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St Maurice Church, Plympton [1859]

Some Account of the Ancient Borough Town of Plympton St Maurice or Plympton Earl; with Memoirs of the Reynolds Family by William Cotton (a Freeman of the Borough), 1859

William Cotton, a Freeman of the Borough of Plympton Earl wrote a fantastic short history of the parish alongside a biographical memoir of Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1859.

What follows relates to the Church.

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Plympton Church and School, 1859

THE CHURCH

The Parish Church of Plympton is a substantial edifice, principally built of granite, and of a size proportioned to the population, which is about 900. It stands on the north side of the town, near the Castle, and has a good tower of two stages, about 70 feet in height, with granite buttresses and pinnacles; on the south side it is partly covered with ivy, which has a very picturesque effect.

It appears to have been at first a chantry chapel, appendant to the Church of Plympton St Mary, and was dedicated to St Thomas a Becket, but afterwards to St Maurice; as Leland says: “This Saint Mauritius was commander of the Theban legion in the time of the Emperor Maximinian, and suffered martyrdom together with his whole regiment, who were Christians, at Agaunum, in Savoy (now called St Maurice), in the presence of the Emperor, about the year 296, in consequence of their refusal to offer sacrifice to the heathen gods. The bones of these holy martyrs were afterwards dug up and sent into divers countries, where many churches were erected to their honour, and that of their leader St Mauritius”.

Browne Willis tells us that this chapel of St Maurice is said, in the chantry rolls, to have been founded by one John Brackeley, for the continual finding of a priest to minister therein, it being distant half-a-mile from the mother church at Plympton St Mary.

Bishop Lacy, March 10, 1446, granted an indulgence to all true penitents, who in their charity should assist – “ad erectionem campanilis, seu turris capallar parochialis Sancti Thomae de Plympton”.

The interior dimensions of the Church are:

  • Chancel – 29 feet by 17 feet
  • Nave – 41 feet by 18 feet 6 inches
  • S. and N. Aisles – 58 feet by 13 feet

The nave has four granite piers and arches, with two responds, which give go it a substantial character; and at the second pier from the south porch entrance, there remains a large granite corbel, on which the pulpit formerly stood, with steps worked in the same block at the pier-course.

The chancel has been recently roofed with open timber work, and has a good decorated east window, fitted with painted glass, the gift of the Rev. G. M. Scott, Vicar of Wembury; near to it is a curious granite piscine, in the east wall, and another lavacrum in the south aisle. Both sides have cradle roofs with bosses; and that on the north, a memorial window of the Treby Family.

The south porch has a parvis chamber above, and a vaulted roof, formed with four granite groin ribs.

MONUMENTS IN THE CHURCH

John SPARKE, from Nantwich, Cheshire; buried 11 July 1566
John, his son, 14 January 1597. Arms, chequy or and vert, a bend ermine.
John, his grandson, 1630
(At Plympton St Mary, Nicholas, who died in 1700, and a son of John, lived to the advanced age of 107 years).

The following inscription occurs on the pavement, in the south aisle:

MARIA SPARKE
Conditur hoc Maria in tumulo cognomine Sparke,
Proxima juncta patri, morte perempta prior,
Morte perempta prius ter sex quam (vixerat) annos,
Digna viro virgo, sed mage digna Deo,
Sic periit Scintilla prius quam nupta marito,
Scintillans inter sidera clara (vignet).
Obiit 21 die Novembris, 1597

SAMUEL SNELLING, Gent.
TWISE MAIOR OF THIS
TOWN.HE DIED THE 20
DAY OF NOVEMBER, 1624

The man whose Body
That here doth lye,
Beganne to live
When he did dye.
Good faith in life
And death he prov’d,
And was of God
And Man belov’d.
Now he liveth
In Heaven’s joy,
And never more
To feel annoy.

ROWLAND COTTON, Esq.
Vice-Admiral of the Blue,
And Commander-in-Chief
of His Majesty’s Ships and Vessels
in Plymouth Port,
Son of the late Sir Lynch COTTON, Bt.,
of Combermere Abbey,
In the County of Chester,
Who died the 20 day of Novr., 1794,
In the 53d year
of his age.

In the south wall of the chancel there is a tablet to the memory of Thomas BROWNE, formerly Master of the Grammar School, with the following inscription:

HIC SITUS EST
THOMAS BROWNE, HUJUS ECCLESIAE,
MIN. ET SCHOLAE VICINAE PRAECEPTOR,
IN AGRO EBOR NATUS,
IN COLL. AEDIS XTI APUD CANT.
EDUCATIS,
EXIMA DOCTINA, MORUM SUAVITATE,
ET DEXTERITATE INSTRUENDI,
NEMINI SECUNDUS.
OBIIT DEC. OCT. DIE MAJI,
MDCXCVIII.
HOC MARMOR SEPULCHRALE
UXOR POSUIT.

