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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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…
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!
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 (!)
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.
© Graham Naylor
St Nicholas’ Church at Nether Compton (near the Somerset/Dorset border, and 3 miles west of Sherborne) stands in a peaceful and rural setting. It is beautifully kept and on the day of my visit was filled with the most beautifully scented flowers.
The purpose of my visit to St Nicholas’ was twofold; firstly, to admire and soak up the atmosphere of this ancient House of God and secondly to wander in the footsteps of my ancestors, some of whom possessed the Cure of Souls here in the distant 16th Century.
St Nicholas’ has stood at Nether Compton since the 13th Century – when the nave, chancel and entrance porch were erected. The tower was added later in the 15th Century, at which time the church was further enlarged, becoming the building we see today.
It’s likely the first clergy to minister at Nether Compton were the Benedictine Monks from the nearby Sherborne Abbey. This assumption is based, according to the Church Guide, from the fact that there is no appointment of a Rector to the parish until 1405.
My own interests at Nether Compton begin in the 1530s just prior to, and after the Reformation and the Dissolution of Sherborne Abbey. At this time we meet one Rev. Pancras Growte who was instituted as Rector of Nether Compton in 1535. Growte appears to have begun his religious career at Sherborne, originally as a school teacher and later as organist at All Hallows Church, Sherborne from 1524-1527. His appointment to Nether Compton began soon after his Ordination in 1533. Growte’s name also appears amongst those given an annuity after the Dissolution of Sherborne Abbey in 1539 so he must have spent some time there, possibly as a Monk.
Pancras Growte remained as Rector of Nether Compton until his death there in 1579. His Last Will and Testament prove of great interest since it is within this document I find reference to my own ancestors, thereby giving me a potential family link to this interesting man.
In his Will he leaves legacies to his cousins Elizabeth of Stanlinge, Edith and Agnes of Armitage (where are these places?) but primarily his estate is left to members of the Fathers family, including my 12th Great Grandfather, John Fathers and his children; Giles, Thomas, Nicholas and my 11th Great Grandmother, Agnes Fathers.
My presumption is that John Fathers’ wife was possibly a relation to Pancras Growte, thereby creating the family link.
Agnes Fathers, my 11th Great Grandmother, married the Rev. John Keyllwaye alias Clarke at Nether Compton in 1581. This man was of a greatly religious family where most males became Anglican clergyman. John Keyllwaye alias Clarke (sometimes known as Rev. John Clarke or Rev. John Keyllwaye) was Rector at Nether Compton from 1579-1608 and members of this family served as Rector here until the early 1630s.
In feeling such a personal connection to St Nicholas’ Church it was natural for me to wonder how much the place had changed and ponder upon their lives in this lovely place.
Both Pancras Growte and John Keyllwaye alias Clarke lived through those turbulent post-Reformation years embracing willingly, or perhaps not, the many ecclesiastical and liturgical changes of the time.
The Church Guide offers some interesting insights into the life of St Nicholas’ after my ancestor’s connections. In the summer 1645 for example, we learn that Oliver Cromwell’s men stabled their horses inside the church and “burnt popish furnishings” – presumably any of those relics which had already survived the purges of the century before. St Nicholas’ is unusual in possessing a late 15th Century stone rood-screen. Perhaps this rather permanent structure saved it from destruction?
Of interest to many are the internal fixtures and fittings of the church including the lovely 17th Century pews and the pulpit, thought to date to circa 1600. The Font which is octagonal and made of sandstone dates to the 14th Century.
The Chancel is plain with a beautiful two light stained glass window depicting the Resurrection.
Around St Nicholas’ Church, internally and externally, one is able to see a number of Consecration Crosses. This is one of a few churches in which I have noticed so many. There is also a wonderful ‘scratch dial’ cut into the stone of the south porch. This primitive form of sundial provided each villager with correct time for Mass.
This is a very beautiful church and one that glows golden in glorious summer sunshine, as indeed it did on my visit.
© Images and Text by Graham Naylor
There have been three separate Roman Catholic church buildings dedicated to St Augustine in Manchester.
The first, the subject of this article, originated in 1820. After 88 years it closed its doors having been sold to the Manchester Corporation in 1908. It was then, with the money from this sale, that a new church dedicated to St Augustine was opened at York Street.
The York Street Church had an even shorter life span, 32 years – it was destroyed during the Christmas Blitz of 1940.
The third Church is one I am familiar with; opened on Grosvenor Square at All Saints in 1968 it stands on the modern-day campus of the Manchester Metropolitan University. It was built on the site of a former church dedicated to the Holy Family, built in 1845. When this Church was demolished it provided the ideal space for a new church. St Augustine’s is a thoroughly modern building and one I greatly enjoyed spending time in peace and quiet in when I was at University.
