"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

East Devon - Day 3 Sunday, 19th June : Sidmouth (in the rain) and St Giles, Sidbury

On the Sunday it rained and rained and rained. We did go into Sidmouth but, after spending a miserable hour traipsing round the town, we returned to the cottage. This is the one and only photo taken in Sidmouth!

The one church I really wanted to visit during the holiday was in Ottery St Mary (apparently it is superb) and, with hindsight, I probably should have left the family at the cottage and braved the rain and gone on my own that afternoon. We did visit Ottery St Mary to do some shopping at Sainsburys and the family didn't seem keen on returning to walk round the town while I looked at the church so sadly I missed out.

I did visit the very old church of St Giles in Sidbury one evening during the week and I've added the photos and details into this post as I have so little else to write about!

Today's church replaced an earlier Saxon church. The 7th century crypt from this earlier church (one of only 6 Saxon crypts in Britain) survives and can be visited but only during a guided tour on Thursday afternoons (when I was elsewhere unfortunately!). The crypt was probably originally built to house the relics of an important Christian. It contains a fragment of a Saxon cross which may date from the 6th century.

Saxons in Wessex were converted to Christianity around 640 and the first church in Sidbury was built around 670-690. This was replaced by a larger church 300 years later. The Normans replaced the 10th century Saxon chancel around 1140 and added the bell tower in 1150. The nave walls were replaced by arcades in the Transitional style around 1190 when the Chancel and North and South aisles were also built. Today the only Saxon parts remaining are the Transepts and Crypt. The last major structural changes took place in the 15th century.

The stonework contains 3 types of limestone - Salcombe Stone from Dunscombe Quarry, Beer Stone from the former Beer Quarries and Bath Stone.

12th century Norman Bas-Reliefs - St Peter as first Bishop of Rome and St Giles.

The Water Fountain and Horse Trough commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria

The South Porch dates from 1445-50. The 2nd storey room is known locally as the Powder Room because it is thought that gunpowder was stored there during the Napoleonic Wars.

The Font dates back to 1450 and is octagonal with carved panels and a lead bowl. It contains a rare example of a lock-plate which was used to keep consecrated baptismal water safe. The water which had been blessed by a Bishop was difficult to replace and in the past local women would take the holy water to sprinkle near their babies' cots to keep evil spirits away. The present font cover is a copy of a Jacobean one which was made around 1620.

Fragments of medieval wall paintings are found in various parts of the church.

The pulpit is 19th century.

St Giles Bier

The musicians' gallery was built around 1620 and is a remnant of a much larger gallery.

The Altar rails are Jacobean (17th century)

The stained glass windows are Victorian including 5 windows by Kempe, 2 by Clayton and Bell and 2 by F C Eden.

This is a poor photo but I've included it as the window is interesting. St Peter is depicted on the left as a Benedictine monk with the keys of Heaven. St Giles also as a Benedictine monk is on the right with the King's arrow in his hand. Giles who was a hermit lived in a forest near Nimes. During a King's hunting trip he saved the life of a hind by taking the King's arrow in his leg. He is regarded as the patron saint of cripples. Later in his life he found the Benedictine abbey of St Giles in Provence.

I did mean to return to the church once I had read the guide book (which is superb and very detailed) and take the Canon SX50 with me so I could get photos of corbels and gargoyles but I just never found the time.

Reference : Guide Book to Sidbury Church and its 7th century crypt.


Wendy said...

Another interesting church from your holiday. It is great to see that there's still something of the medieval wall paintings left. And it obviously didn't matter to people at the time that a religious house was used to store gunpowder for a war. I wonder who the important Christian was in the crypt!

Ragged Robin said...

Wendy - thanks Wendy. It was only when I uploaded all the photos that I realised I had crammed in so many churches! It is quite ironic about the storage of gunpowder in the porch! Its too late now but will have a look tomorrow again at the guide book and see if there is any information on who the Christian might have been and get back to you!

Margaret Adamson said...

The whole place is steeped in so much history and your photographs are a wonderful illustration of it. Pity about so much rain on your holiay and I think this year in N.Ireland we missed all that raain thankfully.

Ragged Robin said...

Margaret Adamson - Thanks very much Margaret. It is quite ironic really as we did look into going to Anglesey for a change but decided against as it may have been more likely to be wet!! It has been a wet and cold June - usually when we go on holiday this month we have good weather.

Ragged Robin said...

Wendy - Hi again Wendy - I've checked the church guide book and it doesn't really give any more info on who the important Christian may have been. It says

"Crypts developed from the practice of Christian rites at the graves of early martyrs in the catacombs of Rome, but it was the Saxons who are said to have introduced burial within a church.

The crypt of St Giles is likely to have been built at part of a church to contain the relics of some important Christian, rather than as an isolated mausoleum as has been suggested"......