And on the opposite wall has recently been placed a white marble tablet, to the memory of the Rev. Samuel REYNOLDS; inscribed

SAMUELIS REYNOLDS, A.M.
COLL. BALLIOL APUD OXONIENSES,
QUONDAM SOCIUS
PRESBYTER ECCLESIAE ANGLICANAE,
SCHOLAE GRAMMATICAE PLYMPTONENSIS
MAGISTER PRAEFECTUS:
VIR
SIMPLICITATE ATQUE INTEGRITATE MORUM
DOCRINA NECON ET RELIGIONE
MAXIME PRAEDITUS.
OBIIT DIE VICESIMO QUINTO DECEMBRIS,
A.D. 1746.
UNDECIM HABUIT LIBEROS
INTER QUOS MAXIME EXILUIT
JOSHUA REYNOLDS, EQUES.
PICTORUM SUI SECULI FACILE PRINCEPS.

IN MEMORIAM
QUAM PATRIS, TAM FILII,
HANC TABULAM INSCRIPTAM
PIO ANIMO POSUIT
GUILELMUS COTTON,
A.D. 1859

The Parish Registers commence –

  • Baptisms, 5 April 1616
  • Burials, 4 May, 1616
  • Marriages, 29 April 1616

On the fly-leaf of the old Register-book is the following entry:

Walter WINSLAND, His Book,
The Lord of Heven upon him look,
And so correcte him with a rod,
That he may be a child of God:
And when for him the bel doth tole,
The Lord of Heven welcome his Soul.

The Rectorial Tithes of Plympton, together with the chapels of Plymstock and Plympton St Maurice (late parcel of the lands of the dissolved Priory), were granted in the first year of his reign (1547) by King Edward V to the Dean and Chapter of Windsor.

The living, which is a perpetual curacy in the patronage of the Dean and Chapter, is endowed with £600 parliamentary grant, and £400 Queen Anne’s bounty.* The Incumbent has also the small tithes.

*  Declared a Rectory by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners under the provisions of the District Church Tithes Act, 1865, in 1867.

© Graham Naylor

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Plympton St Maurice

A dry Sunday afternoon enabled me to get to another of my local parish churches today – that of Plympton St Maurice.

Plympton St Maurice, unlike her sister parish, Plympton St Mary, retains somehow her rural village like charm and made for a very pleasant hours stroll.

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Plympton St Maurice, (2016)

My visit to the church was somewhat scuppered since the church was locked; however this setback enabled me to wander the ancient churchyard and explore the environs around the church – including the magnificent ruins of the Norman castle.

The dedication of the parish church is to St Maurice – and reflects therefore the name of the parish. However in its earliest days, from a deed dated sometime before the year 1300 the church was dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury, archbishop and martyr. Joshua Brooking Rowe in his superb ‘History of Plympton Erle’, 1906, records that:

The devotion to the memory of St Thomas commenced very soon after his cruel murder in 1170, and the dedication of churches to God’s honour and in memory of His latest saint soon commenced and became very widespread…

To commemorate the dedication of the church to St Thomas of Canterbury the church today holds a lovely statue of St Thomas of Canterbury in a niche over the north doorway. The statue was the work of J. T. Trevenen of Plymouth in 1895.

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Statue of St Thomas of Canterbury, carved 1895, (2016)

The church dedication appears to have reverted to St Maurice at the time of the Reformation – sometimes then known as St Thomas and St Maurice.

Perhaps the most notable feature of the church is of its lovely tower. Brooking Rowe informs us that the people of Plympton appealed to the Bishop of Exeter in 1446 for assistance in building this structure in order to make the original tower more “in-keeping” with their newly rebuilt Perpendicular church. We can assume therefore that the church we see today was largely complete by the middle of the C15.

The interior features of the church will have changed considerably since the C15 of course – and a full appreciation of those will have to wait for a future visit.

The churchyard provides the visitor with much of interest. Many ancient headstones remain from the mid-late C18 with one or two more ancient stones.

Spending time in God’s Acre enables one to contemplate! It had been many years since I last visited Plympton St Maurice for family history and it was good to locate one or two headstones to members of my own long departed family. The most touching family plot relates to my 3rd Great Aunt, Eliza Barbara Horne, nee Selleck, (1853-1880), and to her children.

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Plympton St Maurice Burial Register, 1880

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In Memory of Eliza Barbara HORNE, 1853-1880 and her children, RIP

The churchyard is also the resting place of the noted antiquary and historian, Joshua Brooking Rowe who died on 28 June 1908. His solid tombstone stands in the shadow of the church he loved, and of the historic castle.