The chance finding and purchase of a fascinating postcard of the first St Augustine’s Church has prompted me to learn something of the history of the first building. There is much to be discovered – not least from newspaper sources and books written on the history of the Salford Diocese and of Manchester in general. What follows represents the gathering of some sources together to relate something of its history.
Although not the oldest Catholic Church in Manchester (that accolade went to St Chad’s on Rook Street, near the present Market Street, and the second oldest, St Mary’s (The Hidden Gem) on Mulberry Street which still exists and was opened in 1794.)
The origins of St Augustine’s (and earlier, that of St Mary’s) are rooted with one Father Broomhead who had become known as the ‘patriarch of Manchester Catholics’ during his 44 year priesthood. Fr. Broomhead arrived at St Chad’s in 1778 and soon set about ministering to Manchester Catholics spread throughout the district from Bolton to Oldham to Stockport. It was a large ‘parish’.
The increased population in Manchester during the early C19 caused by the successes of the Industrial Revolution saw an increased demand for churches of each denomination in Manchester. To meet the need for Roman Catholics Fr. Broomhead concentrated on erecting a new building – St Augustine’s.
He lived to see the building of the beautiful Gothic church of St Augustine’s, Granby Row, designed by Mr John Palmer. When Pugin saw the inside of the church he said “This man built a hundred years before his time”. Was St Augustine’s therefore an inspiration to Pugin’s future churches?
St Augustine’s was opened for worship on 27 September 1820 (the total cost of building was £10,000).
Father Broomhead died at Rook Street on the 12 October 1820, soon after the opening of St Augustine’s. He was buried before the high altar at Granby Row, as this church was looked upon as his monument.
In his book, Salford Diocese and its Catholic past, (1950) Fr C. A. Bolton says:
One of the perils that priests were sometimes called upon to face in the nineteenth century was the risk of becoming a victim to the typhoid epidemics, when called to visit the sick and dying. Owing to the unhealthy conditions prevailing in some of the overcrowded slums and factories, there were several devastating outbreaks of typhus and cholera.
The Manchester Gazette for November 13, 1824, printed the following:
Yesterday of typhus fever at this house in Granby Row, the Rev. John Ashurst, Catholic Priest, in the 36th year of his age. He was the worthy successor of the Rev. Roland Broomhead, and particularly active in the erection of the noble edifice of St Augustine’s. He needs no eulogy in these pages: the poor will recount his virtues and everyone who knew him will lament his loss.
Sadly, Father Ashurst was not the only priest at St Augustine’s to be classed a “Martyr of Charity”. Other priests buried at St Augustine’s included Fr. Henry Gillow, the Rector of St Mary’s, Mulberry Street. He died on 25 February 1837, aged 41 of fever, then spreading throughout his parish. Bolton records that
The good priest’s funeral was one of the most remarkable sights that Manchester had so far witnessed. Thousands lined the streets to watch nine mourning coaches and twenty-eight carriages follow the hearse from St Mary’s to St Augustine’s, Granby Row; some five hundred gentlemen in mourning concluded the sad procession”.
Another of these victims in Manchester was Fr. John Parsons, who had laboured at St Augustine’s and at Rook Street. Fr. Parsons had been appointed assistant priest at St Augustine’s in 1826. He died of typhus fever, April 23, 1838 at the early age of 35. He was first interred at St Augustine’s and was later removed to Moston on August 2, 1909, along with the remains of several other priest-victims of typhus – Fr. Ashurst, Fr. Gillow, and Fr. Laytham*, together with the coffin of Fr. Broomhead and several other pioneers of the faith in Manchester. This was on account of the closure and subsequent demolition of the old St Augustine’s.
* Fr. John Laytham died of fever on 15 January 1838 at Mulberry Street, aged 28.
Manchester Guidebooks are a useful source which reveal snippets of history regarding Manchester’s Churches and places of worship.
A picture of Manchester by Joseph Aston, 3rd ed. 1826:
ST AUGUSTINE’S CATHOLIC CHAPEL
In Granby-Row, is a Gothic building, with a stone front. Its interior is really beautiful, and does credit to the architect, Mr. J. Palmer. The groining of the roof is much admired by all who view it; and the whole effect of the coup d’oeil is highly imposing. The altar, which is much elevated, was brought from Italy. It is composed of the finest Greek and Italian marble. This chapel, which was consecrated Sept. 27, 1820, ought to be viewed by strangers. The present ministers are, the Reverend Joseph Crooke, James Rigby, and Joseph Sherwin.
