Crediton & District

Barnstaple & Tawstock

Fifteen members of the group met at St Peter & St Mary Magdalene in the centre of Barnstaple on a very pleasant November day. The vicar, Revd David Fletcher, was there to greet us and showed us around this mainly Decorated & Perpendicular parish church, which was heavily restored by
Sir George Gilbert Scott in the C19th.

The lead-clad spire is its most noticeable exterior feature, but inside it is the mass of memorials that grab the attention. The monuments mostly date from the C17th and are of townsfolk that lived during the Civil War, Commonwealth and Restoration periods. They depict mayors, merchants & Members of Parliament at the time when Barnstaple was at its most prosperous and important.

Perhaps the most poignant of the monuments is that to Nicholas Blake, the nine-year-old son of the vicar during the Commonwealth. The latter was hounded from the church and this is referred to by a cameo of the congregation gathered around an empty pulpit.

After saying good-bye to David Fletcher, we moved on to St Peter’s Tawstock. This has a truly outstanding setting, just below the C19th rebuild in Gothic style of Tawstock Court, home of the Earls of Bath.

The church, constructed between the C12th & C15th, is absolutely crammed with outstanding memorials to the Bourchier & Wrey family, the Earls of Bath - because of this it is known as the "Westminster Abbey of Devon".

Among a number of early C16th bench ends, near the crossing is one with a representation of the mythical hinkypunck (a term for the Will-o-the-Wisp in south-west England).

We had an excellent lunch in the Chichester Arms in Bishops Tawton, a few miles from Tawstock on the other side of the River Taw -it was a good job we’d booked as it was packed. We returned to Crediton by mid-afternoon after an excellent day out.

Keith Barker

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