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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Slapton, Part 2

Originally published on Photoblog in September 2021

Part two of my photo walk sees me circling around, all the roads seem to circle around in Slapton, it may be all the steep hills, as I walk back into the centre of the village towards the church.

This is where the main road leads out of the village at the top of the hill.

For information on the ruined tower, see part one.

This is Valley Cottage, below, one of 59 listed buildings in Slapton. Small house. Early C17 or earlier with C20 extensions. Painted stone rubble. Thatched roof with gabled ends, and slate wall plate exposed at rear.

A classic Slapton scene below. Houses on different levels divided by narrow lanes. This lane is a two way street open to motor traffic.

Below, Rose Cottage lives up to it's name.

Still coming down from the heights as the chimneys are still at eye level.

I nearly missed this sign below because the car was obstructing it.

The residents in these tiny cottages give you a clue as to where I am now. I have arrived at the church.

Even these "cottages" of the deceased are listed, and so they live on in the English Heritage website. Pair of tomb chests. Late C18. Both have dressed slate chests with chamfered cornices. The northernmost has bullnose moulded slate lid inscribed in upper and lower case with serifs to Richard Paige died 1778. The south chest has a limestone lid with an illegible inscription.

And so we come to the Church of St James, grade 1 listed in 1967. Parish church. C13 or early C14 with tower. Early C14 chancel. C15 or early C16 nave, aisles and north porch; restored in 1905. Bishop Stapledon dedicated the altar in 1318 and the chancel is of this date. The west tower is probably C13 (the first rector 1274-5) or also early C14. After the foundation of the Collegiate Chantry in 1372 the parish church lapsed into poverty, its tithes being appropriated to the Chantry, one of whose priests was appointed to the church.

The nave was rebuilt when the north and south aisles and north porch were added in the C15 or early C16. According to Davidson (1842) west galleries were erected in 1832. The church was restored in 1905 at a cost of £1,000. In 1905 £1000 could have bought 36 horses or 103 cows. In cow prices that would be about £103,000 today.

Also in 1905 the Russian revolution got going, marked by some famous executions of the Royal family. You know things are not going to turn out well when the new government decides they need to shoot young children in a cellar before they start collecting the rubbish or mending the holes in the road. Sadly it was all downhill after that for the Russian people who had thought they were badly off before the revolution.

People reading about what happens after revolutions is usually a good way to prevent them happening again. If you know any revolutionaries, get them a book for Christmas. One describing the designer famine of Ukraine that ended 12 million lives, would be a good place to start.

Speaking about reading books, 1905 was the year Albert Einstein wrote a few. His four Annus Mirabilis papers to be exact. Pretty much everything good we have to celebrate today was directly or indirectly a result of his ideas. He was born in Germany but moved to Switzerland acquiring Swiss citizenship in 1901 where he joined the Swiss Patent Office. Only the Swiss could find the greatest genius in human history and give him a job in the Patent Office.

Also in Switzerland, you can't urinate standing up after 10pm. Strangely enough, this applies only to men, women not usually being in the habit of urinating standing up. Apparently, this calumny causes too much noise and can disrupt other citizens during their snoozing. The Swiss are obsessed about noise, this is probably why Einstein left and went to America before he invented the Atom Bomb. They are fairly noisy. They certainly wouldn't have let him test them on a Sunday or after 10 pm.

You can't recycle on Sundays either, the Swiss love a good bit of recycling and they claim to be the best in the world at it, just not on Sundays. Ask convicted felon Judith Schulte, a 35-year old German woman who committed the crime of dropping off her recycling on the legally enforced day of rest. She was duly reported by one of her neighbours and offered a 250-franc fine or two-nights in jail. Ramsay Street it is not.

You can't recite poetry in Switzerland while skiing, either. Even if you were able to.

Back to the church. As I pointed out, bits of it are quite old, while other bits are even older. This is the chancel of 1318. Just because things like this fascinate me I found out that in 1318 £1000 would buy 2222 cows, or 100,000 days work from a skilled tradesman. You'd need a lot of skilled men to milk that many cows and a lot of buckets.

The stained glass is not one of the church's best features as it is mostly plain and of a later date, but I rather like it's simplicity.