Cornish’s Guide to Manchester and Salford (1857) records that St Augustine’s Church:
“Situated in Granby Row, opposite St Simon and St Jude’s Church is a large brick building, with a stone front; a neat structure, in the early Gothic style of architecture, from the design of Mr. J. Palmer. The cost of its erection was £10,000. It was opened in October, 1820 [should be September, 1820]. The interior is very handsomely decorated; the ceiling coloured blue and white; the capitals of the pillars and the cornices of the galleries are richly gilded and coloured. Over the altar is a beautiful three light window, filled with stained glass, by Wailes of Newcastle. The central compartment contains full-length figures of the Virgin and Child; on the right stands the figure of St Augustine, the patron of the church, who was sent by Pope Gregory to covert the English nation. The figure in the left hand compartment is St Gregory. There are three galleries in the chapel, one of which contains a fine organ, by Renn, which cost £800. There are sittings in the chapel for 1500 persons.”
In 1906 it became known that the site of St Augustine’s Church was required by the Manchester Corporation for a different use. Negotiations between the Church and the Corporation resulted in the identification of a new church site – at York Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock.
The Tablet reported upon the arrangements on Saturday, 16 June 1906:
The old church was closed in 1908. Demolition of the church and clearing of the churchyard began in 1909. The site was later used to construct the Manchester Technical College.
Relating to the old church – Bolton published the following superb and illuminating memories of one who knew the church:
A LADY’S REMINISCENCE OF OLD ST AUGUSTINE’S, GRANBY ROW
I will try to set down some memories of St Augustine’s, Granby Row as told to me by an old lady who was a parishioner for very many years. She was there in the time of Canon Wilding and Fr. William Burke. She spoke of the wonderful Missions. The first Mass was at five o’clock, as the people had to be at work at six. At one of these Missions, she remembers hearing the great Father Anthony preach. She also described the Church as it was decorated for Quarant’ Ore and Feasts of the Blessed Sacrament.
The Church had pillars leading to the Gallery which went all round the Church. These pillars were adorned with flowers and garlands, and at the level of the gallery with a lighted candle. The gallery was festooned with red and white and there were also bunches of grapes and wheat. When the candles on the altar were alight, this being very high, with a lot of steps leading to it, the sight was very beautiful. Of the two side altars, the Lady Altar was erected by the Children of Mary in 1883 to the memory of Canon Wilding. The picture in the Sacred Heart Altar was brought from Paray-le-Monial by Canon Wilding. These were the Altars which were in York Street, until replaced by the marble ones erected by the late Dean Dunleavy.
Some of the things that I remember most about the old Church are the High Mass on Sundays, the Blessed Sacrament Processions, with the men and boys walking, and the Guild of the Blessed Sacrament, watching, looking like Nuns in habits and veils; the Missions, the Holy Year celebrations at the beginning of the century, going in procession from Granby Row to Belle Vue to join in the great demonstration against the Education Bill – The Canon’s great fighting spirit when anything threatened the schools – The procession from Granby Row to York Street for the laying of the foundation stone for the new church-and finally the last Sunday Service before the closing.
Two recent Rectors of the parish have been outstanding characters in the Diocese – Canon George Richardson and Monsignor Poock. Canon Richardson came of a family of distinguished converts from Derby. His father was known as the first Catholic lawyer in Manchester. Father Richardson’s chief interest as a priest was in Catholic education. From 1887 he was head of the Diocesan Inspectors and took active part in the work. He was an able member of the Catholic Education Council of Great Britain. He was largely responsible for the establishment of the Catholic Training College at Sedgley Park under the Faithful Companions of Jesus.
In spite of many calls upon him from outside his parish, he was always devoted to the pastoral charge of souls and was a true friend of the poor. When he died on June 10, 1909, many suffered a great loss, and the Diocese was deprived of one of its most distinguished and capable servants. Besides being a great priest he was a fine English gentleman.
Canon Anselm Poock was generally known as Monsignor Poock. He is still a legend in the Diocese, partly because of his physical eminence, and more so because of his deeply spiritual character and unselfish devotedness to whatever task he had in hand. He was born at Ipswich in 1864, and was first a Baptist and then an Anglican. He was received as a convert by Bishop Herbert Vaughan when he was 21. He underwent the severe training of Salford Catholic Grammar School, and then from 1887 was seven years at Ushaw. In 1894 he studied for a time at Bonn and then went to Saint Sulpice in Paris, where the training left a permanent impression on his outlook. He was ordained at Salford in 1896 and appointed as curate at the Cathedral. In 1900 he became Procurator at St Bede’s College and after three years succeeded Dr Casartelli as Rector. He was entirely devoted to the spiritual and temporal welfare of the College, and kept it in close touch with the clergy of the Diocese. He travelled far and wide as a preacher.
As Rector of St Augustine’s from 1912, he became a prominent citizen of Manchester and often sat on Town Hall Committees, more especially those concerned with the poor. His one recreation was music and playing the organ.
Shortly before his death he helped to form the first Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes (1924). He died suddenly in 1926, having refused to rest, saying with his characteristic solemnity: “Unfortunately I have a conscience.”
