Devon Historic Churches Day

Saturday 12th September, 2015.

You may have already seen the Poster for the Devon Historic Churches Day displayed on the Church Notice Board.  This is a timely announcement to make you aware that the Ride + Stride event will take place this year on Saturday 12th September.


As usual I intend to be in Temple Church foyer from 9.00am to 5.00pm and would be grateful for your sponsorship as this does ensure that we have some sponsorship money to donate, even if there is no other support from Walkers or Riders.  I realise that people have busy lives and often other calendar events conflict to make taking part impossible.  Being in the Church to welcome Walkers and Riders from other Churches and to offer a rest and some hospitality, as well as being there to sign Sponsorship Forms, means that our Church is taking an active part and if anyone is able to walk a few miles and visit a few Churches that would greatly enhance our giving and would meant that Temple would benefit, because half the money raised is always returned to the participating Church by the Devon Historic Churches Trust.


I would like to suggest that if you fancy going further afield than just our local Churches, the “Guide to Open Churches” lists all the Churches taking part all over Devon. You could very profitably spend some time in Exeter, where most of the large number of City Churches are taking part, or go out into the countryside – the event is county wide.


It so happens that I recognised the Church which features on the Poster and other stationary this year the minute I looked at it!  (The fact that the County Organiser of the Devon Historic Churches Day, Judith Kauntze, lives in East Worlington may be relevant!)


St. Mary’s Church, West Worlington (photo) is about 5 miles from Witheridge, the village where I was born in the home of my maternal grandparents.  As children, walking or cycling was probably our main recreation, and many a time East and West Worlington would be our destination.  These days, (as with Youth Hostelling) you are allowed to make your journey by car when taking part on the day.  This makes the possibilities endless if you have an itinerary.  Even the smallest village had a Church and a non-conformist Chapel – though sadly a lot of Chapels have closed.  If the Church in any village is not open, look for the DHCT Welcome Poster and enter your details.  If there is no poster displayed you can still add the name of the Church and Village on your Sponsorship Form. Decide how many Churches and other Places of Worship you think realistically you can visit and ask for Sponsorship accordingly e.g. £1.00 per building, 10 Churches = £10.00.

Should you feel you would like to visit the Church on the Poster on DHC Day, I can give you a route mostly following main roads so that you run no risk of getting lost in the hinterland away from main roads (which are my personal choice).  With a few short deviations off on either side of the main road, and because I know from previous years that the Churches in the villages are open for DHC Day visits, I would set you on course from Exeter along the Exe Valley to Tiverton (you may need a road atlas or Sat Nav!). 


Leaving Exeter on the A377 take the A396 to Cowley Bridge, signed to Tiverton.  At Stoke Canon you will find the Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene (photo)  (EX5 4BA) (1).  The next village of Rewe has the Church of St Mary (EX5 4EH) (2).  A little further along the A396 at the Ruffwell Hotel deviate a short distance to Throverton’s St Thomas Church (EX5 4NU) (3).  Back to the main road and a little further on, a deviation to the right takes you to Silverton, St Mary’s (EX5 4HS) (4)


There is also a Methodist Church in Silverton.  Returning to the A396, Bickleigh & Cadeleigh don’t appear to take part, but Cadleigh village is well worth a visit if you have time.  Continue along the A396 towards Tiverton, make sure that there is no traffic coming in the opposite direction before beginning to cross Bickleigh Bridge!


As you approach Tiverton through West Exe, you will see signs directing you to the right towards Parking & the Town Centre.  In Phoenix Lane you will see the Bus Station, a small Shopping Precinct & multi-storey Car Park.  You can also park in Becks Square to your left, but the multi-storey is “good value” as for a very modest charge you can stay most of the day.  The entrance to the

Tiverton Museum of Mid Devon Life is in Becks Square.  St Peter’s Church (photo) abounds in history from its beginnings when it was consecrated in 1073 by Leofric, the first Bishop of Exeter.  To find St Peter’s Church (5), cross Becks Square and walk through Fore Street alongside St George’s Churchyard.  This very attractive building was consecrated in 1733.


