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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Car Tour 3 Treasures of Crediton

This part of the tour focuses exclusively on the parish church at Crediton, which more than makes up for finding the first two churches on the tour inaccessible. To start at the beginning of Car Tour 3 with Salvage the Day, click here.

Crediton is situated in the narrow vale of the River Creedy, between two steep hills. Creedytown? The first indication of settlement at Crediton is the claim that Winfrith or Saint Boniface was born here in c. 672. He propagated Christianity in the Frankish Empire during the 8th century and is the patron saint of both Germany and the Netherlands. In 909 a see was established here at Crediton with Edwulf as the first bishop.

Nine more bishops ruled here until 1050, when Leofric obtained papal permission from Pope Leo IX to transfer the seat to the nearby walled city of Exeter. The Bishop's move to Exeter was a blow to the town but in the early 12th century there developed a College of Clergy formalised between 1107 and 1113, when a Charter was granted. The Collegiate Church replaced what was likely a wooden building with a stone structure. 1235 saw the first Charter and dedication of "The Church of the Holy Cross" still in use today. The College of Clergy came to an end 1545. During it's era the church fell into disrepair and rebuilding was required which started in 1409. A new church arose in the Perpendicular style which is essentially what we see today.

This is the Sun Dial over the entrance door, dedicated by the then Dean of Exeter Cathedral, Keith Jones, in 2003, recently repainted and gilded.

The church has a striking appearance both for it's size as a parish church and because of the red stone used from local quarries in Posbury, Spencecombe and Knowle.

The layout inside is also unusual due to it's having been a Collegiate Church in origin. The central tower acts as a divider between the main Nave and the almost equally sized area of the Chancel and Lady Chapel. There are also two altars, one in the Nave and one in the Chancel. Also unusual is the placing of the pulpit in the centre left of the Nave, rather than at the front of the congregation.

The central tower is supported on four heavy bases separated by four pointed arches. Here one of those arches also supports the Buller Memorial.

In 1876 the combined estates of the Buller family in Devon and Cornwall produced an income in today's prices of just under a million pounds per annum.

Possibly the most elaborate monument anywhere in England it occupies almost the entire east wall of the nave (or the west flank of the tower). It’s full of mysterious figures, painted shields and emblems. It mixes Gothic imagery with modern artefacts. The figures and detail like the decorations are probably cast in plaster and there are areas of coloured mosaic on the work which provide a complete contrast in material and style to the rest of it. The large central cross is partially gilded.

The memorial was planned by W.D. Caroe, an internationally known architect and designer. The memorial was executed by Dart and Francis of Crediton and was unveiled by Earl Fortescue on the third anniversary of Buller’s death, 2nd June, 1911.

For those interested in the detail of the meaning in the complex design a description can be found here.

General Sir Redvers Henry Buller, VC, GCB, GCMG (7 December 1839 – 2 June 1908) was a British Army officer and a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He served as Commander-in-Chief of British Forces in South Africa during the early months of the Second Boer War and subsequently commanded the army in Natal until his return to England in November 1900. Wikipedia

His VC citation reads:

For his gallant conduct at the retreat at Inhlobana, on the 28th March, 1879, in having assisted, whilst hotly pursued by Zulus, in rescuing Captain C. D'Arcy, of the Frontier Light Horse, who was retiring on foot, and carrying him on his horse until he overtook the rear guard. Also for having on the same date and under the same circumstances, conveyed Lieutenant C. Everitt, of the Frontier Light Horse, whose horse had been killed under him, to a place of safely. Later on, Colonel Buller, in the same manner, saved a trooper of the Frontier Light Horse, whose horse was completely exhausted, and who otherwise would have been killed by the Zulus, who were within 80 yards of him.

In an interview to The Register newspaper of Adelaide, South Australia, dated 2 June 1917, Trooper George Ashby of the Frontier Light Horse attached to the 24th Regiment gave an account of his rescue by Col. Buller:

... it was discovered that the mountain was surrounded by a vast horde of Zulus. An attempt was made to descend on the side opposite to the pass. Cpl. Ashby and his little party endeavoured to fight their way down, and at last he and a man named Andrew Gemmell, now living in New Zealand, were the only ones left. With their faces to the foe, firing as they retired, they kept the Zulus at bay. Then an unfortunate thing happened, Cpl. Ashby's rifle burst, but, fortunately for him, Col. Buller, afterwards Sir Redvers Buller, who was one of the party, came galloping by, and offered to take him up behind him. Col. Buller was a heavy man, and his horse was a light one, and realizing this, Cpl. Ashby declined his generous offer. But the Colonel stayed with him, and, Cpl. Ashby having picked up a rifle and ammunition from a fallen comrade, the two men retired, firing whenever a foeman showed himself. They eventually reached the main camp, and for this service, as well as for saving the lives of two fellow-officers on the same occasion, Col. Buller received the Victoria Cross. Out of 500 men who made the attack on the Zjilobane Mountain, more than 300 met their death."

The pulpit was moved to it's present position in 1978 when the nave altar and flooring were installed. Carved in Mansfield stone it features figures of the Four Evangelists, and it is a 19th century perpendicular wine glass design.

In the South Transept is a remarkable window, a bequest by the Revd. Smith-Dorrien, vicar of Crediton from 1901 to 1924. It's forty shields represent early bishops of Crediton and Exeter, The Province of Canterbury and distinguished families with church connections from pre-Reformation times.