St Augustine’s was destroyed during the Christmas bombardment of Manchester in 1940. An assistant priest, Father George Street, was killed and Dean Dunleavy was injured. Father George Street, a devoted priest, had formerly been associated with the Catholic Land Movement.
Since the destruction of the fine old church, the congregation has taken refuge in the small Holy Family church. Thus St Augustine’s has twice lost its church. The fine building built by Palmer in Granby Row was sold to Manchester Corporation and a larger church opened in York Street, 1908.
There is plenty else to find on the history of this Church and I’ll update and add more information as it becomes available. In the meantime I cannot but think on how I would have loved a chance to visit this wonderful church!
© Graham Naylor
St Andrew’s Cross is a name familiar to most Plymothians today as it is marked mainly by the large roundabout situated at the top of Royal Parade, near to Bretonside. But what of its older namesake?
The original St Andrew’s Cross stood on the site of the old churchyard of St Andrew’s Church – immediately outside the north porch and entrance.
Over the centuries the churchyard had been used almost continually for burials. Consequently the churchyard became heaped up high above the street level and it hid a good part of the north wall of the church. Under the auspices of ‘improvement’ the churchyard ‘mound’, as it had become known, presented an opportunity for change and civic improvement to the Plymouth Borough Council.
In May 1893, local man, James Hine submitted a plan for laying out St Andrew’s Churchyard to the Hoe and Recreation Ground Committee of Plymouth Borough Council. In his explanation, the Town Clerk explained that it was proposed to erect in the centre of the churchyard a cross to the memory of the old Plymothians buried there. He said that “the cross would be between 60 and 70 feet high, and would break the span of St Andrew’s Church roof which, as they were aware, was quite straight. The mound would be levelled to the level of the street, which would be widened, and paths in the form of a St Andrew’s cross would be cut through the ground, which would be enclosed and laid out with flower beds. The plan had been approved by the St Andrew’s Church authorities. The cost of the work would be £2,500, but the land given to the public would be of considerably greater value. The remains of the persons buried there would be re-interred in the Westwell Street burial ground, except in one instance in which the relatives had expressed a desire that their ancestors should be removed to the cemetery.”
Soon after the plan had been presented to the Borough Council a faculty for the removal of graves was submitted to the Diocese of Exeter by the Town Clerk, Mr. J. H. Ellis. This application resulted in an official enquiry, held on an order of the Bishop of Exeter.
The purpose of the enquiry was to “hear of any objections which might be made as to the alteration or removal of tombstones, &c., in connection with the widening of Bedford Street by the removal of the churchyard.”
At the enquiry the Town Clerk reported that 371 tombs were affected. The relatives of only ten of the persons interred however could be traced as there had been no burials there for some time. They [the Borough Council] had every assistance from the authorities of St Andrew’s Church, but were unable to find more than the number he had mentioned.
The Diocesan representative, clearly in agreement with the proposals is stated as replying saying, almost casually, “That shews how soon people pass out of knowledge”.
The Town Clerk continued in his report by saying that there had been burials at late as 1864 and one in 1890. The relatives of the last mentioned person, a Miss Webber, had been communicated with and they concurred the removal. He next produced the by-laws which prohibited the playing of any games on the open space to be provided. There was no opposition to the scheme to his knowledge.
In detailing the proposal further the Town Clerk said that the Borough Council proposed to level the mound outside the church to the street surface and to erect in the centre a handsome memorial cross, and to surround it by an ornamental railing of appropriate design. There would be gates which would be closed at night to keep people off the ground.
In a major amendment to the original plan, the Town Clerk reported that the removal of the bodied to the Westwell Street burial ground was undesirable on sanitary grounds, and therefore, instead of removing them, they proposed to make a proper receptacle below the surface of the ground in which to place the remains, expect in certain cases where it was desired that they should be removed to the Plymouth Cemetery. In those cases freehold graves or vaults would be purchased and given to the relatives. The surplus soil, the consecrated earth, would be removed to the consecrated ground in Westwell Street.
Surprisingly perhaps, there was very little public opposition to the removal of the churchyard and work on preparing the site for the new memorial began early in 1894 with a completion date for the project of 6 May 1895.
