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All Saints Church, East Budleigh

It’s been quite some time since I last added a post to my Church Crawler’s Journal so my visit to All Saints Church at East Budleigh yesterday helps put it right.

For many years I’ve been researching my family history connected to East Budleigh; namely the Barratt, Stone and Webber families, alongside a number of others. I’ve discovered that most of the family lived at Budleigh Salterton which falls inside the parish of East Budleigh and as was typical, the families used their parish church for significant family events of baptisms, marriages and burials.

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All Saints Church is a particularly lovely church, set high above the main street of East Budleigh which lends to thinking that the church site is of an ancient origin, almost certainly Anglo-Saxon.

John Stabb in his super volumes Some old Devon churches, volume 1, 1908 provides some useful history on All Saints Church –

The church consists of chancel, nave, north and south aisles, south porch, and embattled western tower with clock and six bells – five cast in 1755 and one added in 1875. It was probably erected between 1420 and 1425 on the site of an earlier church, and is noted for its connection with the Raleigh family, its carved bench ends and its rood screen. The latter is of the same type as those in Bow, Braunton and Calverleigh, square-headed lights with pierced spandrels. At one time there was a rood loft supported by a beam fixed above the screen. This loft must have projected two to three feet from the chancel arch; the end of the beam was found in its original position some years since when the rood staircase was opened up. The cresting of the screen is comparatively modern, and in the lower panels the oak has been replaced with deal.

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The entrance to the staircase is between the pier of the chancel and of the south aisle and the first half pier of the nave, the lower and upper doorways both face the nave. There is a curious hagioscope in the staircase, this could not have been for the use of the congregation unless the door was kept open. A second hagioscope is in the south aisle, separated from the rood staircase by the width of the half pier of the nave. The position of the staircase is rather unusual, a somewhat similar example is to be found at Lydford.

The carved bench ends are unusually rich, they date from 1537.

At the eastern end of the central aisle on the north side is the Raleigh pew, with the family arms caved on the end. It is rather remarkable that there should be no religious symbol carved on any of the pews.

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The Raleigh bench end dated 1537. Presumably, because the bench ends do not carry religious iconography this aided their preservation during the Reformation.

At the east end of the central aisle is the gravestone of the second wife of Sir Walter Raleigh’s father. The inscription, through age, is difficult to read. Dr. Oliver gives it as follows:

Orate  pro  aia
Johanne Raleyh uxoris Walti
Raleyh que
Obiit X Die Mens Augusti Anno Dni M C C . . . .

The registers date,  baptisms, 1555; marriages, 1556; burials, 1562.

The first vicar mentioned is Stephen de Budleigh, admitted July 11th 1261, on the presentation of the Prioress and Convent of Polsloe [Exeter].

In a companion volume, entitled Devon church antiquities, 1909, John Stabb elaborates a little further on the wonderful carved bench ends –

This church is rich in carved bench ends. They are square-headed and about 3 feet high, and from 16 to 17 inches broad. There are about sixty-three remaining, and in no two cases is the carving alike. On one there is a man’s head with the mouth open, showing the teeth with something between them, whether his tongue or a substance he is supposed to be swallowing it is difficult to say; another has a griffin in a sitting position, another a head with a long beard, another an angel bearing a shield with the arms of the St. Clere family, another a ship with three masts, riding on the sea; and yet another bears the arms of the Raleigh family, with the date at the bottom. The rood screen is of the same square-headed type as the one at Braunton.

Although the carved bench ends demand perhaps the most attention inside All Saints, there is much else of interest including the pulpit, designed by Fellowes-Prynne and executed by Harry Hems of Exeter in 1894. Also of interest is the chancel since it is possible to ascertain the extension made to it in 1853 by the now slightly unusual position of the piscina.

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Most of the stained glass in the church appears to date from the mid C19 is probably the work of Beer of Exeter. More research to follow…

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The Font is recorded by Pevsner as ‘panelled perpendicular’. It often amazes me how people pass Fonts by without giving them much attention. I stopped beside the Font at All Saints to consider my own ancestors who once stood around that sacred vessel over the last few hundred years. Tactile history, yet contemporary also. How wonderful!

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Also of interest is the modern organ placed in the tower arch. I could find no history in the church to provide history on the instrument but presume it was installed in its current position in the last 20-30 years.

Finally, I almost missed the wonderful parish chest with its set of locks – it was dark inside the church and I mistook the chest for a low table at first. It’s a super remnant of ancient days. If only it could speak (!)

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East Budleigh’s most famous son, Sir Walter Raleigh is honoured outside the church with a superb statue unveiled by HRH the Duke of Kent in 2006. It is interesting to consider that despite the modernisation of the village with motor transport and telegraph poles, perhaps little else has changed since his day. Perhaps he, alongside many of my own ancestors would recognise much of East Budleigh today.

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© Graham Naylor

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