In Fore Street turn left towards the Town Hall and Angel Hill. Cross the road and walk up St Peter’s Street passing, on your right, Almshouses and the Great House of St George.  A little further you come to the Methodist Church, now shared with the Congregationalists (the huge Congregationalist Church – also in St Peter Street – closed some years ago).  The Church of St Peter is now ahead of you at the top of the Street (6).  You could spend a day in Tiverton, but you are going to Witheridge!  Return, the way you came, to the A396.  Around the big roundabout at West Exe, and Witheridge is sign posted.  Back roads take you into Heathcoat territory (passing St. Paul’s Church) and bring you alongside “The Factory” the source of employment for a major proportion of the town and many of the surrounding villages.  John Heathcoat, who established the factory from a Woollen Mill in 1825 was the grandfather of (Sir) John Heathcoat-Amory who built Knighthayes Court (now National Trust) just outside Tiverton at Bolham.


The A 396 will continue towards Rackenford, but look for the B3137 Witheridge sign on your left.  Here is the Long Drag (nowadays Long Drag Hill).  Passengers on Horse-drawn busses had to get out and walk half way up, in order to lighten the load for the horses!


A few miles from Tiverton you reach Withleigh.  St Catherine’s (photo) was built in 1844-47 to serve the local farming community.  The Church is sign posted to your right up a steep and narrow hill which it is best to approach on foot, but you may decide to continue straight on towards Witheridge and not deviate.  Do, however, look for Cruwys Monchard on your right as you come out of Monchard Wood.  A slight deviation takes you to the Church (7) and the Manor House (still lived in by the Cruwys family).  Look out too for the purpose-built (19thC) Sunday School on your right.  Only the name will identify it now.  Inevitably it has become a residential property.  The Rectory, also, is in private ownership!


Ten miles from Tiverton and you reach Witheridge.  Before you drive down into the village you will see a sign (on your left) to Thelbridge.  The Thelbridge Cross Inn is a good place for lunch and there is also a pretty little Church there dedicated to St David, if you continue a short distance on from the Inn Car Park.


Now back to the B3137 which takes you into the village of Witheridge.  This approach has been rather spoilt by new building and the demolition of one side of Fore Street since the end of WWII.  You will pass the Congregational Chapel and the British School – the couple who bought the School building and have converted it into a house, have now also bought the Chapel and intend to do the same there.


At the bottom of Fore Street you reach “Trafalgar Square”.  Four streets meet here.  To the right you will see the tower of St John the Baptist Church (EX16 8AF) (8) situated in the village square.  The road to the left is West Street where you will find the Methodist Church.  Leave the village by West Street and drive to Drayford (new building along this road also).  At Drayford cross the bridge over

the river and the road to East Warlington is on your left.  Pass Town Farms and bear left.  East Warlington Church – St Mary’s (photo) (EX17 4SL) is a bit tucked away on your left.  Look out for the Square Church Tower (9).


From East Warlington continue down the hill towards the river passing a house called Stone Cross which was once the Post Office for the two villages.  The road divides, but continue a little further and then take a steepish hill to the left, and there it is, our little gem, St Mary’s Church (EX17 4TT) (10).  You will see the slightly crooked wooden spire as you approach.  Enter the Churchyard through the Lychgate.


If you wish to return to Exeter by a different route, go back to Drayford and the road to your immediate left will take you onto the B3137 again and into the Market Town of South Molton.  There is another beautiful Parish Church here, and the Methodist Church is nearby in North Street.


Leave the town by South Street taking the B3226 back to the A377.  There are pretty villages with lovely Churches all close to the route if you divert a little.  Have you read any of the Rev. Chris Tull’s delightful books?  He was rector of Kings Nympton when he wrote them.


On the A377 you should certainly visit Lapford Church dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury (EX17 6PZ).  You are now on the road to Crediton where you really should stop at the Church of the Holy Cross – a wonderful building toward the Exeter end of the town.  There is a car park at the end of the lane which separates the churchyard from the Boniface Centre.


At Newton St Cyres is the intriguingly named Church of St Cyr and St Julitta (photo) (EX5 5BN) should be open as you near Exeter (depending on the time that you are passing).  To your left, off the main road, are the Churches in the villages of Bramford Speke and Upton Pyne.  The A377 finally crosses the River Exe and the Great Western Railway Line and you are back at Cowley Bridge and you have accomplished a “round trip”.


I have Sponsorship Forms now and the Guide to Open Churches 2015 should reach me later in August.  I will place this in the foyer at temple for you to consult but I only get one copy, so please do not remove it.  If you consult it, you will find there are many options for you to plan your day.  Most of these can be quite close to home and take only the time you can spare to reach them and visit the Churches of your choice.


Please do think about taking part this year.  For more information you can contact me on 01395 445721

Marienne Carnochan