The Western Morning News of Saturday, 2 February 1895 offers us a glimpse towards the great progress made, as follows:
“The partial removal of the hoarding which for some months has hid from view the operations of the workmen engaged in removing the old burial mound opposite St Andrew’s Church, Plymouth, and converting it into an open space, has enabled the public to note the progress made with the work, and to form some idea of the extent and character of the improvement now approaching completion. The remains of some 1,500 bodies buried there have been reverently removed, some, at the request of relatives, re-interred at the Plymouth Cemetery, and the remainder in a large vault excavated below the original graves. The mound has also been lowered to the level of the adjacent streets, the consecrated earth having been removed to the Westwell Street Burial Ground, and the memorial cross erected in the centre of the ground is all but complete. Beyond the finishing touches to this work, all that remains to be done is the removal of the wall and railings which enclose the mound, and the laying out of the ground with intersecting paths in the form of a St Andrew’s Cross. A continuance of the severe wintry weather may cause delay, but it is expected that the work will be completed by Easter, when the latest addition to the open spaces of Plymouth will be dedicated to the public use with some appropriate ceremony, the details of which have yet to be arranged. Already it can be seen that the removal of the unsightly mound, besides enabling the roadway to be considerably widened, will open up a fine view of the handsome block of Guildhall buildings, as well as the ancient fabric of St Andrew’s Church, and effect a most desirable improvement in the centre of the town.”
By April the work of construction was completed with the installation of its finely sculptured figures. The Western Morning News of Tuesday, 23 April 1895 reported that “the memorial cross, which for many months has been in course of construction from the designs of Messrs. Hine and Odgers, is now approaching completion. The services of the sculptors engaged on the Guildhall nearly a quarter of a century ago were happily secured for the present work. The life-size figure representing Hope, by Mr Hems, of Exeter, and the figures emblematic of Charity and Peace, by Mr Trevenen, of Plymouth, were placed in their niches on Friday and Saturday. The figure of Faith, by Mr Bolton, of Cheltenham, will probably be fixed in the niche on the east side today. It is expected that the churchyard improvements will be publicly inaugurated in May.”
Once the final figure had been placed, the date for inauguration was set for Thursday 30 May 1895.
An article in the Western Morning News of Friday, 3 May 1895 reported that “Messrs. Hine and Odgers, of Plymouth, who designed the monument, are to be congratulated upon the production of a very beautiful piece of work. The cross stands on a broad base of polished Aberdeen granite, surrounded by steps laid octagonally, the upper plinth being of local limestone. Above this the whole of the structure is in Portland stone and Mitcheldean red freestone, nearly in alternate layers. The cross itself is in three stages. On each face of the first stage there is a moulded arch with double shafts and capitals. These arches enclose slabs of polished Aberdeen granite, on two of which are inscriptions. That on the northern side reads:
“To the Glory of God, and in memory of parishioners during many centuries buried near this cross.”
On the south side, facing the church, is inscribed:
“Erected Anno Domini 1894. Ven. Archdeacon Wilkinson, Vicar; John. P. Paige, T. G. Greek Wills, Churchwardens.”
The second, or central stage, which is much more elongated, has similar arches and columns. The higher portion of the arches is recessed, and in each of the niches is placed a large sculptured statue, resting on a pillar of polished Aberdeen granite with a carved and moulded capital and moulded base. The figures are carved in Portland stone and are seven feet in height. The one on the east side is emblematic of Faith, and is by Messrs. Bolton, of Cheltenham. On the south side is Hope, carved by Messrs. Hems and Sons, of Exeter, and on the west and north sides are Charity and Peace, the work of Mr Samuel Trevenen, of Plymouth. This stage of the structure is pedimented on each face, and the buttress at each angle terminates with a carved pinnacle. The top stage, which is of lesser width, has also diagonal buttresses, surmounted by smaller pinnacles and the whole terminates in a spiral form with a lofty cross of wrought copper. The structure is finely enriched with carving throughout.
The low boundary wall and railings will be completed by handsomely-designed and decorated wrought iron gates, the work of Messrs. Hardman and Powell, of Birmingham. The whole of the works have been carried out to the design and under the direction of Messrs. Hine and Odgers, the contractor being Mr J. Finch, of Plymouth.
To complete the dedication of the newly erected Cross, a hymn was specially written by the Borough Librarian, W. H. K. Wright and was set to music by the organist of St Andrew’s Church, Harry Moreton.
The completed Cross and gardens provided a beautiful space for relaxation and contemplation within the busy and rapidly expanding town centre until the dark days of World War Two.
During the second night of the Plymouth Blitz – Friday 21 March to the early morning of Saturday, 22 March 1941 St Andrew’s Church and the immediate vicinity scored direct hits by incendiary and high explosive bombs. The destruction of this night did great damage to St Andrew’s Cross – the story goes that a large land mine, or other high explosive bomb, fell just outside the north porch of the Church and close to the Cross. Although the detonation of the bomb didn’t destroy the Cross structure (or the church), the Cross was said to have been entirely lifted and dropped back to the ground – leaving the memorial unstable and unsafe. Its removal therefore became inevitable and it began being dismantled and removed in November 1941.
Happily however, we in Plymouth today can see something of the remains of the cross in a number of places. The wrought copper cross was salvaged and presented to St Andrew’s Church. This beautiful piece of metalwork is viewable to day inside the church towards the west of the north aisle.
