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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Car Tour 4 The False Start

It's been a while since our last car tour, and this one could have got off to a rocky start if we hadn't by some miracle stumbled upon my new favourite stained glass in a small unpromising church in Chudleigh Knighton.

The car tour was supposed to start in Exeter our largest nearby city although it didn't take in any of the city it just slid in across the bottom and out again so we saw the towers of the cathedral in the distance but only got a tour of the industrial estates and retail parks on the southern edge.

But, as is our way with these car tours from the book "South Devon and Dartmoor Car Tours", we always pick them up at the nearest point to where we live to avoid needless backtracking. So it was, that we were supposed to join the tour route in Chudleigh. Note I say "supposed" to. Not knowing that area, we actually came off the A38 our local super highway at a sign that read Chudleigh Knighton, which we stupidly thought was our target. I mean who knew there were two Chudleighs right next door to each other?

Having read up what to expect when we got to Chudleigh, not Chudleigh Knighton, we were expecting a 14th century church with a 13th century tower. While I tried to process what I was looking at and to convince myself that this was 14th century I was getting serious alarm bells ringing in the architectural segment of my brain. Not only did this not look 14th century, it didn't even look Devonian, as in characteristic of Devon, not as in a rock strata from 419 million years ago, that's a different sort of Devonian.

Having said that this wall is covered in small chunks of Haldon Flint from the nearby Haldon Hill, while the dressed sections are of Plymouth Limestone. It turns out that Plymouth Limestone is in fact Mid Devonian so not only characteristic of Devon but also a rock from the Devonian period. Well, it is not that amazing a coincidence, how do you think the rocks of this period first documented in Devon came to be classified as Devonian. What that does mean though is that if you live in New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and north to Montana for example, that you are also standing on Devonian rocks.

The decorative flint coating is more characteristic of Norfolk in the east of England. So this church was really giving me a headache. That headache soon disappeared when I went inside and had my mind blown by the stained glass in the chancel above the altar.

I thought I was seeing things, so out of place and unexpected in this what I now realised was a Victorian church, did these beautiful windows seem. My first thought was 1960's.

In fact it turned out to be 1961 and they were designed and made by an artist I had not heard of until now, Henry Stammers.

The theme of the window is a symbolic treatment of the Holy Trinity, and also shows types of people over the centuries who may have been worshipers in the countryside where the Church is built. In the upper part of the window will be seen the Hand of God.

Harry Stammers, was born in 1902 and had worked at first for Powell & Sons in London,

where he became James Hogan’s foremost cartoonist. In 1943 he moved to Exeter, first working as a draughtsman in the firm of Wippell & Co., and then setting up on his own with the help of work from Christopher Webb. In 1947, Dean Milner-White of York persuaded him to relocate there, where he founded the ‘York school’ of contemporary glass painting. He produced 180 windows during his career.

The window was made in memory of Hugh Francis Yeoman and his wife Hilda Mary Yeoman.

The lower part of the window is a decorative arrangement of groups of people of all periods, representing the worshippers in the area through the ages. They are shown in panels of colour, to give a hint of the text: "in my Father's house there are many mansions," and to keep them formal and static as opposed to the treatment of the upper half of the window, which is intended to give a light, ethereal impression.

A further reason for the weight of colour in the lower half is that it is an East window, and at the same time the upper half is kept bright but less weighty in colour as the Church is not too well lit. There are three principal saints in the bases of the side lights: in the bottom left-hand corner is St. Francis of Assisi.

In the bottom right-hand corner are St. Hugh of Lincoln and St. Hilda of Whitby. These are the patron saints of the members of the family who gave the window.

The land for St. Paul's was consecrated in 1841 and the building consecrated in 1849. It was a Chapel of Ease for the parishioners who previously would have had to have walked the three miles to Hennock. At that time it was known as Knighton Chapel. A chapel of ease is a church building other than the parish church, built within the bounds of a parish for the attendance of those who cannot reach the parish church conveniently, generally due to distance away.

Memorial tablets testify that the lives of 18 men were taken from this small village during the 1914-18 War. A further tablet commemorates three members of the Gibb Family who were killed in an air raid on Plymouth on 19th April 1941, the youngest of whom was a mere 15 years of age when he died in action. Plymouth was the most heavily bombed city for its size in the whole of Britain.

Car Tour 4 will continue in Chudleigh, or more accurately start in Chudleigh soon.

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John Durham
John Durham
Jun 15, 2023

What unusual stained glass! Never seen anything like it. Not sure what it congers up, but it something rises looking at those images - Ann Rand?

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Jun 15, 2023
Replying to

Life sometimes throws up these happy accidents. It made my day.

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