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Plympton St Maurice Burial Register, 1908

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Joshua Brooking Rowe, died 28 June 1908, RIP

Of equal interest, ecclesiastically, is the tomb of the Rev. Henry Tubal Hole, Vicar of Plympton St Maurice from 1877 to 1921. His is an interesting tomb which carries an incredible carving of the Crucifixion to one side and the inscription the other. I suspect the Rev. Hole was a keen Anglo-Catholic…

Far from being morbid, a wander in an ancient churchyard provides so much of interest and mingles the C21 into the lives of past residents.

Of great interest is the magnificent churchyard cross, located outside the south porch. The shaft of this cross was found when alterations were being made to the Plympton Guildhall in 1861. Dating to circa 1380 the cross was restored and placed in its position in 1900. This is certainly one of the more splendid churchyard crosses present in the local area and creates a nice link back to a vision of the past.

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© Graham Naylor

St Mary’s Church, Brixton

A beautiful sunny Saturday presented an opportunity for some more local church-crawling. I didn’t need to travel far from home to visit a church I am not too familiar with. No more than 10 minutes from my own front door is the beautiful parish church of St Mary, Brixton.

St Mary’s still maintains her ancient charm, despite traffic thundering along the A379 just outside the churchyard gate.

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St Mary’s Church, Brixton (2016)

It becomes clear from a visit to St Mary’s, that she is a product of many different periods; notably from her furniture a product of C19 “restorations”. I use the term restorations lightly, since in some cases these instances removed all vestiges of ancient glass and woodwork. Brixton is one such case, although one has to remember churches are not museums but living, working houses of prayer.

It is hard therefore to picture in one’s mind the pre-restoration church of Brixton, that is prior to the restorations of 1887 and 1894; the latter restoration by Charles King of Plymouth.

We are however handed some help in conjuring up a view of the earlier church in the words of Sir Stephen Glynne’s visit to Brixton on 29 January 1853.

A true Devonshire Church with body and 2 aisles extending nearly to the east end, a west tower and south porch. The material is chiefly granite and the whole seems to be of late provincial perpendicular. The tower is tall divided by only one string course, having battlement and corbel table under it, and an octagonal stair turret on the south reaching above the parapet. The belfry window of two lights on the south, on the other sides of two lights. On the west side a plain door of granite order and a three light window. The porch is ribbed, by the interior door is a stoup, the outer door has an obtuse arch and a sort of early ornament at the base of the jambs.

The arcades on each side have four obtuse arches, with clustered piers having moulded capitals. The roofs are coved and all equal part of them ribbed. The east window is a fair perpendicular one of five lights, on the south of it a square headed one of two lights. At the east of the south aisle is one of four lights, under which there seems to have been a reredos. The other windows are chiefly of three lights, some on the north being of the ugly plain kind, without tracery, often seen in this district.

On the south is a slight projection corresponding to the place of the rood loft. The eastern bay of each aisle is enclosed by rood screens.

The church is pewed and glaring with whitewash.

So, in this brief entry we can get something of the feel for the building prior to the restoration of the 1880s.

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The nave looking towards chancel, (2016)

Of the most interest, perhaps, is the appearance of a reredos in the south aisle chapel. Today this is a “modern” Lady Chapel, beautifully set-up. In former days this chapel was, according to the church history guide, designated the Spriddlestone Chapel for members of the Fortescue family. The corresponding Chapel in the north aisle was the Hareston Chapel for members of the Wood family. Little survives to record this but if one ventures towards the organ in the north aisle one remnant remains – a splendid (but partly obscured) slate monument to the Wood family, dating from the late C17. A superb relic.

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Wood memorial, late C17, (2016)

The church possesses two very interesting hagioscopes, or squints. The church history guide suggests the squint in the north chancel (providing a view of the High Altar) from the Hareston Chapel is original – whereas the corresponding one from the south aisle Chapel is a modern addition. I suppose this is possible. Either way it is interesting to see how these have been left open and not plastered up, as is often the case elsewhere.

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Hagioscope, or squint, in south aisle, (2016)

There are no remnants of ancient woodwork in the church – at least not visible. There are no remains of the Rood Screen and modern, C19 parclose screens are in place for both the north and south chancel, behind the elaborately carved choir stalls. These look to be the work of the Pinwell sisters? The beautifully carved pulpit is worth seeing. Again, I presume this is the work of the Pinwell’s who did so much to revive the best of ancient carving. I do however wish it were possible to see something of the former pulpit as this looked really rather lovely – and its lovely sounding board above. I presume that was swept away in the 1880s.

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Pulpit, (2016)

As a lover of stained glass I feel there are mixed results here. The windows of the west end of the church, especially those at the east end of the north aisle are stunning. Really beautiful. The chancel east window is also pretty, but there being lots of “architectural” features within the glass itself loses something for me. The east window, and I suspect the others too, are by Clayton & Bell, dating from the 1880s – the east window, 1885.