The original site of St Andrew’s Cross, just outside the north porch, is marked by an original piece of the Cross structure. The marker, which is the original inscribed south panel of Aberdeen granite south panel reads (albeit now very faintly) –
ERECTED A.D. 1894
VEN ARCHDEACON WILKINSON, VICAR
JOHN. P. PAIGE [- CHURCHWARDEN]
T. G. GREEK WILLS [- CHURCHWARDEN]
ST ANDREW’S CROSS
WAS DESTROYED BY ENEMY ACTION
ON THE 21ST MARCH 1941
AND THIS GARDEN REDESIGNED
I wonder how many people walk over this piece of the original structure without even noticing its worn inscription?
Finally, two of the four statues from the original Cross structure survive and can be found close by at Plymouth Guildhall. One statue stands in the former main entrance to the Guildhall, as approached from Guildhall Square, now the carpark. This statue depicts Peace and was carved by Samuel Trevenen. It formerly stood in the north niche – facing over Bedford Street to Spooners Corner. It is a particularly beautiful statue and demands close attention.
The second statue to survive is also the work of Samuel Trevenen and depicts Charity holding a young child. This statue is often mistaken as the Madonna and Child – and as much as I love that idea, we know that isn’t factually correct. This statue once stood in the doorway on the north western side of the Guildhall – i.e. that side nearest Royal Parade and facing Dingles. It was moved afterwards beside the main west entrance to the Guildhall, facing the Civic Centre. In its former life, this statue stood in the western niche of the Cross structure. It’s really pleasing to know the work of Samuel Trevenen, of Plymouth survives.
Quite why the statues of Faith, by Messrs. Bolton, of Cheltenham and Hope by Harry Hems, of Exeter do not survive isn’t clear. Perhaps they were too badly damaged during the bombing raids of the Plymouth Blitz to be saved? Perhaps someone may find that missing piece of the jigsaw someday…
We have therefore some very important remains of the original St Andrew’s Cross in our midst today, whether many Plymothians realise it or not. Perhaps next time you are walking past St Andrew’s Minster Church, or the Guildhall, take a moment to remember the stories and people associated with those sacred spots. I know I will.
© Graham Naylor [archive images supplied courtesy of and copyright to Plymouth Library Services]
Today I visited the beautiful parish church of St Paul de Leon at Staverton. It’s a church that has been on my visit list for some time as I had seen photos of its superb Rood Screen – I knew I had to see it for real and I was not disappointed.
It being the 29th of December and during the Octave of Christmas it was a joy to discover the church be-decked in festive decorations – a superb and huge Christmas tree alongside a beautiful nativity crib scene and evergreen garlands over the central nave aisle. Actually it was rather reminiscent of the best C19 Christmas scenes one sometimes notices in archive photographs of church interiors from Christmas past… The ability therefore to step back in time, in solitude, within God’s House was most welcome today!
Regarding its history, the 1890 Devon Directory doesn’t provide much information about St Paul de Leon at Staverton, however it does offer us a pre-restoration glimpse at the Rood Screen –
The PARISH CHURCH (St Paul) contains a Perpendicular screen, stretching across the whole width of the church. It is unique in some of its features, but, although patched up from time to time has been and still is in an imperfect state, but through the liberality of a friend of the vicar, it is about to be entirely restored at the cost of £700. It has a curious ‘Prie Dieu‘ monument to members of the family of Worthe, or Worthy, the ancient owners of the manor of Metherell, and the donors of this property to the Chapter of Exeter. Many of the windows are filled with stained glass. There is a good peal of six bells. The registers date from 1614. The living is a vicarage, valued in K.B. at £32. 14s. 9 1/2 d., and in 1831 at £394. The Rev. J. B. Hughes*, M.A., is the incumbent, and has a good residence and 3A. 31P of glebe.
[This is the Rev. John Bickley Hughes, M.A., vicar and rural dean]
The best account of the church from the early C20 is of course to be found in John Stabb’s “Some Old Devon Churches”, Volume 1, published in 1908. Stabb’s view of the church in 1908 nicely bridges the gap and documents developments since the 1890 Directory had been published.
Stabb says –
STAVERTON. St Paul’s. (Three miles from Totnes).
The present Church consists of chancel, nave, north and south aisles, south porch with parvise approached by a broad staircase, and west tower, seventy five feet five inches high, containing six bells.
It is probable that there was formerly a Norman Church on the site, as there is part of a Norman arch on the western side of the churchyard, composed of red sandstone, and stones of the same composition have been built into various parts of the Church. The first mention of Staverton Church is on March 25th, 1148, when it was given to the Chapter by Robert, Bishop of Exeter.
