Crediton & District

South Tawton & South Zeal

Report of visit to South Tawton & South Zeal, 10th May, 2017

Eleven of us were met at St Andrew’s church in South Tawton on a brilliant day in early May by David Youle, treasurer of both the church house project and South Tawton PCC, together with a lady colleague.

It was she who showed us around St Andrew’s. The church is remarkable for a series of wooden bosses in its vault. There are a number of green men, a tinner’s rabbit, a sheela-na-gig and an extraordinary one of an owl with a horned head-dress. It was a good job that Alan had brought along a very powerful lamp to light up the dark-stained and poorly-lit vault.

After we had paused for some very welcome tea and coffee, David showed us round the church house – the C15th building right by the church where ale was brewed and parties were held in late medieval times after it was deemed that such activities shouldn’t be held in the church itself. Income from the sale of ale and entertaining helped to finance the upkeep of the church. The house later first became a school then a poor house, housing six families. Families could be kept together here, rather than with the sexes separated as they would have been in a workhouse.

We had a very good lunch in the Oxenham Arms, a pub built in around 1600 in South Zeal, part of the parish of South Tawton. The house formerly belonged to the Burgoyne family and is full of fascinating features including a Neolithic menhir, around which the building is constructed. We later went into the garden which has some lovey views of Dartmoor.

The visit was concluded by an inspection of the nearby small C15th chapel of St Mary, above which is a very impressive C14th market cross.

Keith Barker

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