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West window of north aisle, (2016)

The church has done much to maintain its past and move with the times. The former reredos panels, the Lord’s Prayer, Creed and Ten Commandment panels are all still in the church, in the north and south aisles, and it’s lovely to see them still. I was particularly impressed with the kitchen area at the west end of the north aisle. I though rather sympathetically done considering its ancient home.

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Former reredos panel, the Lord’s Prayer, (2016)

The church doesn’t contain many ancient memorials; the most interesting being the Wood memorial already alluded to in the north aisle chapel – but others prominently to the Rev. Richard Lane and others of the family. The Rev. Lane is credited, and rightly so, for his splendid work on the history of Brixton covering local and genealogical history. The Central Library has a copy of this work, well worth perusing for those interested or with connections to the parish. I believe the original copy is still within the parish?

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Memorial to Rev. Richard Lane, d1858, (2016)

The other most elaborate memorial is to Lucy Palmer who died in 1834. This memorial which depicts a woman kneeling by an urn is, according to Pevsner, by Walker of Bristol.

All in all a lovely church – and one I’m pleased to say with various genealogical connections for me – although only one pair of direct ancestors connect there specifically. That is with the marriage of my 8th Great Grandparents, John Tozer and Juliana Arundell in 1681. Now if only I could turn the clock back to see their wedding day…!

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Spring flowers in winter, a lovely treat, (2016)

© Graham Naylor

All Saints Church, Plymouth

All Saints Church was a once well known and respected Anglo-Catholic parish church in the heart of Plymouth at which the Blessed Sacrament had been reserved since 1882.

All Saints Church, Plymouth

All Saints Church, Plymouth, c1922

ALL SAINTS CHURCH, PLYMOUTH (overlooking the GWR, near North Road).
 
Soon after Dr Frederick Temple became Bishop of Exeter, he initiated a movement for Church Extension in the Three Towns. Four churches built under this scheme are nearly contemporary, but All Saints, was its first fruits.
 
Building began in 1873, and the present chancel was consecrated on 10 November 1874; the rest of the church was a temporary erection, which was familiarly known as “the Garden Church”, for around it was a market garden (the Clergy House of today stands on the site of an old farm house, which many can remember). The building of the nave an aisles was continued in 1878, but the walls were not carried to their full height, nor the permanent roof added, until 1912, after much of the temporary work had been destroyed, and other damage done, by a fire in 1910. The original architect was Mr James Hine, whose work was completed by his successor, Mr W. H. May. The nave is lofty, and the chancel unusually spacious.
 
The parish was carved out of St Peter’s, and the patronage deed bears the signatures of Bishop Temple and four notable priests, G. R Prynne, T. T. Carter, A. H. Machonochie and C. F. Lowder; and of C. L. Wood (now Viscount Halifax), who is the last survivor.
 
In teaching and practice the daughter church has followed the tradition set by the mother. Members of the Congress will be interested to know that Reservation of the Blessed Sacrament for the sick has been continuous since 1882; probably a longer record that that of any other parish church in England. The church contains many memorials of those who have served and worshipped at its altars.
[Source: Anglo Catholic Congress Handbook”, Plymouth, 1922]
Like all the fine Anglo-Catholic churches in Plymouth, All Saints Church possessed a rather splendid Rood with the attendant figures of Our Lady and St John.
 
The Rood was erected at All Saints Church in May 1915 in memory of the Reverend Owen Evan Anwyl who had been the Vicar of All Saints for 15 years and who died on 28 November 1913.
 
Rev Owen Evan Anwyl, Ford Park

Memorial to Rev. Owen E. Anwyl at Ford Park Cemetery, Plymouth, (2014)

The Illustrated Western Weekly News newspaper for 22 May 1915 carried a report which read:
 
ALL SAINTS, PLYMOUTH: MEMORIAL TO THE LATE VICAR
 
A rood has been placed in All Saints Church, Plymouth as a memorial to the late Rev. Owen E. Anwyl. The figures of the rood were designed and executed under the superintendence of Mr W. H. May (Hine, Odgers and May), who was the architect for the completion of the church originally planned by the late Mr J. D. Sedding. The rood consists of the crucifixion with the Blessed Virgin Mary on one side and St John on the other; and as there is no rood screen at All Saints, the figures are suspended from the apex of the chancel arch.
 