The 1926 reredos by Fellowes Prynne is a memorial to the Revd. W.M. Smith Dorrien who had died three years earlier.

Reredos - An ornamental screen covering the wall at the back of an altar. The practice of erecting a structure above and behind the altar and adorning it with artworks extends back at least to the 11th century. Sculpture was the dominant element in the altarpieces of the late Middle Ages, especially in Germany. Altar paintings, by contrast, became common in northern Europe only in the 15th century.

The three seat sedilia to the right of the High Altar dates from the early 15th century and was once particularly fine with pinnacles that probably rose to the arch above.

It is not known who damaged them so severely though it is almost certain to have been zealots of the Reformation period.

Sedilia- In church architecture, sedilia are seats, usually made of stone, found on the liturgical south side of an altar, often in the chancel, for use during Mass for the officiating priest and his assistants, the deacon and sub-deacon. The seat is often set back into the main wall of the church itself.

A figure in vestments survives on the right. The paint is medieval and was conserved in 1979.

View of the Chancel from the high altar, showing the the altar rail, the choir stalls and the pointed arch of the central tower.

On the opposite side of the chancel are two impressive monuments.

Nearest the altar is the tomb of Sir William Peryam. who died in 1604. His coat of arms is displayed above his recumbent figure. He married three times, his second wife bearing all four of his daughters. All seven women in his life are represented kneeling by his side. Sir William of Exeter moved to the outskirts of Crediton where he built a Manor house. A judge of Common Pleas in 1579 and Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer in 1593, he was one of the judges who condemned Mary Queen of Scots to death.

The Peryams were early adherents of Protestantism and were threatened in the time of the Marian persecutions.

Mary I was a notorious Catholic who married Philip of Spain and came close to having her Protestant half sister Elizabeth executed. However she only ruled for five years until her death.

Under Queen Elizabeth however, the family thrived, with William eventually achieving eminence in law.

The Tuckfield family succeeded Peryam as owners of his estate at Little Fulford. His Great niece Elizabeth Tuckfield features in the second monument. Her father and husband are represented in the medallions either side of her grieving figure. Both died in 1630.

A large alabaster tomb covered with richly carved canopy of a similar age to the sedilia. Once again the figures in the frieze were badly damaged during the Reformation.

This is the oldest monument in the church, the tomb of John de Sully and his wife Isobel. He was born in 1282 and fought with the Black Prince at Crecy and Poitiers. A year before he died at the incredible age of 106 he is documented as giving evidence in a dispute about armorial bearings.

Sir John Sully (born c.1283 - died c.1388), KG, of Ruxford and Iddesleigh in Devonshire, was an English knight. He was one of the many deponents who gave evidence in Scrope v Grosvenor (decided in 1389), one of the earliest heraldic law cases brought in England, at which time he stated his age as 105. In about 1362, he was appointed by King Edward III as the 39th Knight of the Garter.

Scrope v Grosvenor (1389) was an early intellectual property lawsuit, specifically regarding the law of arms. One of the earliest heraldic cases brought in England, the case resulted from two different knights in King Richard II's service, Richard Scrope, 1st Baron Scrope of Bolton and Sir Robert Grosvenor, discovering they were using the same undifferenced coat of arms, blazoned "Azure, a bend Or". This had previously gone unnoticed because the armigers' families were from different parts of England.

In 1385, Richard II led his army on a punitive expedition to Scotland. During the military campaign, two of the king's knights, Richard Scrope, 1st Baron Scrope of Bolton, from Bolton in Yorkshire and Sir Robert Grosvenor from Cheshire, both realised they were using the same coat of arms, a blazoned "Azure, a bend Or". When Scrope brought an action, Grosvenor maintained his family had worn these arms since his ancestor had come to England with William the Conqueror in 1066.

The case was brought before the Court of Chivalry and presided over by Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester, the Constable of England. Several hundred witnesses were heard and these included John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster,  Geoffrey Chaucer, himself a close friend of the Duke of Lancaster and a sometime member of his court,   and a then little-known Welshman called Owain Glyndŵr, who gave his evidence with others at the Church of St John the Baptist in Chester on 3 September 1386.

It was not until 1389 that the case was finally decided in Scrope's favor. Grosvenor was allowed to continue bearing the arms but they had to be within a bordure argent for difference.

Neither party was happy with the decision so King Richard II was called upon to give his personal verdict. On 27 May 1390 he confirmed that Grosvenor could not bear the undifferenced arms. His opinion was that the two shields were far too similar for unrelated families in the same country to bear.

This may be the first known case of a brand establishing itself in law.

The elaborate font cover, made of Devonshire oak in the early 20th century by W D Caroe.

The font itself is the oldest feature of the church. In fact it is older than the church itself, being Norman from around the year 1120.

I think this bird, feeding it's young was a Swift, having made it's mud nest in the roof of the porch. The gaping wide beak of the baby bird is clear to see.

The porch is stone vaulted with carved foliage bosses and vaulting shafts with shallow-carved capitals. Unusual, possibly C18 wrought iron gate to outer doorway.

The Lime flowers were in full bloom in the churchyard giving a sweet scent to the air.

Linden (also commonly known as Lime Flower) is a calming sedative and is commonly used to treat anxiety and nervousness. It's diaphoretic (sweat inducing) properties means it is often a part of fever remedies and its ability to relax blood vessels and cause them to widen make it useful in helping with hypertension.

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