical Clerk/Driver and was in the late June beach landings in the Normandy invasion. Peter remained in a camp near Bayeux for the whole of that summer. During that time he was “detailed” by an Army Chaplain to conduct the camp evening service on alternate Sunday evenings. An army friend who was there with him told him years later that his first sermon was on I Corinthians 2:2
“I have determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Peter had never spoken at any meeting before and his nerves were not improved when the Unit Colonel came in two minutes before time and sat in the front.
In the late autumn the unit moved to Brussels and Peter attended the Belgian Gospel Mission where Army Scripture Readers, Jim Watson and Robert Laidlaw (a lay evangelist from New Zealand) were based. He enjoyed fellowship with both Forces personnel and Belgian families.
While waiting to cross a Brussels Boulevard, Peter was deeply moved one evening in early May 1944 as he saw a very slow moving ambulance convoy overfilled with services’ victims just released from the Belsen Concentration Camp.
Soon after the liberation, Peter was moved to a village just north of Hamburg but became seriously ill and was brought back to this country. While he was at a holding unit after his health recovered, the Japanese war ended. Peter had been destined for reallocation to the far east, but the plans were aborted and he remained for some months at the holding unit at Donnington (now Telford), in Shropshire.
There was little to do each day and Peter volunteered in response to a call for typists to work in the Regimental Depot. He was gradually promoted through the ranks and attained the position of deputy Chief Clerk – Staff Sargent Class I. He had a staff of twelve in his office. He took an active part in Camp Fellowships at Donnington and preached on Sundays in local Baptist and Methodist churches. The unit moved to Feltham Middlesex and Peter lived at home throughout the exceptionally cold winter of 1947, commuting each day back to Feltham. He made a profession of his faith by baptism at his home church on Easter Day, 1946.
On demobilization in June 1947, Peter went back to the family business and was deeply involved in the Covenanter Youth Group at his church. Two years later he responded to the Lord’s call to enter full-time Christian Service. He trained for the ministry at Capernwray Bible School and St.Andrews’ Hall, Surbiton (NYLC).
He continued his studies by attending evening classes at the London Bible College. In 1952 Peter commenced his ministry at the Keswick Hall Evangelical Church, Walthamstow but in 1956 he felt God’s calling to work within the Baptist Union ministry and settled at Acton Lane Baptist Church, Harlesden, in September 1957.
In the meantime he had met Barbara Smith at the Keswick Convention in July 1953 and they were married at the Worcester Evangelical Church on 8 May 1954. Their first two children Simon and Sarah were born during his pastorates at Harlesden and High Street, Isleham, Cambridgeshire. During Peter’s ministry at Isleham baptisms were held in the River Lark, about half a mile downstream from Isleham Ferry where C.H.Spurgeon was baptised before preaching a sermon at the Pound Lane Chapel, Isleham.
In 1964 Peter had to move on health grounds to Northolt Park where he stayed for ten years. Peter and Barbara’s younger daughter, Elizabeth was born while they were there. Peter was correspondent for the Christian weekly newspaper “The Life of Faith” for about four years and was honoured by being made President of the Baptist Board in 1971. He was also a member of the London Baptist Association Council and an ex-officio Director of the London Baptist Property Board. During the Billy Graham Crusade at Earls Court in 1967, he was in charge of the TV overflow Counselling Room.
In 1974 Peter was called to the Pastorate of Holland on Sea Baptist Church and spent the last fifteen years of his ministry working mainly among retired elderly members of the Church and congregation. He served as Essex Baptist Association President in 1985, preaching at several churches in the County.
Peter retired in October 1990 and undertook driving for the Essex Ambulance Car Service until he reached the age of 72. He then trained as a Volunteer Adviser with the Citizens’ Advice Bureau in Clacton and was on duty once weekly for ten years. He preached on Sundays until he was just over 80 years old and continued to speak at occasional mid-week fellowships thereafter.
During their time in Holland on Sea, Barbara and Peter’s son, Simon took a degree course at Bristol Baptist College and was ordained and inducted as the Assistant Minister of Main Road Baptist Church, Romford in September 1982, shortly after his marriage to Catherine at Keynsham Baptist Church. In October 1997, Simon, was involved in a car accident while on church duty. He sustained serious injuries which made it necessary for him to retire from the pastorate in Four Oaks. In due course Simon, Catherine and their four daughters moved to Falmouth to be nearer Catherine’s family. Sarah has two daughters and one son and she currently lives in Daventry (information updated by Elizabeth). Elizabeth studied music and obtained a doctorate in musicology at London University. In 2008 she was ordained into ministry in the Church of England.
Peter’s hobby was meteorology and he listened early each morning to the Shipping Forecast so that he could use the information as a basis for his own observations and readings. From his time at Northolt until five years ago, Peter always had a Labrador dog which he exercised daily with a good walk on or to the seafront. His last dog was a Golden Retriever, called Honey.
Of the years after 2008, Elizabeth writes: Barbara and Peter continued the latter years of their retirement in Great Clacton. They were pleased to live to see Elizabeth marry Robert at the age of 46: father’s speech began ‘this day comes as a great surprise to us and I suspect to many of you too!’ After a series of mini strokes, Barbara's health deteriorated and having been in care for eleven months, in December 2013, she died. Peter was keen to stay on in his own home. Whilst he retained full mental faculties until the day he died, physically Peter became more frail. Eventually, he conceded that it would be good to have daily carers popping in! Peter gave wise counsel to several of his carers and visitors– to the end of his days, he bore great testimony to the Lord whom he loved and served. In April Peter was admitted to Colchester General Hospital and was eventually discharged to Beaumont Manor care home in Frinton where he spent the final weeks of his life.
Although it was sad to see Father grow weaker, the last weeks spent with him were very precious: his heart was strong and his will to live was such that he seemed to find it hard to die. At the same time his face glowed when one of the night staff came and alluding to John 14 reminded him that he was going to be with the Lord and that a large room for him had already been prepared. It seemed fitting that Father eventually died at 8.15am listening to the College Choir of St Peters (where Elizabeth is the Chaplain) sing the Psalm 121: ‘the Lord shall preserve thy soul- he shall preserve thy coming in and thy going out from this day forth and for evermore’.
We all miss our father very much - but it is a privilege to have had such a stable, godly father who has been a best friend, guide and support for so many years, not only to his children but to many he ministered to and led to Christ. Father always said that ‘our times are in the hands of the Lord’ so although he would be sad not to make 100, I know he fervently believed that God's time was the right time.
Image | Peter is pictured on his 94th birthday in his home in Clacton
Peter’s funeral was held at St John’s Great Clacton on 1 July and he is buried with Barbara in Kirby Cross Cemetery, Frinton. A DVD was made of the service and anyone wishing to see it is welcome to contact Elizabeth: email@example.com.(or write to Elizabeth c/o St Peter’s College, Oxford, New Inn Hall Street OX1 2DL)