There was a special service on Wednesday for the formal blessing of the rood, the preacher being Rev. Ernest Underhill, of St Thomas’, Liverpool, an on old friend of the late vicar. Mr Underhill took as his text the words, “They crucified Him.” The words he said were appropriate because they had lifted up as a memorial of their late vicar and his friend the Cross of Jesus Christ, with St Mary the Mother of God, and St John the beloved Disciple; and he did not think they could have done better, for they would bring before them that which Owen Anwyl meant. He remembered Owen Anwyl many years ago, before they knew him. Owen Anwyl and he were at Cambridge together for the priesthood, to which God had called them. He remembered many traits in his character. There was in the rood the figure of Jesus Christ with arms outstretched wherewith to encircle the whole world. That was one thing for a priest to learn – never to be narrow minded, to meet all men with heartfelt sympathy. They would bear him out that Owen Anwyl had a great heart. It was not given to every young man, as Owen Anwyl was when he knew him, to try and understand the difficulties of others. He did not think Owen Anwyl had to learn much of sympathy; he was sympathetic by nature; he wanted to understand people because he wanted to help them; and like St John, he was pure. He (Mr Underhill) did not think any man at the University would have liked to have said a word in the presence of Owen Anwyl that would have brought a blush to a maiden’s cheek. He remembered Owen Anwyl coming into his rooms one night and showing great distress at hearing one of his young friends had lost his innocence. Another trait was his great love and devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, which so sweetened his life. Owen Anwyl taught him much. He (the preacher) went up to Cambridge an ordinary High Churchman, which was the most despicable form of Protestantism – a man who loved candles and incense, and refused the grace the Catholic Church held for him. He could remember the time when, with few exceptions, the religion of England was Protestant – when the wearing of the surplice in the pulpit created a riot, and when they were fighting, not for the reservation of the sick, not for the ceremonial use of incense in honour of our Blessed Lord, but for trivialities, like coloured almsbags and stoles, knowing little of the realities of the Catholic Church. That congregation had been brought up in the Catholic Church and its teaching; older men, like himself, had to learn it bit by bit. He thanked God that it was Owen Anwyl who taught him what the communion of saints meant. Communion with the saints of God who had passed within the veil, who were witnesses of the beautiful vision, and who there prayed for us, and to whom we might pray and ask for their suffrages.
After a solemn procession around the church singing “The Royal banners forward go”, a halt was made immediately under the new rood, where the ceremony of blessing by the vicar, (Rev. Heneage Sharp) took place. The hymn, “They whose course on earth is o’er” was then sung, and afterwards the Te Deum, with clergy and choir grouped before the altar.
 
All Saints Church is an ecclesiastical parish, formed in 1875, from that of St Peter; the church, in Harwell Street, partly erected in 1873-78, and completed in 1910, is a building of limestone in the Early English style, consisting of chancel, nave, aisles and a western porch: there are 400 sittings. The register dates from the year 1875. The living is a perpetual curacy, net yearly value £400, and residence is in the gift of trustees, and held since 1926 by the Rev. Herbert Edward BENNETT. In 1887 a clergy house was erected. A parish room and Sunday schools, with four
class rooms were erected in 1892. 
[Source: Plymouth Directory, 1938]
More history of All Saints Church will follow!

 

© Graham Naylor

Mutley Methodist Church, Plymouth

Mutley Wesleyan Church began its life in 1880. A large and presigious church, its fortunes sadly saw the building live for less than 100 years when the church was closed in 1977.

Mutley Plain

Mutley Wesleyan Church, c1910

The foundation memorial stones for the church were laid on 26 May 1880; the principal stone being laid by Mr MacLiver, MP. Newspaper reports of the time say:

The memorial stones of a new Wesleyan Chapel, Plymouth, were laid yesterday, the principal one by Mr MacLiver, MP, who, referring to the Church movement in Cornwall, and the ceremony of last week, said an aggression in Cornwall of a system comparatively new there was unnecessary and unfair. The work of the Church was not needed there. Methodism had, and was doing a great work in Cornwall, and he doubted not, would continue to be true to her instincts and her traditions.

The Church opened for worship on Wednesday, 12 October 1881.
Mutley

Aerial view of Mutley Plain, c1950

The Church, part of the King Street Circuit, Plymouth was a large building of limestone and Portland stone dressings in the Gothic style. It had a tower at the south-west angle and over the main entrance a large stained window. There were 959 sittings in the Church and space in the basement for 400 scholars in the school rooms.
Mutley Methodust

Mutley Methodist Church, c1975

The Church closed on Sunday 12 June 1977.

Further information on Mutley Methodist Church will appear in due course!

© Graham Naylor

St Edward’s Church, Shaugh Prior

The Parish Church of St Edward, King and Martyr, Shaugh Prior is a beautiful moorland church. Its ancient walls have seen many generations of my own family enter the church building for baptisms, marriages and funerals. The parish is located just outside of the City of Plymouth and still benefits from an aspect of rural charm.

