Thursday, 7 July 2016
East Devon - Day 6, Wednesday, 22nd June : Bicton Park Botanical Gardens Part 2 - St Mary's Church and the Countryside Museum
Returning to the Botanical Gardens.....
There has been a church at Bicton since Saxon times but the present church is only 150 years old. It was built at the request of Lady Louisa Rolle (1794-1885), wife of Lord John Rolle who owned the Bicton Estate. She was reputedly the richest woman in Devon and had the church constructed at her own expense.
St Mary's was designed and built by famous Exeter architect, John Hayward - a pioneer of the Gothic Revival design. The walls are built from limestone which was quarried at Chudleigh near Newton Abbot. The church was consecrated in 1850 and it is thought that all five British monarchs from Victoria to George VI have visited the church.
It would have been nice to have seen the original medieval church in all its splendour but it was partially demolished in 1850 to give a "planned ruin" setting for the Rolle family mausoleum. You can see the ruins in this picture - sadly, I didn't have time to explore this part as I don't think the family were over impressed that I had found yet another church!
The stained glass was beautiful.
It wasn't until I read the guidebook to the Gardens that I found out about the stone faces in the photos below - dripstones have been carved to represent 50 English kings and queens and their spouses. If I had known at the time I would have fetched the Canon camera from D and taken more pictures.
A mysterious "Lady in Black" was seen in the church by a couple in the early 1970's. A little old lady dressed in a poker bonnet and long dress suddenly appeared next to the couple and just as suddenly disappeared. There was no sign of her when I visited thank goodness!
The Countryside Museum which contains farming and rural life displays and old farming equipment from the nineteenth century was superb - you could have spent hours there.
First of all you can visit the Reg Imray Motor Museum which contains a collection of cars and motor vehicles restored by Reg Imray who moved to Exmouth from Essex in 1967. He was often seen riding round East Devon on one of his classic vintage motorcycles.
Then into the Countryside Museum - apologies for the poor quality of some of the photos due to low light.
There were dozens of tractors, ploughs and traction engineers etc. including a Haywain, horse and cart, Dorset Wagon, Threshing Machines, Hay and Straw Elevator and a Straw Trusser.
Devon Bow or Ship Wagon
My mother had a sewing machine just like this when I was little!
There is a man trap somewhere in the photo below :(
The displays really gave an insight into farming and country life in the past in the days before agricultural intensification and if anyone visits the Gardens in the future please don't miss the museum - it was the highlight of my visit.
Reference: Guide Book to Bicton Park Botanical Gardens
You'll probably be as relieved as I am that I won't get chance to do a post tomorrow - I am off to a certain tennis club in SW19 :)
Hopefully, I'll finish off the holiday posts over the weekend. Just one more post - on the final day we went on a cruise on the River Exe and paid a return visit to Beer.