Crediton & District

Shobrooke, Upton Hellions & Sandford

Our visit to Shobrooke in March, Upton Hellions and Sandford

On a brilliantly sunny day, eleven group members met at St Swithun’s church, Shobrooke
to have a look around the church. Our guide was group member Rosemary Barber, who gave
a brief history of St Swithun’s.

Originally a C12th Norman chancel + nave, the church was fairly drastically restored in the late C19th, when a new south aisle was added. There are some excellent Victorian windows (including a lovely one of St Cecilia, the Patron Saint of music). Most of the construction (C12th & C19th) is in a local volcanic stone from Thorverton.

Rosemary gave us an illustrated resume of the life of a real character, a Shobrooke vicar of the turn of the C19th/C20th the Revd Worthington Jukes. Before he came to Shobrooke he had been a missionary in Imperial India and had written at length about his experiences there. He had also produced a history of `Shobrooke church.

From Shobrooke we moved on to the hamlet of Upton Hellions (population under 100), where we were given a tour of the church by Mary Rose Somerville. It is similar to Shobrooke’s in that it was originally a C12th Norman structure but heavily altered by work of the C14th, C15th & C16th. Volcanic stone (called trap) was used its the construction. Two late C15th wagon roofs, one with fairly crude wooden bosses, were very distinctive.

A late C15th wooden boss from a wagon roof shows a head with bulging eyes & protruding tongue. The imagery is linked to flame, fire, fertility, sexual power and spiritual power. The sexual/spiritual forces represented by gargoyles with protruding tongues which adorned Gothic cathedrals were believed to protect the buildings from other spiritual powers.

After a very pleasant lunch in the Lamb Inn we moved on to Sandford Church where Mary Rose Somerville (assisted by Jim King) showed us around. Originally a small Norman chapel, St Swithun’s Sandford was originally a subsidiary church to Holy Cross in Crediton (it was one of the 9 chapels of ease that served Holy Cross). The chapel was closed from 1126 – 1137AD after a murder during mass. It retained the status of chapel of ease until in 1928 it was joined with St Mary’s Upton Hellions, to become a parish church.

Most of the present building is late Perpendicular Gothic in style. There is a C16th corbel of two boys tearing each others hair out, thought to represent the incident when a man was killed during mass. Another outstanding feature of Sandford church are the many C16th bench-ends found throughout the nave, one features a green man with an Afroid hairstyle. Mary Rose thinks that they were originally in Holy Cross, Crediton.

Click on a picture below to see it full-size with more details.