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St Edward’s Church, Shaugh Prior (2015)

In 1851 the noted local surgeon and antiquary, John Cremer Bellamy (1812-1854) published within the local press a history of St Edward’s. Bellamy was clearly something of an historian; his research being methodical and thorough into the history of the parish and the church. Of special interest to me are the paragraphs specifically about the church.

St Edward’s Church is an interesting building with a general lack of internal monuments and memorials but with some stunning stained glass and a very impressive octagonal wooden font cover. Bellamy’s report from 1851 contains information about the church, including internal features which, from memory, no longer exist. Of great interest to the modern historian, from Bellamy are the details of an old Altar-stone or Altar-slab then inserted into the floor of the south aisle. This was probably the Altar-stone from the period prior to the Reformation. If so, it is (was?) remarkably important – as Bellamy says.

What follows are Bellamy’s words with modern photographs taken by me.

In the phraseology of the ancient church system, Shaugh, as a dependent of Plympton Priory is styled a “chapel”.

At the dissolution of the monasteries, William Slanning became the purchaser of the manor from the crown, and from him the property passed through the same series of ownerships as did Bickleigh, Buckland, Walkhampton, &c., on to the present time, when Sir Ralph Lopes is found their lord.

At the dissolution, or rather in 1547, Edward granted the entirety of the “spiritual” possessions of the Priory of Plympton to the Dean and Canons of Windsor, comprising tithes with patronage. The tithes are, however, at this moment, the lessees having the nomination and payment of the “Perpetual Curate”, whose income is, also, assisted by “Queen Anne’s Bounty”, and a residence adjoining the church.

Shaugh is comprised in the Deanery of Plympton and Archdeaconry of Totnes.

Now Bellamy gets into the detail of the church itself:

The plan of the church is sufficiently simple: – a shallow chancel not distinguished in height from the rest of the building, a nave, an aisle on either side, a very large and elegant tower of three stages, at the termination of the nave, and a south-west porch (of good dimensions), giving, with the tower door, two entrances.

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The interior of St Edward’s Church, Shaugh Prior (2015)

The small projection from the north wall for the stairs of the Rood Loft remains, but the screen itself has disappeared.

There was formerly much painted glass in the chancel window; a pane bearing the shield of the Priory of Plympton is all that now remains through negligence and the efforts of the storm elsewhere noted, and that has been removed to the modern south window of the chancel.

The font dates from an earlier era than the “Perpendicular”, being quite plain like some of the “Early English” and “Decorated” times. It is of Porphyry and octagonal. Its wooden cover or canopy is however “Perpendicular”. It is elaborately, though not well carved with oak and foliage and fruit, and with human figures at the top angles. The original cover was, no doubt, from the marks yet left, a flat one with padlock.

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Font and wonderful font cover

A broken projecting piece of stone at the south-west angle of the chancel is judged to have sustained, originally, a figure of the Church’s patron saint, St Edward.

The stoup, piscina and sedilia are all destroyed: a cutting for a “Debased” window abolished the two latter in the south wall of the chancel.

Surmise has not done much in explanation of a squared and elevated recess in the north wall of the chancel; but we may, here, risk the supposition of its once serving as a cupboard for the security of the sacramental vessels and the like. At the west end of the south aisle are some remnants of the old open oak seating, claiming, certainly no antiquity than, if so great as, the “Perpendicular” additions elsewhere spoken of.

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East window of chancel, Shaugh Prior (2015)

A Greek cross, crosslet, ornaments on the gable of the south aisle, and a wheel cross that of the chancel.

The porch has a ceiling supported by a groin of two intersecting porphyritic arches, one of which at one end has a human head. Over the porch is a room unoccupied, reached by some stone steps from the interior; it is a parvise, but its lowness makes it difficult to suppose the priest ever used it. The tower has six bells.

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South west porch, Shaugh Prior (2015)

There are bossed ceilings to each division of the church, and besides the commoner devices, throughout of leaves, heads &c., the chancel and north aisle present us with the two keys and sword – the shield of the Priory to which the church was attached. These ceilings are not numerous; they look like knotted net-works spread overhead and are almost ever sculptured at the knotted points with grotesque heads, devices of foliage or arms of church benefactors. The cornice and ribs of the framework in the north aisle are sculptured with vine and oak foliage; those of the nave and south aisle are plain. The squared divisions in the south ceiling are parallelograms; those of the nave and north ceiling are nearly equal sided.

The risings towards and in the chancel, are altogether four in number; the first constitutes a stage about three feet wide, and simply relieves the ascent to the intra-cancellated  part; the second is the stage on which the cancellated or “tabernacle” work rested; the third, is a square platform, just in advance of, and running back into the chancel, but not reaching sideways to the aisles; and the fourth is a small square in the chancel, enclosed by rails on three sides, on which the minister stands and moves in the office of communion. The general ascent which, in this way, the floor of the church has from about its middle, is met in another portion of the architecture, namely, the height of the shafts of the two series of arches, which at the east end of the church are shorter than those at the west. The parallel of this is seen in Wembury church. The small square chancel platform is not an original erection; the tombs in it are dated at the earliest juncture of the 18th century, and it rests on a tomb dated 1661.