In 1881 the dilapidated waggon roof was replaced by one of pitch pine. The stone work of the east and north chancel windows, and also that of the east window of the north aisle, was renewed in 1869, and at the same time the piscina was moved twelve feet to the west, and in its place a recess formed, now used as a credence. There were formerly chapels at the east end of the north and south aisles, the latter dedicated to the Blessed Virgin; the piscina still remains in the south wall; the north chapel is now used as an organ chamber. For many years it was known as the “Worth Chapel,” and on the north wall is a prie dieu monument, dated 1629 belonging to the Worth family, who are known to have been residing in Devonshire in the time of Henry II; the entrance to the roof loft is from this chapel.
The rood screen extends across nave and aisles and is fifty-six feet seven inches in length. The beautiful 15th century carving of the old screen, in fact the whole of the screen, being in a very dilapidated condition, it was decided to restore it in 1891, and to add a gallery front, the old one having been destroyed in the reign of Queen Elizabeth by order of Archbishop Parker. During the demolition of the screen sufficient remains of the old gallery front were found to determine the height, but not enough to enable the original design to be reproduced, so the screen in the north aisle at Atherington was taken as a pattern. On June 7th, 1891, the restored screen was solemnly dedicated. The parclose screens of 15th century date are in very good condition.
There is a fine peal of bells, the 1st, 3rd and 4th of which were cast in 1761 by Thomas Bilbie, the 2nd and 6th were recast in 1856, the 5th dates from 1798.
The first vicar recorded is Walter de Teignmue, September 12th, 1269. The registers date from 1614.
Today’s visit 108 years after John Stabb’s finds the modern church changed but not substantially altered. Here are my thoughts:
The visitor to Staverton is presented with a wonderful view of the church from the neighbouring roadway. At first the building appears shrouded with large evergreen trees but one can soon appreciate the church in all its glory.
Opening the churchyard gate I made my way to the magnificent south porch – alluded to by Stabb – but in passing note only. I found it to be something of a remarkable porch – much larger than you’ll find at most other Devonshire parish churches. It being the Christmas Season the porch was beautifully decorated – and then your eyes behold the stunning and ancient South Door – the grand wooden door (which takes a bit of a push to open)!
Once inside the church my eyes were drawn initially to the scale of the nave – it’s a large building and perhaps not exactly what I’d expected. At first my eyes were not fixed on the rood screen or any other item of furniture – no, it was upon the subtle beauty of the festive decorations within the building. The evergreen garland hanging over the middle aisle and decorations around the nave windows were most beautiful.
The church doesn’t contain much stained glass in the nave – two windows only carry stained glass – one of them, a modern one in the north aisle is particularly effective. This window depicts Christ in Glory and is a memorial to the Rev. Edward Drake-Brockman who was vicar from 1922-1957. The stained glass window in the south aisle (nearest to the south porch) is clearly C19 and remarkable for its deep and effective colouring.
All windows, except one carry replaced window tracery – i.e. this was replaced during the restoration of the church of 1873-82 by Ewan Christian. Although the new window tracery is of a uniform but interesting design it is a shame that more of the old doesnt remain here.
The church has a “modern” nave altar – possessing a lovely frontal – and although I’m not a huge fan of nave altars (!) this works very well – the rood screen acting almost as the most breath-taking reredos!
The chancel is filled with stained glass – the east window as well as the north and south chancel windows. The High Altar dates from 1949 and represents the work of the locally-famous and renowned wood carver, Violet Pinwill. The former High Altar being considered too small and unsuitable was relocated to the Lady Chapel in the south aisle.
The former chapel at the east end of the north aisle is still used as the organ chamber, referenced to by Stabb. This chapel was known as the Worth or Preston Chapel. The unusual feature of the organ here is that there no case on the sides or rear – this enables one to see inside the organ and notice all the inner workings – remarkable and very interesting. It was last restored (and improved) by Hele of Saltash in 1996. It is not only the organ however which drew my attentions here. This former chapel also holds the 1629 Prie Dieu memorial mentioned by Stabb – now a little neglected and slightly obscured – but of remarkable preservation and definitely worth the attention. It’s called a Prie Dieu memorial of course as the family elders are depicted as kneeling at a Prie Dieu.
The other item of interest in this former chapel is the rood loft staircase. In many churches the rood screen was lost after the Reformation, and of those which gladly survive, some have been moved or much mutilated since. Although the rood screen at Staverton isn’t all “original” – being in great parts restoration work, it was of the utmost joy for me to enter into the pre-Reformation world and ascend via the staircase to the top of the rood loft. I didn’t stop here for long – but for a moment I could see how, in practice, ancient rood lofts could be used to house an altar, singers, musicians, etc., etc. A unique experience, perhaps not appreciated by many others than myself, but one of the best highlights of my church visits this year!