Official description. Good but restored carved wooden screen across nave and aisles complete with parclose screens in east bays of arcades but canopy missing.

Below is a memorial with an unusual name, as I promised in part one. However I will not be making any hay from that name, humour wise, as reading it is very sad. Interestingly the memorial itself is signed by a London maker, so, much thought and consideration went in to it's manufacture.

If you have the time I can recommend a very detailed and interesting account of this man's life, available here. Extracts include the following ... William Bastard junior was first educated in Plymouth, where he attended "Miss Tubb's preparatory school for the sons of gentlemen", now Mount House School.

According to the school history, Miss Tubbs always wore black and had a cane nicknamed "Red Demon", which was in fact a hairbrush (it is not recorded whether William experienced it). Befitting William's military ambitions, he studied military science as a specialist subject and joined the Officer Training Corps. According to the Oxford University Roll of Service, published in 1920, the eight or nine years before the Great War had seen an intensification of military activity in the university. "Commissions in the Army were brought within reach of graduates. Military History was given a recognised position among University studies.

The 7th Division was formed during September and early October 1914 by bringing together regular army units which had been serving across the British empire. They assembled in the New Forest prior to crossing to Belgium, where they were originally planned to assist in the defence of Antwerp. However, by the time they arrived at Zeebrugge (the Bedfordshires arrived on 7th October) Antwerp was already falling. The Bedfordshires were therefore sent to the defence of Ypres. According to information provided to his mother, William was buried by a fellow officer, Captain Thom, at the edge of the wood south of the junction of the road from Gheluvelt with the road to Becelaire. However, as with several of his fellow officers killed at this time, his grave must later have been lost, as he is now remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial, for those with no known grave.

A quick note on the name Bastard, Bastard is one of the most ancient names to come from the Norman culture that arrived in Britain soon after the Norman Conquest of 1066. It is a name for a person who was a child of illegitimate birth but such references are in jest. The surname Bastard was first found in Devon, where they are descended from "Robert Bastard, who held several manors in this county in the reign of William I. "Robert Bastard appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 to have had large grants in the county of Devon, and thenceforward his descendants have remained seated in that shire. Their seat, for many generations, was at Garston, near Kingsbridge, until, about the end of the seventeenth century. "In Norman times illegitimacy was not regarded with the same contempt as now. William the Conqueror himself, though illegitimate, not only succeeded to his father's duchy, but frankly avowed himself as a bastard in official writings."

The organ is fitted with a mirror over where the organist sits. This so that the organist can view the congregation and follow procedure.

The view in this shot is more reminiscent of a café, which I think it doubles as, for coffee mornings, as this is one of the side aisles.

A very modern addition below, for a 13th century church is the hand sanitiser on the table by the exit door. Even the church has a one way system. Charles II Royal arms are over the south doorway, painted on board with shaped head.

As you can see below, the Church Wardens seem to be very accomplished artists. Dieu et mon droit - meaning "God and my right", is the motto of the Monarch of the United Kingdom outside Scotland. It appears on a scroll beneath the shield of the version of the coat of arms of the United Kingdom. The motto is said to have first been used by Richard I (1157-1199) as a battle cry and presumed to be a reference to his French ancestry ( he knew only basic English) and the concept of the divine right of the Monarch to govern. It was adopted as the royal motto of England by King Henry V (1386-1422) with the phrase "and my right" referring to his claim by descent to the French crown. Honi soit qui mal y pense - is a Middle French maxim, meaning "shamed be whoever thinks ill of it", usually translated as "shame on anyone who thinks evil of it" and used as the motto of the British chivalric Order of the Garter.

The Most Noble Order of the Garter is an order of chivalry founded by Edward III of England in 1348. It is the most senior order of knighthood in the British honours system, outranked in precedence only by the Victoria Cross and the George Cross. The Order of the Garter is dedicated to the image and arms of Saint George, England's patron saint.

An antique milk pail holds open the front door. And why not?

In the porch is this circular map of Slapton. How appropriate given my circular wanderings around the village.

In this ancient grade 1 listed building even the gate posts just out of view are also listed. ...

....and this natural garden below flourishes on the front wall, framing a beautiful view of the church in all it's glory on this sunny summer's day.

Part 3 will be an assortment of oddments including the exotic fruit that never made it into part 2."

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