The most remarkable item in Shaugh Church is an Altar-slab of porphyry, having on it the customary five small crosses (crosses with crosslets) set symmetrically. It now lies in the floor of the east division of the south aisle. It is about two feet broad and rather above five feet long; its surface is not smoothened. The extreme rarity of this article of ancient Church-furniture should induce the proper authorities to have it restored, as at St Columb, setting it in a wooden or other framework, and adopting it instead of the present table, which is excessively poor.

The existing parish registers commence their dated in 1565, a date unusually early for these documents, though the Landulph and Bere Ferrers dates begin in 1540, being two years after Cromwell, a Vicar-General, ordered their being kept.

Of great interest to family historians are the details of memorials in the church (some of which no longer exist?):

CHANCEL

Charles MARSHALL, 1726

Ellen MABBOTT, 1711 : (it appears by the record on the slab that she gave £40 per year to the poor of the parish; but it does not appear, even after investigation of the Commissioner, this charity – like too many others – has ever been known beyond an intention).

Here lieth the body of Frances, ye daughter of Francis ___sdon of Bickleigh, Esquire, the wife of Arthur HELE of Pethill, gent., who died the ___ day of April Anno Dom. 1661 : (although the stone is defective where the name of the parent occurs, there is the greatest reason to infer from the right hand division of the impaled shield bearing three arrows or bolts, that is was RISDON. He may have been the son of Thomas, the son of “Giles RISDON of Bableigh”, (Westcote). Arthur HELE may, possibly, have been the son of Sampson HELE of Holbeton, (Sheriff 18th, James 1st.) and Joan, daughter of Judge GLANVILLE, his wife. Pethill is in Shaugh Parish.)

[NB – the Shaugh Prior parish registers record: “Frances HELE, the Wife of Arthur HELE, gent., was buried the 11th day of April 1661”

SOUTH AISLE – Mural Monument

Sacred to the memory of William MARTYN, Esq., the last of an ancient family, who died (at Coldstone, in this parish), April 20, 1758, aged 74, and was buried near this place. This pile was erected by Mrs Joan COLE and Mrs Jane TOZER, his sole executrixes. His natural endowments were briefly Humanity, Generosity, Sagacity. In Literature, he was superior to most men. In temperance he was almost unparalleled. He chose a sequestered life, preferring learned east to the noise and bustle of the world; hating as Horace elegantly expresses it “Funum et opes strepitumque Romoe”. Shield – a chevron with three hounds thereon, crest, an eagle with expanded wings, resting on a globe.

In the churchyard is a large altar tomb of granite, sculptured in two spots on the sides, as in preparation for armorial bearings. At one end if a sculpture indicating two hearts entwined, and on the top there had, once, been a plate of brass with inscription. However, with these difficulties in the way of determining its history, it was lately, accidently disclosed the tomb encloses the remains of two sisters, named BOYS who in the year 1711 died at Lower Ley, in the parish, of some contagious malady, on two consecutive days.

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Altar tomb, Shaugh Prior (2015)

In another part of the yard, an example is presented of the fondness of our rustics to name, in a painstaking manner, circumstances, that seem to them remarkable without really belonging to a higher class than unusual coincidences. Thus, it is recorded of Richard LILLICRAP, that dying aet: 80 in 1744, he had “lived to see seven kings and queens reign”.

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Headstone for my 8th Great Grandparents, Richard and Ipsibeth LILLICRAPE, 1664-1744 (2015)

In the churchyard is the lower portion of a cross, the pedestal of which is buried under a seat in the south of the nave; at the distance of a stone’s throw, roughly located on the top of a hedge, or boundary of great unhewn stones, is a second, dilapidated; whilst at about two miles from the village, on the approach from Plympton, is a ruined third, occupying an open spot, where the road divides itself into two smaller ones, proceeding, each, to a different part of the village.

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The magnificent tower at Shaugh Prior (2015)

© Graham Naylor

Roman Catholic Chapel, Yealmpton

The historian will find little documentary evidence towards the short-lived history of the Roman Catholic chapel at Yealmpton in the 1850s.

The Very Rev. George Oliver, D.D., Canon of the RC Diocese of Plymouth,  records in his wonderful tome “Collections illustrating the history of the Catholic religion in the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire and Gloucester”, published in 1857 offers some of the most interesting information relating to the chapel and its benefactor, Mr Edmund Rodney Pollexfen Bastard, 1825-1856.