The restored rood screen itself is a magnificent piece of work – clearly the work of the mightily talented, Harry Hems (1889-1891). Ancient fragments of the original screen remain alongside the restoration work. As was, and is usual, a rood stands at the centre of the rood loft. The rood with its attendant figures was given in memory of Mrs Drake-Brockman in the mid C20. Staverton’s rood screen provides a rare opportunity to fully appreciate how a rood screen physically looked before the mid C16 and although it’s not gaudily painted, as was typical of those years long ago, it really is a superb piece of church furniture and worthy of a visit to this church alone.
Oh, and what of St Paul de Leon – an unusual, (or unique?) church dedication in Devon – the following (and more) is taken from the ever-useful Wikipedia! –
Paul Aurelian (known in Breton as Paol Aorelian or Saint Pol de Léon and in Latin as Paulinus Aurelianus) was a 6th-century Welshman who became first bishop of the See of Léon and one of the seven founder saints of Brittany. He allegedly died in 575 at the age of 140 after having been assisted in his labours by three successive coadjutors. This suggests that several Paul’s have been mixed up. Gilbert Hunter Doble thought that he might have been Saint Paulinus of Wales.
© Graham Naylor
Some notes and dates of interest in the long history of the Church and Parish of Bigbury, c1970
NB – the East window in the Chancel does not date to 1804 as mentioned in the chronology above. Instead the window is a memorial to the Rev. J. P. Harris who died at sea in 1864.
To give the modern decoration of the Church some context here are two postcards which depict the previous chancel arrangements; the earliest postcard dates to circa 1920 and shows the mosaic “alpha and omega” reredos; the second dates to 1957. This shows the earlier reredos covered, or cleared away, and prior to the current arrangement.
© Graham Naylor
A Short History of St Lawrence Church, Bigbury, c1934
The early history of this Church is shrouded in the mists of obscurity. Said to have been originally built in the 12th century, it was dedicated to St Lawrence and became a conspicuous land-mark for mariners out at sea, and the whole Bay, from Stoke Point to Bolt Tail, became known as “Bigbury Bay”.
It originally consisted of Chancel, Nave and Tower, and the Lords of the Manor were the Knightly family of de Bikebury, who gave their name to the Parish – Bigbury. The last male representative of this family was killed in a duel at Morley Bridge, near Woodleigh, and the North Aisle of the Church is said to have been added by his two daughters, in memory of their slain father, and they themselves are commemorated to this day by two graceful Brasses in the North Aisle which must be more than 500 years old. Ancient Brasses in West Country Churches are somewhat rare.
[NB the Brasses are now in the S. transept – they must have been moved at some stage in the C20]
Other features of interest in the Church are
The ancient carved Oak Pulpit, said to have been the work of a celebrated wood-carver in the year 1509 – one Thomas Prideaux, of Ashburton.
The painted carved Oak Lectern, also made by Thomas Prideaux. After being in use in Ashburton Church for 268 years, they were brought to this Church in the year 1776 by Charles Powlett, Curate of Ashburton, on his presentation to the living of Bigbury by Harry, Duke of Bolton, the then Patron of the Living. Thus they date back for 425 years.
The large slate Tombstone on the wall of the South Transept, depicting two figures in Elizabethan costume, with the following quaint epitaphs, which shows that Limericks were not unknown in the days of Queen Elizabeth:
Here lies the corpses of John and Jane his wife
Surnamed Pearse whom death bereaved of life
O lovely Peirce untill death did them call
They objectus were to love in generall
Living they lived in fame and Honesti
Dieing they left both to the Progeni
Alive and dead at wares their charitie
Hath doth and will help helples Povertie
By nature they were two by love made one
By Death made two againe with mournful mone
O cruell Death in turning odde to even
Yet blessed Death in bringing both to Heaven
On earth they had one bed in earth one toombe
And now their soules in heaven enjoy one roome.
Thus Pearse being pierced by death doth peace obtaine
O happie Peirce since peace is Pearses gaine.
He dyed the 10 day of December 1612.
She dyed the 31 day of Julie 1586.
Notice also the Easter Sepulchre in the North wall of the Chancel. This was covered up during Holy Week, and the Easter service began with the drawing aside of the curtain, and the joyful chanting of the refrain; “He is risen, He is not here. He is risen, as He said.”
There is a peal of 6 bells, dating from the year 1788, which were re-hung on steel girders and frames in the year 1908, during the incumbency of the Rev. H. Bowden-Smith, Messrs. J. Sparrow Wroth and B. J. Hooppell being the churchwardens.
One of the two windows in the North Aisle was given in memory of John Sparrow Wroth, and his son, killed in the war, Walter Wroth, and the other of Ellen S. Adams, wife of Dr. John Adams, and are the work of Beatrice Cameron, Mount Street, Grosvenor Square, London.
An Oak Tablet in the Church Porch shows the names and units of Parishioners who served in the Great War.
Read some more of St Lawrence’s Church history here – with archive photos from my personal collection.
© Graham Naylor