Oliver says:

About the time that England was maddened with the “No Popery” cry, November 1850, renewed by the restitution of the hierarchy, that calm observer and sincere inquirer after truth, Edmund Rodney Pollexfen Bastard, of Kitley, Esq., received the light of Catholic faith. Some months later he assisted at the solemn consecration by Cardinal Wiseman of Dr George Errington, appointed the new Bishop of Plymouth, at St John’s Cathedral, Salford, on 25th July 1851; and he accompanied his lordship into his diocese, entertaining him honourably at Kitley until the middle of October, when the worthy prelate was enabled to take up his quarters at St Mary’s, Stonehouse.

In his pious zeal, this new convert obtained a chaplain in the person of the learned and Very Rev. John Brande Morris, who had some years before embraced the Catholic faith. And, to extend the blessing of true religion, he converted a handsome structure, near Yealmpton parish church, originally intended by him for a parochial school, into a Catholic church. There Mass was first celebrated on Sunday, 4th July 1852; and I pray to Heaven that through the apostolic exertions of his minister, “aperiat Dominus gentibus ostium fidei.” – Acts xiv. 26.

Since writing the above, I have to regret that this honoured patron of religion has been taken away! He was born 7th September 1825; married Florence Mary Scroope, of the ancient family of Danby, November 1853; ob. 12th June 1856.

What quickly becomes clear is that the church at Yealmpton was in operation from 1852 until (presumably) shortly after the death of Bastard in 1856. The local press of the time making it clear that the local population at Yealmpton had not embraced Roman Catholicism!

The only source to provide a little description of the church, and provide information on its benefactor can be found in the form of Bastard’s funeral report from within pages of the Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse Herald, of Saturday 21 June 1858. This was not a paper sympathetic to the Catholic cause and its occasionally arcane, offensive tone is certainly not something I find comfortable reading. The report said:

THE LATE MR BASTARD

Our obituary of this week records the death of Edmund Rodney Pollexfen Bastard, Esq., of Kitley, Yealmpton, in the 31st year of his age. The deceased was the eldest son of the late Edmund Pollexfen Bastard, Esq., who succeeded his uncle, and was one of the representatives of the county of Devon from 1816 to 1830. He was educated at Oxford, where he exhibited considerable talents, took high honours, and was much esteemed. Sometime after leaving college he came to reside at Kitley, much to the satisfaction of his numerous tenantry, who were delighted to find that their landlord was about to reside at his family seat.

Amongst other improvements Mr Bastard undertook to renovate Yealmpton Church, a very ancient structure, at a cost, we have been informed, of about £7000. The work has been carried out, and it is now one of the handsomest churches in the county. He also contributed most liberally to the local charities, and took a warm interest in all matters connected with the prosperity of the neighbourhood; and from his kindness of heart and amiability of disposition he endeared himself to all with whom he came in contact.

So far, this is an almost typical C19 obituary, but it continues:

Unfortunately a few years since, to the great grief of his family and friends, he became a pervert to the Roman Catholic Church. It was generally known that for some time prior he had been intimately connected with the Puseyite or Tractarian party in the church, and the result was that in his case, as in many others, the adoption of extreme views of that party paved the way for his subsequent desertion of the church of his fathers for that of the Roman fold. He subsequently married a lady of the same creed, established a Roman Catholic chapel in the village, and up to his death continued a zealous member of that faith. As he died without issue, his brother, Capt. Bastard succeeds to the family estates.

Such harsh language – but typical as any Puseyite scholar can testify from the mid-C19!

The obituary concludes with a report of the funeral:

His remains were brought from the Isle-of-Wight on Wednesday evening, and were immediately conveyed to Kitley.

The funeral took place on Friday, and was attended by the tenantry, the neighbouring gentry, &c. The body was taken from the mansion to the Roman Catholic Chapel, which had been prepared for its reception, and had a very sombre appearance. The building was hung with black Cobourg cloth, the altar, &c., being covered with black silk velvet. The usual service of the Church of Rome for the dead was performed with great solemnity; the priests, &c., from St Mary’s Chapel, Stonehouse, being in attendance.

The body was then taken from the chapel, and the service of the Protestant Church having been performed, his remains were interred in a vault in the burial ground attached to the church.

The hearse and coaches were supplied by Mr Bate of the Royal Hotel, and the funeral was served by Messrs. P. Adams & Co.

The final paragraph serves to hammer the final nail in the Catholic coffin!

The loss of Mr Bastard will no doubt be a death blow to the Roman Catholic establishment at Yealmpton. It has made little or no progress with the inhabitants; its followers are exotics, who will, no doubt, take their departure from the village now their prop is removed.

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EDMUND RODNEY POLLEXFEN BASTARD

1825-1856

Requiescat in pace

© Graham Naylor